Featured Artist of the Month Sue Pilborough

Written by Fenners

On December 2, 2019

Sue Pilborough recently joined the artists at the Fenners Studios in Letchworth and is in her first year as a Fellow with Digswell Arts.

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

My current practice is predominantly within the 3D sphere, incorporating tactile elements with an exploratory approach, to produce an ambiguous, slightly uncanny outcome. The starting point is usually from a picture of something in nature or an object, triggering off an interest in the form and its potential outcome, as well as the variety of manipulations /materials I can use to infer an interpretation. I am working on two projects at the moment, one involving deconstruction and reassembling of dyed rope, the other centred around moulded textiles. Both bodies of work are based on and around the shapes and forms found in nature, sharing repetitive techniques and ambiguous organic themes, with the suggestion of an ephemeral quality.

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

At present I am working towards the completion of one of my current projects, with the intention to show the finished piece in a joint exhibition in January 2020 with Veronika Peat, who is also a fellow at the Fenners studio in Letchworth. The exhibition will be an ideal opportunity for me take the work out of the studio, reflect on its progress and see how the pieces interact with the space.
From 11 October to 23 November 2019 I had three small 3D pieces in the New Maynard Gallery’s Open Call Exhibition in Welwyn Garden City.

I am still in my first year at Digswell and whilst working on various projects in the studio, I have been making exploratory links further afield; looking for potential exhibition opportunities and attending events, and various workshops to build on my skills.

One of Digswell’s objectives is to promote the arts within the community, so as a practising fellow I have been running some ‘Art & Craft’ sessions for an over 70’s group in St. Albans.. Running these sessions has encouraged me to look into some workshops for experimental and exploratory textile based work in the future.

What are your plans for the coming year?

I was fortunate to be able to move studios within the Fenners during in the summer and this move has granted me greater freedom to explore my practice, from experimenting with different materials to creating room-sized installations.
Next year I intend to start working on some new projects, slowly building up a portfolio of work with the intention to apply not only to gallery and exhibition open calls, but also to seek out other opportunities, such as commissions and site specific based.
At the start of next year I will be embarking on a stone-carving course at Mary Ward Centre, in London, where I will be aiming to create a new body of work in soft stone.

More creative community work will be carried out next year, with the stage development for the production of ‘Hobson’s Choice’ with my local Amateur Dramatics group.

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

I have found that people are either curious or maybe slightly repelled by my work as it contains materials such as human hair and latex. I am aware that these materials hold various connotations and different interpretations for people which I employ as part of the work. I enjoy pushing the boundaries of different materials to provoke multiple reactions. Most are intrigued and ask questions regarding the materials I choose to work with; why I work with them and how, through the manipulation of the material, I am reimaging and presenting them in a new form.
The technique and process of making is important to me. Although it can sometimes be a time consuming and repetitive process, this does lend itself to allow me to have an in-depth response and reaction to the material as the artwork is being made: granting me the chance to explore and respond to it’s possibilities. Also, I find the process has a meditative quality for me.

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

My latent artistic capabilities were ignited after a trip to Barcelona and seeing for myself, the work of Antoni Gaudi. His highly imaginative interpretations of nature triggered off my appreciation of what could be explored in lateral avenues.

Which artist do you most admire and why?

Seeing the huge textural works of Anselm Keifer allowed me to begin to understand how juxtaposing of works and components assist to make up a whole narrative. Alongside the work of Keifer, there are many other artists whom I admire from Kathe Kolliwitz’s strong, emotional prints; Grayson Perry’s social messages on his ceramic pots and his prints and Yinke Shonibare’s clever use of cultural fabrics.

My initial intentions – when I started this journey through art- was to learn how to paint properly but the more I have learnt and seen, I have become increasingly passionate for the process. I feel a greater path has opened up for me, leading me in a direction where I aim to produce my own work, with my own narratives and respond to the world around me, whether this is in 2D or 3D.

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

I was accepted by the Digswell Arts Trust (DAT)for a studio at the start of February 2019, just eight months after completing my BA (Hons) Fine Art Degree at Minerva Art Academy in Groningen, The Netherlands.

I was so pleased to be offered a place at DAT and be granted a studio where I am able to continue my work. I will admit I was fearful that after completing my degree I would be drowned in domesticity if I was unable to find a work space – so I am thankful that I been given this opportunity.

DAT is so much more than a simple workspace: it is a small community of artists who share the same passion to create and explore. The creative environment I am a part of is one that centres on the benefits of sharing, whether this is in the exchange of ideas and methodologies or opportunities, for oneself or as a group.
This selected group of artists both supports and encourages me as an emerging artist through informal critiques, discussion of professional development or reciprocation of information and networking opportunities.
Having a studio with the Digswell Arts Trust gives me a certain kudos as a newly qualified artist entering the art world.

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