Thursday, 24 September 2009

Artist of the Week - Rosie Musgrave

One favourite living artist? Why?
I’m going to choose the stone-carver Stephen Cox. I admire his work a lot. Much of his sculpture has a strong resonance from his sojourns in Italy and India. I find his pieces totemic: deceptively simple forms with powerful presence.

One favourite historical artist? Why?
There are many. But I would like to acknowledge here those un-named artist-craftsmen who long ago skilfully decorated the massive stone pillars of the Romanesque crypt of Canterbury Cathedral with finely carved figurative capitals.

When and where did you first want to do what you do?
I was twentyish, in London, working in the 24hour crisis centre at St. Martin-in-the-Fields, on Trafalgar Square. I can’t remember how, but I heard of an evening class in sculpture. I used to go after work and I modelled in clay an imaginary head which I later cast. It was a beginning.

What place in the world has inspired you?
I think it has to be Italy. It’s just full of carvings in stone, round every corner, not just the well-known names. It’s very exciting for someone like me. I remember when I first saw those white marble mountains above Pietrasanta and Carrara and heard the sound of hammers and chisels echoing from the many workshops along the streets.

Do you work best on your own or in collaboration?
My partner is a poet and sometimes I do wonder how many of his words are carved into my stone. So far we have officially collaborated twice: we have shared an exhibition together and also written a book about the making and touring of a piece of my sculpture. I am also a founder member of Southwest sculptors, a group of working sculptors who, apart from offering support to each other, also organise and share exhibitions together.

At age 15 who influenced your style?
At age 15 I don’t think I had a style, I was still exploring. But I was a child of the 60’s and believed passionately that our generation was going to change the world.

How much do you bend your 'vision' to suit the marketplace - if at all?
It’s a good question and I hope I’m staying true to my heart.

Who would you say buys your work?
I’ve been lucky perhaps in as much as most of my work has sold outside of the conventional gallery system and so I have been able to have some involvement both with the selling process and with my buyers. Some personal aspect is important to me.

How do you set about starting a new project?
I take time out, doodle everywhere, go for walks, turn images endlessly round in my head at night. And then I begin by making a series of small maquettes out of plaster cine. These will stay around me for some time: I will look at them, work on them, adapt them. When I have decided on the form, I then decide on the type of stone suitable for it. I may have a block already stored in my workshop or I may have to journey to the quarry to choose a new block. Searching for stone goes with the job. My small maquette will then help guide me into the block when I begin the carving.

Where and what is your studio?
I live down a bridle track on Dartmoor. My studio is in a barn across from my house – the walking distance is about 40 paces, just long enough for me to shake myself off and empty my pockets of stone dust. One side of the barn is my workshop, the other is a clean space where I store finished pieces.

Do you have a good work/life balance?
Umm. I’m getting better. I only returned to full-time carving ten years ago. Before then I was a therapist for 20 years and raising a family. I have to be careful that I’m not always trying to catch up with myself.

What one word would describe your feeling of doing your work?

Would you rather be doing something else?
No, I think I’ve done the ‘something else’ and the time of now is precious.

Are their other fields that you'd like to apply some facet of your work into?
The other week I carved a small piece of wood, just to remember what it felt like. I enjoyed it. The sound is so different from stone. I’m sure I will do some more.

If you could exhibit in any gallery which would it be?
I certainly wouldn’t turn one down, but I also get great pleasure in putting my work out into public spaces, into specific landscapes.

Most overrated artist/maker?
No individual names here, but I feel impatient with endless installation work where the concept may be clever but where little or no thought has been given to the craft. I feel similarly about exhibitions where I am directed to the work by wordy explanations which offer me little space in which to form my own relationship with it.

Where do the majority of your inspiration / ideas come from?
I usually find that ideas tend to creep into me sort of sideways when I’m not looking. But I do explore both within and without of myself. The British Museum is a favoured haunt. And when I’m away, I will head for ancient artifacts and then I will sit and look and draw.

Where did you train? Favourite / least favourite aspects of training?
I was apprenticed for a while to sculptors and then trained in London part-time at Sir John Cass, Whitechapel and then full-time at City and Guilds. I had a good figurative training, working mostly with clay. I look back at that time and think how lucky I was. My regrets? That I didn’t join the stone-masonry course at City and Guilds and that I didn’t complete my training there.

Please list any exhibitions you have had in the past 12 months.
Millstream Sculpture Garden, Bishopstrow, Warminster
Coombe Gallery, Dartmouth
SouthWest Sculptors at the Ariel Centre, Totnes and The Gallery, Dartington Estate.
Exeter Hospice
ArtSpaces, Totnes
The Womens Art Show, Fairfields Arts Centre, Basingstoke
St. Wilfrid’s Open Art Competition, Pallant House, Chichester
Delamore House 2009 Summer Exhibition
‘Untitled’ Art Fair, Chelsea Town Hall
Fresh Air 2009, Quenington, Gloucestershire

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