Bristol-based artist Anouk Mercier has been championing the art of drawing within Bristol since graduated from UWE in 2008. Her latest exhibition Excursus open in two week’s time at Antlers Gallery. Read the interview below to find out more about the exhibition and the art scene in Bristol.
BR: Your creative process uses airbrushing, drawing and ink. What inspired you to start working in such diverse media?
AM: Initially I think my inspiration stems from a desire never to limit myself in terms of the materials that I use. Although I can certainly recognise the importance of developing one technique over time, I also feel that it is important that technique should develop and adapt as concepts behind the work evolve.
I have also developed different ways of working for my own artistic sanity; my very detailed graphite drawings are produced in extremely controlled and tedious conditions, with very little room for the unexpected. In contrast, I never fully control the outcome of my airbrush and acetone transfer works, creating a “looser” and more unpredictable results, which I find both exciting and challenging. I therefore always work on several pieces at the time and jump from one technique to the other as I feel that they compliment each other and my overall practice.
BR: What work will you be showing with Antlers Gallery?
AM: My solo-show with Antlers Gallery (Excursus) comes at a significant point in my career as I made the decision eight months ago to commit to my practice full time. This has allowed me to be more experimental, as well as take on some more ambitious challenges in terms of scale, for example. The body of work that I will be showing in Excursus has been entirely produced over this period and reflects some key developments in my practice.
Bringing together pieces exploring diverse subject matter, from landscapes to Animalia portraits, and combining both graphite as well as airbrush and acetone transfer drawings, these new works will be presented as visual fragments of an obscured and enigmatic tale; enticing the viewer into formulating an overarching narrative and therefore exploring the notion of escapism through the fabrication of Narrative, which is central to my practice and to the exhibition.
BR: What is the contemporary art scene like in Bristol? Do you find there is a good audience for your work there?
AM: Bristol is an extremely creative city and has a readily captive audience for the Arts. I have been devoted to promoting drawing in the city over the past four years, mainly through Bristol Drawing Club, which I co-founded, as well as through teaching at Bristol Drawing School, and therefore have a great audience for my work to be shown. Bristol’s proximity to London also allows for artists based here not to become too insular and to reach out to audiences further afield.
BR: Looking at your drawings, the sky has an ethereal, almost surreal quality to it. Are these realistic drawings?
AM: The skies in my drawings are never truly realistic. This is not to say that I do not spend many hours studying skies, both on a daily basis as well as through the works of the Romantic landscape artists that inspire me. However I see them as changeable, mysterious and somewhat mystical surfaces, that can morph from sublime to apocalyptic through a simple nuance in colour. It is this uncanny quality that fascinates me and is emphasised through my own depiction of skies; I offer a distorted representation to confuse the boundaries of what renders a scene “real”.
BR: Do you think growing up in Switzerland has had an influence on you?
AM: Absolutely. My obsession with mountains as a subject matter is a direct result of having grown up in Switzerland. I was taught as a child to both love and fear mountains in equal measure. As a result I developed a fascination for the awe that they inspire, as well as the respect that they commandeer through their unpredictable and changeable nature. I suppose that they are to me the perfect embodiment of beauty combined with the sinister side of the sublime, which is a central theme to all of my work.
BR: You’ve been commissioned to create a piece which will be donated to the permanent collection of Bristol City Museum. Have you put any thought into the piece yet?
AM: The work I’m producing will be developed in response to works from the Bristol School of Artists who documented Bristol and its surrounding countryside in the early 19th century. I have therefore spent the last couple of months researching these artists, and as part of this process have been visiting the Permanent Collection looking through drawings, etchings and watercolours of the Romantic scenes and landscapes that they produced. This has been an incredibly inspiring process and I am currently working towards presenting two proposals to the museum before I move onto production.
BR: Where else can we see your work this year?
AM: I am showing work in Last Day, a group exhibition curated by Paul O’Neil at Cartel, London, opening on 29 June – 18 August 2012. Later this year I will also be showing work as part of an exhibition curated by Antlers Gallery on the theme of “Narrative” as part of the Ilkley literature Festival. However for the rest of the summer I will mainly be concentrating on completing the piece that I have been commissioned to produce for the City Museum Collection.
Anouk Mercier: Excursus, 06/07/2012 until 31/07/2012, Antlers Gallery, 6 Philadelphia Street, Quakers Friars, Bristol, BS1 3BZ. www.antlersgallery.com /www.anoukmercier.com
1. Cascade du Vaugeret
Courtesy the artist
Text: Bethany Rex