Wednesday, 5 September 2012

World Young Artist (Liz West Interviewed by Maude Magazine)

by Catherine Ailsa Jones

The first ever World Event Young Artists is opening in Nottingham this September. Showcased is the work from 1000 artists, from 100 countries.

Different media, different political ideologies, different languages–WEYA is a brilliant opportunity for international exchange on a global scale. Nottingham will not know what’s hit it.

We interviewed Manchester born artist Liz West, who has been selected.

Liz is best known for her intensely coloured installations, but also employs photography, drawing, and video to investigate notions of collecting and systemizing in relation to consumer items.

Do you think your work represents a British aesthetic, in relation to the art scene in the U.K, or perhaps the cultural associations of your work?
The UK economy is notoriously associated with disposable culture – many artists making work in the UK at the moment are using consumables and ‘ready-mades’ as inspiration or as materials; an artists’ immediate surroundings are always going to play into the work somehow. In my work I always refer to the domestic everyday environment through the type of throwaway plastic objects and materials I make my work with.

Tell us about the doll’s house piece you are exhibiting in the show.
Once my art college tutor told me that when you made a photographic slide, it should always look like a jewel; an intense burst of colour. I aim to make all my work applying the same theory – A little jewel: Something that you are inclined to investigate, move around, explore, are intrigued by, glows, is alluring. Repeated Everyday is sited within a 1/12-scale antique Edwardian doll’s house. The house was built by my parents and given to me twenty-two years ago on Christmas Day. I have played with it, loved it and intended at some point to decorate and furnish it throughout. With an urge to develop my Chamber installation work on various scales, I wanted to give the house a new identity.

Your work is filled with giddiness and excess, yet there is a subtlety and a quietness, maybe because of the spiritual associations that colour has. How much do you play with this tension?
As part of ‘Chroma’ (July 2012), I invited a colour therapy mediation group to ‘experience’ the work. This explored what it felt like to be surrounded by intense colour in a completely immersive environment. The meditation session had a profound affect on all attendee’s; it is not a regularity to be met with room’s completely drenched floor to ceiling in raw/pure colour. At the preview there was a lot of giddiness about the extreme use of colour, however the meditation event allowed for a more spiritial and quiet reaction.

With your chamber series you literally drench objects with colour. Your installations are immersive, they appeal to a sense of touch. Given that you work with the senses in this way, and also that you often refer to domestic items, for example in the trolley series, how far would you describe your stance as a feminist one?
I am not trying to be a feminist or make a comment on feminism. I make work and am interested in the domestic, but so are a lot of male artists. My biggest artistic inspirations are all men. Look at the work of David Batchelor; his work is all about creating tactile, sensory worlds using domestic items but because his is a man, he never gets labeled as having a feminist stance.

How does your identity as the world record holder for the biggest Spice Girls collection inform your art?
It informs my ideas of how to make a collection successfully, which I then utilize in my work as an artist. Many of my ideas and interests include objects en-mass in one form or another – mostly mass-produced colourful detritus. Spice girls ephemera (which I started collecting as an 11 year old) is also brightly coloured, mass-marketed, mass-produced throw-away commodities. There is a clear link between the two; one is just a more nature version of the other. 
My identity as Liz West: Spice Girls collector rarely overlaps with Liz West: artist in terms of what audience I am entertaining. To me, popular culture and art (possibly identified as high-culture) are different things – they should remain separate in terms of cultural standing, yet meet occasionally for a brief moment to inform each other. At the end of the day I want people to take me seriously as a (emerging and contemporary) visual artist.

Would you say your work is more about collecting, or a statement about consumer excess–or both?
It has to be about both. You can’t reference one without the other. I collect manufactured objects as they are an attractive raw material to work with and because they are readily available en mass. They come in all sorts of interesting shapes, sizes and colours. As an artist who chooses to use them, I am of course aware of the inevitable association with consumer excess. Growing up in a throwaway society everything seemed to be mass-produced and increasingly made of plastic, rather than wood or other more traditional materials used by previous generations. Whether my use of plastic objects and materials, so associated with my generation, is a direct statement on consumerism or simply a pragmatic reflection of the times in which we live, I am not sure.

LIZ WEST WILL BE…..exhibiting in Beyond the Material World at Bar Lane Gallery in York in October, conceived and curated by the International Association of Quantum Artists.

World Event Young Artists 2012 is hosted by UK Young Artists and supported by Arts Council England, Cultural Olympiad East Midlands, Nottingham Trent University and Nottingham City Council.

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