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Julie Leaming – Featured Artist of the Month

Julie Leaming is in her first year as a Digswell Fellow, based at the Fenners Studios in Letchworth Garden City.

How would you describe your current practice?

My practice is an observation of landscapes and more recently animal forms translated into sketches and detailed drawings, which are then transformed again into three-dimensional ceramic sculptures. Deliberately stripped of colour with the focus on pattern and form.

What are you working on at the moment?

I am working on a series of smaller hand sized animal forms with the view to molding repeats for experimenting with raku glazes. In addition to starting some larger porcelain pieces with the view applying for my own space at larger art events next summer.

What are your plans for the coming year and what have you been up to this year so far?

Since joining Digswell at the end of last year I have taken the opportunity of my new found working space and facilities to build and sculpt larger clay vessels and animals that culminated in a couple of group exhibitions in Hertfordshire and my first Open studios at Fenners this September. In addition I have attended practicing artists workshops to develop my practice, pushing my own boundaries and ideas. I intend to continue to experiment whilst refining the quality of my work with the view to applying for exhibiting on my own and at more specialized galleries.

What is the question you get asked most about your work?

It’s an oldie but “what is it?” And I like that. I like my work to be ambiguous yet appealing for often undefined reasons. My recent research during my Fine Art degree looked at our response to patterns both within the natural and urban landscape and examine why individuals are drawn towards certain patterns and forms. This is my starting point when I am thinking about my work I am about to make.

What or who inspired you to be an artist and why?

When I was in my twenties I lived in Australia and Papua New Guinea and I saw for the first-time art as a more integral and present part of everyday life. Art started to ‘make sense’ when I could see how it was fundamental to people, the place and culture within which they lived. This has continued with my appreciation of public art and art that subtly (and sometimes aggressively) sends its message in public and outside spaces. My father was an Industrial chemist, he had a factory in Letchworth Industrial area in the 70s and 80’s and he made perspex props for film and theatre. Maybe my desire to ‘make’ comes subconsciously from him. More recently my husband relentless pushing has driven me to try for that dream.

Which artists do you admire and why?

I am often attracted to artists whose work is so different from what I do or could ever achieve. The colourful and playful work of Chris Offili’s African paintings, the clever way he uses material to highlight the subject of black culture. Rachel Whiteread for her original, striking casts of everyday objects and architectural places that have a relevance to the time and place she inhabits. Peter Randall-Page seed like sculptures referencing both organic and human forms. I recently saw a Daniel Chadwick installation, his sensuous abstraction of a whale skeleton made of carbon fiber, breathtaking and clever.

How has your relationship with Digswell strengthened your practice as an artist?

Having a space away from the restrictions and distractions of home life is extremely important and rare to achieve so close to London. For me working in ceramics, having the facilities and space is equally important. As we move out of whatever learning environment we come from we lose the chance to discuss our art practice with others and learn from others. Having the link with the trustees with their past experiences often as artists, and the link with the University of Hertfordshire provides that valuable contact and opportunity to progress in our chosen discipline.

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