Featured Artist of the Month – Alex McIntyre

Written by Caryl Beach

On February 29, 2016

Alex McIntyre, Drawing and Painting, 5th  and final year fellow

Late Light_ink and gesso on board_59 x 74 cm

Image:Late Light 2015, ink and gesso on board, 59 x 74cm

1) How would you describe your current practice (e.g. materials, techniques, themes, key questions, approach)?

I currently make abstract landscapes using ink and gesso on board. The work is inspired by a process of walking and running which enables the close, embodied observation of changes of light, land and sky connected with breath and movement. When I am back in the studio I try to re-capture an impression of a particular journey. The creative process then parallels the original journey and results in a series of visual discoveries led by interactions with materials.  The completed works are a conversation between the pictorial surface, materials and the memory of movement and places. I use a physical making process, scratching into the surface using wood carving tools, nails and sandpaper, rubbing and pushing the ink into the surface with rags, wire wool and brushes. Recurring themes include explorations of space, light, movement and stillness, noise and silence.

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

I currently have a solo exhibition at Ripley Arts Centre in Bromley. Forthcoming exhibitions include Open Studios at the Forge (21-22 May), a group exhibition at Fitzrovia Gallery with Free Painters and Sculptors (23 May – 12 June), a two-person exhibition with sculptor Alexandra Harley (23 June – 17 July) at The Stone Space in Leytonstone and a solo exhibition with Art Van Go in September.

In my final year as a fellow at Digswell Arts, I am currently in the process of setting up a new workshop and studio space just outside St Albans with Blackberry Forge. I will share the space with a blacksmith, ceramicist and prop maker. Creative workshops for groups and individuals will be run on site and we also intend to offer a pop up exhibition space for artists to review work and undertake short residencies as well – so watch this space.

3) What are your plans for the coming year?

As in point 2, setting up and establishing a new studio and workshop space  and business with Blackberry Forge.

In May and June I am training as a coach with Relational Dynamics 1st. This builds on experience gained during the Emerging Cultural Leaders programme I was selected for in 2015, with the Clore Leadership programme, as well as over 3 years experience mentoring and supporting skills development for teaching staff in schools through my role as Co-Director with HertsCreation. After this course I will be able to offer coaching sessions for individuals. I hope over time to develop a specialism working with creative processes to support clients to overcome fear and build confidence enabling them to set and achieve their goals.

This year in addition to continuing to make new works in ink and gesso on board, I will also create a new body of works on paper for sale through the online galleries of The Other Art Fair and Quercus Gallery.

4) What is the question you get asked most about your work and how do you answer it?

How do you get the gesso so smooth?

By building up layers of gesso and with sandpaper and squeegees.

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

When I was 6 I drew a tree in charcoal from life. It seemed like the most miraculous and extraordinary thing that marks on a page could suddenly seem to be and look like the world around me. I remember there being a sense of magic, of awe and wonder that the process of looking and making marks could then actually look like that particular tree. The following week my teacher showed me a drawing she had done and I thought that I could never achieve what she had managed and it felt far too scary to try. At GCSE I had two brilliant teachers who again fostered my love of colour and materials and introduced me to the power and language of art. Now, I am addicted to the sense of possibility and learning – the feeling one gets of voyaging into the unknown and breaking new ground that the creative process affords.

6) Which artist do you most admire and why? 

I love the work of Ben Nicholson and Viera Da Silva although it is hard to pin my choice down to just one artist.  Artists and art works are like friends – we have different relationships with them at different times and we turn to art for different things, different sorts of conversations or ideas. Some art inspires, awes, or humbles whilst other pieces comfort or uplift. The same is true of poetry and literature.  Art isn’t an easy path and I admire all artists, especially those at the start of their career and working at the periphery of the art world, for striving, taking risks, putting themselves out there and continuing to believe in their work and what they have to say.

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

Being part of Digswell Arts for 5 years has been a complete, and transformative, gift. When I first started at Digswell I made sculpture in modelled and carved plaster. Every year I review my practice and set challenges or questions for the forthcoming year – these often include processes I want to try or exhibitions I want to develop. Digswell has offered a supportive professional community of friends and artist collaborators – and a certain sense of responsibility or accountability. We cheer each other on and motivate each other, plan exhibitions together and critique each other’s work. It has also provided space and a community in which to experiment, discuss work, learn, grow and play. The Trust very generously part-funded me to participate in Art Fair East in 2015 and also to attend the Clore Emerging Leaders Course (2015). This has helped me be more ambitious whilst also understanding how I might be able to help others in the future.

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