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Abi Freckleton is our Featured Artist of the Month

Written by Fenners

On April 2, 2020

How would you describe your current practice (materials, techniques, themes, approach)?

I guess you could call me a sculptor – though I do performative works, use photography, video, printing, painting and all sorts of other things too. I work in a wide range of materials but I use clay a lot – I love it – it has an infinite malleability, but also the ability to permanently fix it. The space between these two states is much wider and more controllable than with other sculptural materials like wax, cement or plaster – this suits how I work, I use that space to think. All my work is grounded on an underlying fascination with the nature of visual experience – how we perceive light, surface and images – particularly the embodied, physical or spatial nature of these experiences.

Wet Look Talismans

What are you working on at the moment (forthcoming exhibitions, events, workshops?  

I tend to work on a few projects at the same time. I’ve got some work showing at MK Gallery at the moment – a series of studio remnants that emerged from casting, pressing, and copying various tools used to capture and look at images (phones, screens, selfie sticks, etc). In the studio at the moment, I am working with a poem I wrote a year or so ago, after finding a beautiful dead blue beetle. I am using this as a point of departure to explore twilight and iridescence. I am also doing some experiments around the notion of the sundial – exploring the temporality of light, how it relates to space and movement, and using shadows and cast light patterns to create sculptural objects.

Object with burnishing stone – studio shot

What are your plans for the coming year?

I’ve got a show coming up at the end of the year at Broadway Gallery in Letchworth (pending what happens with coronavirus!). I am hoping to do something performative and/or outside for our special 2020 DAT Open Studios event in June (again, pending Covid) and am waiting to hear back on some funding applications that could allow me to progress a couple of projects I’ve had in my head for some time – researching and making work at the coast, and creating self-firing sculptures. I’m also working on an idea for a workshop focused on using clay in a loose and painterly way to create objects, but given the current lockdown situation this is on the back burner for a while.

What question do you get asked most about your work and how do you answer it?

People often come into my studio and ask me what I’m making – it’s the hardest thing for me to answer because I don’t know myself – most of the time I am not making ‘a thing’.  I don’t think of a piece of work and then try to make it – instead my process is intuitive and open-ended. I tend to play around with materials and ideas until something interesting emerges. I like to directly interact with the phenomena that I am researching or interested in – using the material as a conduit to facilitate an interactive and immersive making/thinking process. The exhibited work then manifests as either the studio processes themselves being acted out as performed activities or displayed live, or remnants from it (objects, surfaces, images) being combined into installations.

Index for instruments of seeing (at MK Gallery until May 2020)

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

The simple answer to this is that I decided to quit my job and go to art school whilst looking at a Louise Bourgeois ‘Cell’ at the Tate Modern in 2007 – so I guess that triggered my ‘becoming an artist’.  But really making art is just part of who I am, something I need to do. I can’t access the full experience of living, of being in the world, without making art. If I didn’t make art I wouldn’t be fully thinking, or fully existing. This sounds a bit over the top but it’s true – I guess it’s a bit like some people who are addicted to running and get depressed when they can’t do it.

Which artist do you admire and why?

I don’t think I ‘most admire’ any one specific person, but there are a few pieces of work or exhibitions that have really blown me away over the years and changed how I think about my own work. Artists who use photography in an embodied way – like Lindsay Seers (Human Camera opened my mind when I read it in college) and anything Francesca Woodman ever did. Artists who execute performed sculpture and video on epic scales – particularly Jordi Colomer’s ‘Join us’ that I saw in Venice in 2017 and Matthew Barney’s jaw-dropping River of Fundament that I saw in Munich in 2014. Artists who present the working process as the work itself – like Gabrielle Orozco and Eva Hesse’s studio works and anyone who uses clay and ceramic in a contemporary art, non-pot way – Rosemarie Trockel’s monolithic wall-based works, Emmanuel Boos rich, minimal surfaces, and I’ve recently discovered Sam Bakewell’s fabulous lumps, scrapes, and piles of dust.

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

I’ve been a Fellow for only 5 months, but already the facilities at the Fenners building have allowed me to make huge leaps forward. Discussions and connections with the other Fellows has also boosted my momentum. It’s great to have somewhere to work every day that isn’t a cold empty building with nobody else about (so many artist’s studio spaces are like that). In the future I hope to be able to use the Fellowship to develop the workshop idea and, along with it, a more commercial avenue for my practice.

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