Sarah Grinsted – From the Duffle Coat Pocket
New for 2008 The Artists Web is starting a new column named ‘spotlight’, where we will be featuring interviews with artists about themselves, their work and their inspiration. Sarah Grinsted is first in the hot seat and shares with us insights into her work, her background and her dufflecoat.
Part 1 – “Practical questions”
1) To start with, can you tell me a little bit about your artisticbackground?
Enjoyed accumulating junk from an early age and turning it into sculptures or collages. Newspaper, eggshells, sweet wrappers, shredding, stamps or leaves, nothing was safe from being sneaked into the duffle coat pocket for a bit of cutting and pasting later. Studied Art and Art History at ‘A’ Level and various ceramics courses. Have been exhibiting paintings/collages professionally since 2006.
2) How do you make a living (now)?
I work as a Marketing Assistant at a theatre three days a week to pay the bills and aim to exhibit roughly every six months with any commissions and workshops filling the gaps in between.
Do you or have you ever needed to juggle jobs?
Definitely, until my own work generates a consistent income there will always have to be other part-time work. Luckily I have a very understanding employer, so if I need to I can be flexible with the days I work. And I live in my parent’s shed.
3) How do you motivate yourself?
Am generally inspired by everyday things around me, shapes, textures, colours. Unless I have specific plan or work in progress (i.e. some kind of actual deadline) I’ll go for a walk, take some photos, read a book, or sort through my endless boxes of paper and found materials until inspiration strikes. If all else fails, drink gin, watch films and wait till tomorrow.
I generally rebelled against most things I had experienced at school. I always resented copying the styles of other artists or having to provide numerous preliminary drawings and explanations before being allowed get my hands dirty.
4) How do you think success can be defined artistically?
By your own opinion, that your work keeps improving and continues to inspire you to create more.
By your work being appreciated by people whose opinions/work you respect
By reputation, repeated commissions
By financial success.
5) Do you think artists need to be able to talk about their work in order to exist / succeed?
I could exist quite happily without having to explain my work, for it to be appreciated purely on a visual level. I find I get frustrated trying to translate what I’ve done into words and whatever I come up with starts to sound like pretentious arty twaddle. Whether you need to talk about your work in order to succeed would depend how you define success (see previous question).
If not, does it help to have a representative?
To have assistance from someone with experience of selling, pricing and marketing art is something I would definitely consider in the future.
I find I get frustrated trying to translate what I’ve done into words and whatever I come up with starts to sound like pretentious arty twaddle
How much of this business of artists having to talk about what they do is created by curators and galleries? Perhaps this is irrelevant?
I think its what people have got used to; they expect to see a CV, exhibition history and some explanation of the artist’s motives and influences alongside the artwork. It would be interesting to see whether if this information wasn’t available how this would affect people’s reactions to art.
Part 2 – Exciting and thrilling questions!
6) From looking at the work displayed on
your website, I would say that to some extent you’re still “sneaking things into the duffle coat pocket for a bit of cutting and pasting later”.
Always. Not a day goes by when I’m not caught foraging in the recycling at the theatre, wandering through the churchyard stuffing my pockets full of fallen leaves or lingering with artistic intent next to a full builder’s skip…
7) How would you say your Art Education has influenced your work?
To start with I generally rebelled against most things I had experienced at school. I always resented copying the styles of other artists or having to provide numerous preliminary drawings and explanations before being allowed get my hands dirty. I wanted to get stuck in, feel the materials and experiment with them. That said, I have recently been taking drawing classes, reading books I should have read years ago and visiting art galleries more –
so probably more influenced than I would like to admit.
Did you wear the duffle coat during Art classes?
The duffle, Mr Kirkland, is merely a comforting outer garment providing warmth and extensive storage facilities whilst ‘in the field’ collecting ‘stuff’. Wearing one during the actual practice of collagification would not only be inappropriate, but somewhat sweaty.
9) How do you get started with a project?
An extremely sophisticated process of emptying out all available materials onto the floor, selected those that catch my eye and getting on with it. The joy of the kind of collage I’m doing at the moment is the more mistakes (or layers) that occur, the better the finished piece – there’s nothing a coat of cheap white emulsion and a good sand-down won’t fix!
Do you work on a painting-by-painting basis or over series of pieces?
Usually a number of pieces at once. I’m generally building up layers, so while I wait for one to dry I’ll start on another.
Does this affect your approach?
Yes. Subsequent pieces will either be an extension or improvement on the one before or an opposite reaction to it.
10) Do you ever feel like you’ve ‘finished’ something, do you know when to stop?
Yes, there is definitely a feeling of a piece being finished. What to do in order to get it to that point is the tricky part…
11) How do people react to your work? What’s the most notable reaction you’ve had?
Generally the pictures I have exhibited so far seem to make people happy (I like to think that’s not just due to the free alcohol, fine music and ridiculous amounts of homemade flapjacks available at the private view). The abstract colours, layers, textures and shapes suggest things or places, but allow room for people to have their own reaction, without being intimidated or feeling they should understand some hidden meaning. Quotes from previous exhibitions:
‘Beautifully bright and feeley!’
‘Subtlety of marks and layers’
‘Made me very happy’
‘wonderful explosion of colour’
‘invitingly tactile and reflect almost hidden depths’
12) And finally, what are you working on now?
This week I have mostly been making things out of newspaper. More specifically bits of The Guardian travel section. Strips of photos – mountains and snow. But ask me again in a week and they may well be under a layer of something else!
Well many thanks for talking to us sarah, we’ll be keeping an eye on your website to see which parts of the Guardian make it into your next master piece!