Outside In: National 2012 Award Winner Kate Bradbury talks to Vivienne Roberts, Curator at the Julian Hartnoll Gallery, London ahead of her solo exhibition in November 2013 at Pallant House Gallery.
1) Your new exhibition with Outside In is just a few weeks away. How do you feel about the preparations, are they going well? Are you excited?
Exhibitions often make me anxious as there are so many decisions to be made about what to include and how to present it and Pallant House is a new gallery for me and very formal. It’s a big space with a lot of prestigious work hung in the other rooms, but it is exciting as there will be a new audience and I haven’t exhibited outside London before.
2) Do you have a favourite piece going into the show, something that is particularly special to you?
It’s difficult to choose what to take and what to leave behind. I do have old favourites, but at the same time I want to take new work. I think the ones that are most successful or mean the most to me are worth putting in the show. There’s a couple of the suitcase people that I really like, Railroad Jim and the Doctor and there’s others in cupboards that I’ve got to dig out to see if I still like them enough to take them. Some of the drawings I prefer to others Underground with the thumbprints and the circles is really nice and Peter’s Opera which is the one with colour in it.
There’s also a couple of new big ones that I’ve done which I’d like to show just for my own satisfaction, to show that I’ve made the effort to make new work for the show. I always worry that I haven’t put enough work into a show as I want to make it as good as I can. I always have big plans about what I want to make, but there’s never enough time. I hope to be able to take a bit of everything, the dervishes, some of the gleaners and the little angels.
3) How do you feel about exhibiting your work and it moving from a private space into a public arena?
It is difficult as a lot of the time you don’t make it with anyone seeing it in mind. You make it because it needs to be made. I get a picture of something in my head and then need to make it, to offload it and then I can think about something else. I get obsessed with an idea and try and see it though.
4) Where do your ideas come from?
Anywhere. Sometimes other artists. There are some outsider ones that I have got to know and others that are famous. It was interesting when Phil Baird said he liked Paul Klee because he’s my favourite artist as well Klee and Miro and I also like some abstract painters, like Franz Kline.
5) Do you have a picture in your mind of what you are going to do?
Yes, I always have images. At work I’m just making sandwiches. I don’t even have to think about it so my mind is always on what I’m going to do when I get home. The job is good in that way as I have the space to be able to go to a different room in my head while I’m buttering the bread and be somewhere else.
6) When you are working on an idea do you just focus on that or do you work on different artworks at the same time?
I work on different things, but only in a practical sense. I work on drawing in the evenings as at the end of the day at work in the cafe I’m tired and I look forward to sitting down and drawing. I find that I really get into the drawing in the evening, disappear into it. Making constructions is noisy. I use a hammer and saw and I have neighbours both sides so out of respect to them I don’t use the hammer and drill all night. If I had a studio I might do that. When I’m here by myself on my day off I will be drilling, hammering and sawing all day from the time I get up.
7) At first glance your work seems very varied from the intricate black and white ink drawings to the large, colourful suitcase characters, dancing dervishes and your latest work the humorous goats, are they connected?
The materials I use for each are the same, they are all made from found objects often with plaster heads and there’s always groups of them even in the drawings there is always groups of characters or buildings. I do like to experiment and to work on different things so that may be why they look different and it also depends on what I find.
8) Do you work everyday? What’s a typical day for you?
Yes, I do a bit everyday. I get restless sitting down and I like the physical exertion of making something. I’ll go to work as and soon as I get home I’ll start. I’ll also pick up pieces on the way to work and on the way home, Hackney is full of discarded objects, but it doesn’t have to be people’s rubbish it could be just a feather, a stone or a piece of wood.
9) Squalls and Murmurations is an interesting title for your show, what does it mean?
I really like the sound of those words and I’m always listening out for words that I like because I write songs with my brother. I like the sounds of certain words and the way they might reflect the meaning of the word. There are lots of birds in my work and the actual meaning of murmuration is either a quiet murmuring sound or it’s the collective noun for a flock of starlings and that suited the birds in my work. A squall is a storm and that suited the swirly patterns in my drawings and the monoprints often have a stormy sky and squall sounds to me like a loud word and quite a lot of the sculptures are crude and brutal in texture. Murmuration is playing on the word murmur, a much quieter space like the fine lines and delicate paper that I draw with. So it’s loud and quiet and reflects both sides of my work. It also has a nice ring to it.
10) Music is obviously important to you as you are a songwriter as well as an artist. Does music play a part in your art?
I try to get some movement into the pictures and I listen to music while I’m doing them so that’s probably an influence. A lot of the songs have got stories in them and it always creates a visual image in my head so I’m sure those images bleed over into the pictures that I draw and the characters that I create.
11) What are your other influences?
I find the stage sets in theatre inspiring and I also like architecture.
12) Has art been a part of your life from a young age?
Not really, although we were always taken to galleries and museums as kids and some archeological digs which I’ve just started to realise may have been important. Some friends were good archeologists and they would take us off into caves and at the time it was great fun as a child, but now I’m starting to realise that finding stuff and seeing the cave paintings with crude handprints meant something. I didn’t understand art, but I knew it was important and it was only much later in life, like a revelation that suddenly one day I woke up and I got what it was all about, but I didn’t start doing it for myself or when I did start doing it for myself I didn’t think I am going to be an artist.
13) Did you start drawing first or making the sculptures?
It was about the same time really. I lived in this house in Stamford Hill that was falling down and the basement was full of rubbish that the previous tenants had left behind. I had this horrible, little room and I used to sit there making things and drawing pictures to relieve how I felt. I didn’t really know what I was doing or how much I was doing until a friend who was an artist came in one day and saw it all. To me it was natural and just something I was doing. I wouldn’t have thought of it as art, but my family have always been very encouraging and I was persuaded to frame a few pictures and a local library has a great gallery and they persuaded me to put on a show there. It was good fun and people showed an interest and I just kept doing it after that.
14) It’s been just over a year since becoming one of their award winners, how do you think you have been affected by Outside In.
They have given me a lot of opportunities to exhibit and promote my work on their website where I’ve also been able to see the work of their other artists and realised just how many people are out there also working at home and I’ve got to know a few of them and from what I’ve heard some have had the same experiences as me where they were told at school they were rubbish if they couldn’t draw a still life and so discouraged early on from producing art which is a shame because art is about expression and there is more than one way of expressing something.
15) Yes, and you can see just by looking at the other Outside In artists just how varied the expression, creativity and originality is.
Yes, and what something like that does is make you feel that you’re going to make something and there’s nobody watching to tell you that you can’t do it and it suddenly gives you the right to do it. I think that many people are afraid to do it, afraid to pick up a piece of paper and pen thinking ‘I’m not an artist, that’s not what I do.’, but they might enjoy it or find some fulfilment in it if they did.
16) Any dreams or goals you’d like to pursue in the future?
I’d love to get a studio and be able to make some bigger or noisier work and I like the idea of making a stage set, working with animation and just to keep finding inspiration.
Images: The Dust Gatherer, Red and Ravenous