Interview: Rosie Reed

How did you come to be an artist and choose the varied mediums you work in?

When I was 17, I went to see an exhibition at Hayward Gallery titled Walking in My Mind. It was their summer blockbuster show, in which a selection of artists were asked to build installations that represent the inner workings of their minds. The viewer moved through the gallery walking into all these different mental spaces. At that time I loved the exhibition. I felt really blown away and decided that I wanted to make environments for people to walk into. During my BA I became focused on artists like Phyllida Barlow, Rachel Warren and Claes Oldenburg (the usuals!), and I began making sculpture. It felt like my medium so I started to think through ideas in a sculptural way and found a love of making objects.

How would you describe the evolution of your art over time?

My work is always changing and I am constantly trying to push it further outside of my comfort zone. I am interested in the notion of surfaces disclosing histories, traces of movement and passing time. I grind down and recycle past works to make an aggregate that becomes part of my future work. I suppose this means that I am constantly assessing and making visible its evolution.

In an interview for your 2013 exhibition, In the garden there was nothing which was not quite like themselves, you mentioned that your artworks are an exploration of the ‘relationship between desire and formality’. Why specifically these notions? And are you still exploring this relationship?

That exhibition feels like a long time ago! I am always interested in the seductive nature of texture, colour, and our constant desire to touch. This relationship between desire and formality is still prevalent in my work. Through an exploration of scale, form, materiality, and the provocative potential of colour and surface, I want to elicit a sensory, intimate and bodily response from the viewer. Exuberance, excess and the non-hierarchical use of colour and material is important in my work. I love the obtrusive, gaudy yet irresistible nature of oversaturation. These relationships remain very important in my work. But now that I have gained confidence in these processes, they form the foundations of my making, allowing me to explore new concepts and ideas.

In the garden there was nothing which was not quite like themselves
In the garden there was nothing which was not quite like themselves, 2013

Can you tell me a bit about your Royal College of Art degree show in 2017? 

WORK IT was a celebration of my love for making, and an exploration of the physical ways that I use material and colour. It was sort of an exaggerated, chaotic parody of my studio made up of staged and genuine moments that were collected over the course of a year. The installation’s floor was lifted directly from the studio in which the work was produced and then cut down and rearranged to sit within a new environment. This more composed and systematic approach to the tiled floor was similar to that of the tightly-packed and compressed cardboard stuffed behind the yellow-pigmented plaster wall. These controlled aspects of the installation suggested systems in place for the positioning of every element of the work, yet the chaotic components contradicted and questioned these suggested systems. The organically shaped, glutenous and engulfing growths pullulated out of the disorder and inhaled elements of the studio as they grew. They became monstrous build-ups that gave the impression that they would continue to grow, ooze and suck up their surroundings. I was reading and really inspired by Esther Leslie’s book, Synthetic Worlds, at that time and thinking about organic forms alongside synthetic surfaces and colours. I still continue to think about creating environments, imagined worlds, moments of escape or respite from the aesthetics of the everyday.

Work It
Detail of Work It, 2017, 370x520x335cm

In May this year, you collaborated with Finbar Ward for the Housekeeping exhibition at the Garden gallery, Los Angeles. What was Housekeeping about, both as the title of the exhibition and as a collection of artworks? What were the challenges you faced making collaborative artworks?

At the moment in LA, many up-and-coming gallerists are finding alternative spaces such as garages, tool sheds, and their own homes, to show emerging artists. Garden is run by Britte Geijer and Zachary Korol-Gold and occupies the spare room in their bright green Victorian home in Silver Lake. It is a truly unique space, a beautiful window-lined room with amazing views of the surrounding neighbourhood. My partner, Finbar Ward, and I were really excited to be invited to show at Garden and to collaborate for the first time. We focused on the notion of the space being in a domestic setting and were thinking about abandoned and discovered spaces, finding a hidden room, the left-alone and then rediscovered attic, skeletons in the cupboard, building sites—the excitement attached to the potentials of all the above! Finbar took the floor. His work was made up of white panels laid out in an unstable grid, locked in by a border of goo that seeped from below. I took the ceiling. My brightly-coloured stalactites dripped down from above. The viewer was invited to walk through the centre of the installation, between the two artists. We extended the exhibition into the home with our collaborative domestic objects, such as bookends, candelabras, and paperweights, as well as a series of paintings. With the installation and the supporting objects, we were exploring the notion of ‘housekeeping’ as a domestic and aesthetic labour.

I loved collaborating. I think it gives the people involved more confidence to experiment as there is a support network there as well as an equal investment in the end result. I would definitely like to do more of it. We made the installation on site over ten days which was definitely intense for everyone involved but I loved every second of it!

Housekeeping, 2018, 217x445x348cm

You curated the Flipside exhibition at Fold Gallery this summer and exhibited your own artworks. How did Ursula K. Le Guin inspire you to curate and create for this exhibition? 

Ursula K. Le Guin is an inspiration! She introduced me to fantasy and science fiction leading to much more reading which is having a huge influence on my work. Le Guin sadly passed away at the beginning of this year and I felt I wanted to show appreciation for how her writing and speaking have inspired me. The exhibition was titled Flipside and based around her essay, ‘The Carrier Bag Theory of Fiction’, in which she challenges the over-told and exhausted ‘Story of the Ascent of Man the Hero’, the narrative of early human survival through male heroism and hunting. Le Guin argues that the most important tool for survival must have been a vessel or container to hold gathered products, rather than a stick or a spear to poke and hit with. She refuses the linear, predictable and masculine notion of a ‘Hero’ and his ‘story’ and his sword. By adopting the carrier bag as a cultural device, she celebrates and encourages a more complex and unresolved narrative made up of many different voices and experiences. The carrier bag allows space for everyone’s voices and narratives to interlace, intertwine, and contribute to a larger, more complicated mosaic. For me, the title Flipside embodied this notion of the carrier bag as it suggests a representation of an alternative perspective: the unheard voices, the uncelebrated view or approach. Fold Gallery is an underground gallery which I thought tied in well with this notion. I had never curated before and really enjoyed this experience. The exhibition showed eleven artists whom I really admire and it was a privilege to get to show alongside them.

I showed two works in the show, a floor-piece titled Burying My Minimiser (Amongst Other Things) and a wall-work titled What’s This Then? I have recently been exploring the concept of a fantastical, futuristic artefact or fossil. I am thinking about abandoned spaces, clues, buried pasts and new beginnings—environments and objects that allow the imagining of different histories and alternative narratives.

Burying My Minimiser (Amongst Other Things)
Burying My Minimiser (Amongst Other Things), 2018, Marble dust, aggregate, pigment, paint, glitter, PVA, resin, jesmonite & plaster, 175x58x18cm

For both of these works I was thinking a lot about Mary Anning. I wrote a short piece on her in the pamphlet that was printed alongside the exhibition. Anning unearthed an entirely new understanding of the world but she was never fully accredited or recognised for her achievements while alive. I was/am thinking about discovery and the excitement attached to physically discovering something alongside the process of discovering something in oneself, and how we have to learn and unlearn so many aspects of ourselves and the people around us. I am considering these processes of burying, looking, uncovering and excavating.

What's This Then?
What’s This Then? 2018, Marble dust, aggregate, paint, pigment, resin, and paper, 57x41x21cm

Where do you find inspiration?

My way to respond to the world and being in it is by making work, so I think that I have the potential to be inspired by everything I see and assimilate. Of course, some things stick more than others, such as reading, going to exhibitions, conversations with friends, past tutors, and people I admire. And a lot of inspiration comes from experimenting in the studio.

What are you working on at the moment? Any future projects?

I have just moved in to a new studio and I am in the process of setting up systems, work spaces that re-assess and improve on my previous working methods, in order to be more efficient and to work on different styles of work simultaneously. I am collaborating with a spoken word poet which is exciting as I have wanted to do some works on paper for a while and bring in some narrative-based drawing to my practice. I am also discussing a curated supper club with a chef friend of mine. I would love to do a residency, it would be amazing to have the opportunity to spend time focusing solely on my work.

* images reproduced by kind permission of the artist. © Rosie Reed.

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