A few weeks back I popped down to Rogue Studios just off Store Street where Tracey Eastham has her studio. Tracey is one of the nine Tracing PAPER artists exhibiting at PAPER. The exhibition runs until 18th July.
Daisy Strang: So, if we just begin by talking through what you have been doing recently.
Tracey Eastham: Well I had been working on and completed the body of work on ruins, which you can see here. They are mainly black and white photographic imagery. However, when I started the mentorship and I ended up making a really detailed study using very thin gold paper. From the crits that we were having, I realised that the quality of the cutting – how delicate and intricate it is – were what the other artists responded to. With the new work, ‘Tower (Destroyed)’, I saw parallels with the delicateness and fragility in the work that I had been doing with the ruins and the landscapes. I am using really thin gold paper. I’m doing quite a small, delicate, intricate design, which is really fragile. I realised that I wanted, to push that side of things, which in the group crits had come out as strength in my work.
DS: So, is the gold piece going to be the final work for the show?
TE: Yes. I have done similar things before – using a piece of paper, rather than a collage – it’s just that a cut out brings these images together in an amalgamated design. ‘Tower (Destroyed)’ refers back to that kind of work and style; however, I’m really pushing that element of fragility.
DS: In terms of your starting a piece, where do you start and what leads you to your final piece or image? What is your “production line”?
TE: I tend to have a theme in mind. For the work about ruins, I knew that I wanted to look at ruins – castles and ruined buildings. That is because I feel drawn to them. The beginning of a project starts with me flicking through books. I’ll happen to see an image that I like or a few images of a similar type that I like. That will be the starting point. Then the idea grows and I’ll decide to produce a body of work on that theme. I’ll go out and buy specific books about ruins and castles. I get them really quite cheap form second hand bookstores. So then it becomes purposeful sourcing and then I begin to make the collages. I start going through the books and cutting out the images that I find attractive or interesting. I might end up with a few pieces dotted around, which I bring together.
DS: Absolutely, it’s a very ordered and heavily researched process really. I can imagine you take quite some time with your head in the books. You have so many piled up beside your desk over there. I can only imagine that you have plenty more stored else where too. What initially is it that draws you to books? What is it that makes you want to use books as your material?
TE: It’s about history. It’s about the past. How the past and history occurs in the present. For me that happens only through books.
DS: Yes, well I very much think your works recreate a sense of history.
TE: Yes, well I think I re-imagine it. Initially, that’s what brings me to books. I seem to have this connection with something that’s not around anymore, but maybe that was never really around. The type of history that I’m interested in is ideological history, such as social or cultural history. It’s these abstract ideas of history.
DS: Is it a feeling of a past?
TE: Yes, perhaps a suggestion of the past.
DS: So for the show, how are you planning to display your work?
TE: ‘Tower (Destroyed)’ is going to be in a state of collapse. I’ve presented it so that it collapses in on itself. The gold paper is very thin so that it crumples in on itself. It will be suspended inside a glass bell jar.
DS: Well, that would be great as it links back to your interest and focus on history. Bell jars are often used within museums, or private collections, to display historical artefacts.
TE: Before this work, I did a series of work about terrestrial and geographical globes. What I liked about that was it’s peoples’ way of taking something like the world outside and bringing it inside. They are trying to encapsulate something that almost doesn’t exist because of the way they attempt to represent ideologies and politics through the globe. Globes often have political slants and they are produced from a western centric perspective.
DS: In relation to the mentoring scheme, how have you found the scheme? Do you feel like it has helped to develop your work?
TE: I have found it really enjoyable. It’s been very inspiring, particularly through meeting the other artists on the scheme. The social side of it too has been a really good experience. Just talking to other artists has been really inspiring and helped develop ideas. I remember after the first Group Crit, I lay in bed that night and I just had so many ideas flying through my mind. I think that was just from talking to other artists. It’s really important that we were all together as a group and I think that’s what I’ve gained most: the inspiration and ideas. It has been a really good opportunity to reflect on stuff that I did years ago.
Tracey is now exhibiting her work at PAPER until 18th July along with eight other Tracing PAPER Artists. To see more of Tracey’s work visit http://www.paper-gallery.co.uk/370451/5356381/tracing-paper/tracey-eastham