Catching up with the Tracing PAPER 2018 artists

Tracing PAPER 2018 artist, Ruth Murray, in her studio at Bankley. Photo by Lasma

Now in its third year, Tracing PAPER is a nine-month mentoring scheme for early career artists based in Greater Manchester, designed with input from a range of external curators, gallerists and other art professionals as well as the PAPER team. As 2018’s cohort of ten prepare for a final exhibition to draw things to a close, we catch up with a couple to find out about their experiences. The exhibition runs 30 June – 11 August 2018 at PAPER Gallery.

Iain Andrews

Tell us about the work you’re presenting for Tracing PAPER 2018.

I’m presenting a series of drawings in iron gall ink on paper titled ‘The Disasters of Peacetime’. Based on Goya’s ‘The Disasters of War’ (1810-1820), it involves making images in response to the experience of working with traumatised teenagers in art therapy. Themes such as sexual abuse, murder and family breakdown are encountered through the making of models and vignettes, which are then used as the starting point for my drawings. It has felt important to record that which all too easily remains unseen, while locating it within the wider structure of a faery tale or folk story seems to provide a valuable framework through which to view it.

What has been the most interesting or valuable element of taking part?

Being able to meet up and converse with other artists. I haven’t had a group of artists input and feedback about my work since college, and I’ve found the process really helpful – especially as I don’t work from a studio where others are around to speak with.

Could you describe your making process?

I begin by creating models and sculptures, sometimes in response to a story that a young person has told me, or sometimes in collaboration with the young person themselves. These models are then further changed and altered as I use them to compose and stage photographs, which I edit and then finally use as the basis for the ink drawings.

What are your hopes for the future?

I would like to finish the ‘Disasters of Peacetime’ series. There are 82 prints in Goya’s ‘The Disasters of War’ and I have only made 7 drawings so far, so there’s still a fair way to go!

Iain Andrews – Tracing PAPER 2018 artist
Iain Andrews working in his studio


Tina Dempsey

Tell us about the work you’re presenting for Tracing PAPER 2018.

Tina Dempsey: I’m showing two new pieces that, as well as responding to the materials themselves, and of course to colour, mark a new freedom in my work to embrace all the elements and processes that I have been exploring for some time.

I feel this freedom has been greatly cultivated by my experience of taking part in Tracing PAPER. Working in isolation as an artist can sometimes affect the way you perceive your practice, so being part of a larger group and meeting regularly has really helped to support my developing ideas and built my own confidence in my work.

What has been the most interesting or valuable element of taking part?

Ironically, for me it was partly the opportunity to gain a really solid understanding of other artists’ practices. Finding out why the others involved do what they do and how they do it really helped me to understand and articulate my own practice much more clearly.

The group critique sessions were also very important. Not only listening to the personal feedback that I received, but also that of others. The world of Fine Art is a very diverse and complex landscape to navigate and it’s sometimes difficult to understand where you sit within it. Gaining a much more solid understanding of other artists’ practices really helped me to place myself more clearly and also highlighted the artists that I felt a connection with in terms of process.

Could you describe your making process?

For me, it’s all about playing with and exploring a wide range of media, imagery and colour: dismantling, constructing and re-assembling the materials I collect to generate the possibility of new meanings and identities via collage, sculpture and photography.

How do you see your practice developing going forwards?

I’m excited about developing my current body of work (which I’m yet to decide on a title for); playing with scale and thinking about ideas for displaying it in a wider range of settings – including outside of the gallery space – to engage with different audiences.

I also have a very special show happening in early 2019, so stay tuned!

FB: @Tina.F.DempseyArtist | IG: @tinadempseyartist

Tina Dempsey – Tracing PAPER 2018 artist
Tina Dempsey working in her studio


David Armes

Tell us about the work you’re presenting for Tracing PAPER 2018.

‘N Y L Y N’ is five-panel piece that explores the development of language, how it can be hidden and how it can emerge. ‘Nylyn’ is a bastardised middle English word meaning literally ‘new land’, from a time when land first began to be claimed as property. The work considers whether language can be a territory or a space, to what degree we can own it and how we transmit through it. The piece is an evolution of my current practice, building on my work with text and print, but pushing legibility, intelligibility and use of scale further.

What was the most interesting or valuable element of taking part?

The scheme has really pushed me to interrogate my practice in more detail, to question my assumptions and to become more comfortable with uncertainty. It’s also been valuable to critique and reflect on work as a group. Having heard about their methods and ideas, I’m really looking forward to seeing everyone else’s work in the final show.

Could you describe your making process?

I work primarily with letterpress printing, language and notions of place. I’m interested in process and the ways in which the physicality of letterpress allows a piece to develop during composition and printing. I rarely have a complete piece mapped out in advance. Rather, I have a mental image, sketches, photographs etc. and then allow the process to intervene throughout. There’s a strong focus on repetition, use of negative space and precise points of variation in all the work.

How do you see your practice developing going forwards?

I’ve just finished a residency where I spent two weeks making one-off print-drawings in response to Bruno Munari’s seminal Design as Art essays. I focussed on working quickly and loosely – a new approach that largely came about through my involvement in Tracing PAPER – and was really satisfied with the process and outcome. The scheme has also given me excellent guidance on showing my work more widely and approaching galleries.

TW, FB, IG: @redplatepress

David Armes – Tracing PAPER 2018 artist
David Armes working in his studio


Ruth Murray

Tell us about the work you’re presenting for Tracing PAPER 2018.

I’ll be presenting a collage piece, which is a departure for me as I usually only exhibit my paintings, but collages are in fact a logical accompaniment to my practice. I view them almost as ‘negatives’ of my paintings, which help me to pair the image down and concentrate on colour and form.

What was the most interesting or valuable element of taking part?

I found it really interesting to hear from different arts professionals. Their experiences were often reassuring, and their practical advice was very useful. The whole process has been extremely valuable in helping me to think about how to position myself as an artist and what opportunities might be right for me.

Could you describe your making process?

I stage and direct scenes using models and props, which I then photograph and use the images to work from back at the studio. The images I select for my collages are often more of a portrait of the model. I cut and assemble the main forms in the image, and then layer further shapes and marks as I would with my paintings.

Lately, I have also begun introducing other objects into my arrangements, such as these ‘ceramic blobs’ (sort of hand-sized amorphous shaped ceramics) that I make, as well as pieces of tree knot, twigs, pebbles and shells from my mother’s childhood collection which I think of as ‘holiday curios’ or dreamy domestic objects. I feel that these objects allow some interaction with the subject; but in a quiet sense, without becoming too concerned with narrative. I also like pairing them with paper because of the contrast in weight and material.

What are your hopes for the future?

I hope I will have more opportunities for exhibition making and that I will be able to continue to be ambitious and bold with my ideas; combining media to move beyond the canvas, drawing out aspects of my work through the interactions between the different elements, and experimenting with bolder effects and subtle balances through composition.

Tracing PAPER 2018 artist, Ruth Murray, in her studio at Bankley. Photo by Lasma
Ruth Murray in her studio


Niki Colclough

Tell us about the work you’re presenting for Tracing PAPER 2018.

I’m presenting a piece from a new body of work that I’ve been developing whilst participating in Tracing PAPER. I was keen to use the scheme as an opportunity to try something new, whilst having the critical support and feedback of peers and industry professionals. The new work I’ve made is about online culture and how we relate to each other through it. Previously I’d been focusing on social interactions in ‘real life’… so this seemed like a natural progression.

What was the most interesting or valuable element of taking part?

For me, it was the opportunity to meet people that I wouldn’t have met otherwise; especially from different parts of the art world. I particularly enjoyed hearing from the curators who offered us insight into their approaches and working processes.

Could you describe your making process? 

I usually spend a lot of time thinking about an idea before I start physically making. This ‘thinking period’ will involve research, collecting, reading etc. Once I have the essence of what I want to make, I then decide on the physical form it will take. I generally work across multiple media, but for my latest project I have been using photocopying as a way of making. I like to use non-traditional art techniques and materials as this democratises the process of making art. I’ll often make photography with disposable cameras, for example, or drawings using wax crayons.

Niki Colclough, Tracing PAPER 2018 install shot
Niki Colclough, Tracing PAPER 2018 install shot

I would describe my current work (some of which will be presented in the exhibition) as ‘photocopy assemblages’, made up of collected images, articles and instructions. The process of making each assemblage is one of collecting, re-ordering and assembling. I am asking people to not just accept what they are given, but to look more closely. To form their own view of the world and possibly find alternative ways of being. I like to think of my work as the opening up of a conversation or the asking of a question.

What are your hopes for the future as an artist?

To continue enjoying what I am doing, and to keep on learning, exploring and making.

Tracing PAPER runs 30 June – 11 August 2018 at PAPER Gallery.

Full Tracing PAPER 2018 cohort: Iain Andrew, David Armes, Oliver Binnian, Jack Brown, Niki Colclough, Tina Dempsey, William Hughes, Ruth Murray, David Penny, Ruby Tingle. 

 Interview by Sara Jaspan

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