Tuesday, 21 September 2010

Artist of the Week - Elizabeth Ockford

Elizabeth Ockford works with images that relate closely to her childhood memories, and which demonstrate her love of colour and mark making.

Where did you train? What did training teach you and what do you wish it had
taught you?
I trained first at Chelsea School of Art in Textile Design, in the 1980's. It was an excellent course, very commercially attuned, and it gave me a good basis to move into my first job as a fashion fabrics designer. What they can't teach you at Art School is how to work to a commercial deadline, how to remain creatively inspired while still delivering something on time. I think you can only learn that on the job.
I then went on to work in Interior Fabrics and Wallpapers at Osborne and Little, and working under somebody as inspiring as the founder of that company, Antony Little, and alongside a group of talented designers - you learn so much .
The biggest thing I learnt as a designer that I wasnt taught at Art School ,though, was an appreciation of colour, an eye for good and 'bad' colour choices, and most importantly how to mix colour, in paints. This skill has stayed with me throughout the years - and now is invaluable in my work as an artist.
When I went back to Art School in Brighton as a mature student, I was amazed at how little colour knowledge some of my fellow students had - and it made me realise what an important skill it is. I think its a real shame that Colour Theory isn't taught at most Art Schools these days.

When and where did you first want to do what you do?
Going through school I always wanted to make my living in a creative way - I cant remember when I decided that - perhaps it wasn't a conscious choice. I chose Textiles when I was 18 , and on a foundation course having just left a very accademic Grammar school - I thought I had found Heaven! I first realised that I wanted to go back and study Fine Art in 2000, when I went to Italy to study watercolour painting as my summer holiday. I realised that this was the missing element in my life, and I haven't looked back since.

One favourite living artist?
Peter Doig- because he PAINTS. His canvasses show the marks he has made, include gestural marks, drips, blobs, runs etc. His images have something ethereal about them, they make me want to know more about the story behind them. And because he is a clever colourist - one of my favourites is of a man in a long orange canoe, on a deep blue lake.

One favourite historical artist?
Milton Avery - an American artist who came to prominence in the 50's and 60's. Because his pieces have such beautiful colours and simple compositions I find them inspiring, but I can never make my work as simple as he did, no matter how I try- I get an irresistible urge to add more!

Where do you get most of your inspiration from?
For the last two years I have been painting things that are in my 'back yard'- the landscape and animals around my studio in Sussex. They are my most direct source of inspiration- but when I travel I get excited by different cultures, landscapes, different light, and that always has an impact on my work when I return to my studio.
There is also an undercurrent in my work of my memories from childhood- of bedtime stories, narratives, little sayings and superstitions, and of nostalgia for good times, and places that I fondly remember.

What is the most interesting / fun job you have had?
This is it, now. I get to do such a diverse number of things - sometimes I'm designing wallpapers, another teaching a teenager who wants to improve their art, or making a large brash painting for a hotel lobby in Saudi, as I did recently to commission. Now I have the best of all worlds in my life.

Do you work mostly on your own? Have you had any interesting work related
I work on my own when painting and designing. But recently I put on a show in Lindfield as part of the Arts Festival there last May, and that was a good collaboration with 8 other artists- putting the show together.
That is how it will be at the Palace Art Fair in Fulham - as Memo, I will be showing my work, but also that of my colleagues and friends, who I respect and admire.

At age 18 who most influenced your style?
Ooh- Talking Heads and Meg Ryan ! Maybe also Matisse, and David Hockney and Peter Blake, both of whom had retrospective shows in London at the end of the 80s' , and seeing those had a big impact on me.

How much do you bend your 'vision' to suit the marketplace - if at all?
When I am working to commission, then I have to 'bend' to accomodate what that client wants- be it a painting or watercolour... But generally I am lucky in that my work seems to appeal to a broad range of people.

Who would you say buys your work?
Its too diverse a bunch of people to describe!

Where and what is your studio?
My studio is a converted cowshed, in Sussex. Its made of large stone bricks though, with high windows, a wide door that I leave open when I am working, and inside it is double height- which is great for the scale I work at. Recently I met a man in my village pub, who happily told me that he had once owned the farm and buildings where I work- and that he had tied his bull up in my studio! I love living somewhere with such a sense of community, and where people have lived and worked all their lives.

Do you have a good work/life balance?
Probably not- my work invades my life, (its an intrinsic part of me) but having my studio away from my house (it's in the next village), is definitely healthy for me. It means I have to switch off sometimes!

What one word would describe your feeling of doing your work?
Meditative. I'm in a different place when I'm working- cut off from all that is going on around me.

If you could be doing anything else what would it be?
I'd enjoy running a B&B somewhere hot like southern France or Italy- I like meeting people. And I'd be able to decorate it using all the lovely fabrics and colours that I know are out there.
But I'd have to be able to paint as well!

If you could exhibit in any gallery in the world which would it be?
Aiming high - the Met in New York- because then I'd be next to some of the best pieces of work in the world!!!

Please list any exhibitions you have had in the past 12 months.
Memo at Lindfield Art Festival 2010
Showing at Ingo Finke Clapham, on a regular basis, and they also took my work to the Affordable Art Fair in 2009.
Graduate show- Camberwell MA, July 2009

I set up Memo with my Partner, Margaret Meldrum, last year. We want to enable artists to get their work into the public eye, and to enable the public to see and experience work by upcoming artists, who otherwise would not have been given exposure. We both want to use our commercial experience to work in partnership with the artists, to assist them in achieving their dreams, and in making the best work that they can. Its no fun being an artist, but being unable to earn a living- we want to help them along that road.

1 comment:

Lynne E. Windsor said...

Congratulations Elizabeth, I enjoyed reading a little more about you! I hope Fulham is a huge success.