Interview with Sculptural Artist Lucy Whitford

Opening tomorrow, London-based artist Lucy Whitford presents her first solo exhibition at Zabludowicz Collection in north London. Running until 24 February, Whitford creates beautiful sculptures that challenge the divide between art and craft. She works with natural materials including fired and unfired clay, wood and ink, as well as man-made materials such as plaster, concrete, steel or cloth. Graduating from Chelsea College of Art and Design in 2012, her installation at the Zabludowicz Collection’s 18th century former Methodist chapel is a reflection of her love for materials and their sensory characteristics. Whitford’s show is part of the Zabludowicz Collection Invites series which offers an opportunity for emerging artists without representation to produce a solo show. Aesthetica finds out how Whitford feels ahead of the show and the inspiration behind the pieces.

A: What is it about the medium of sculpture that allows you to express your artistic ideas?
LW: I find a freedom in sculpture, an opportunity to explore the properties of material and form through the process of making, collecting and assembling. I have developed a language through the materiality, texture and surface of my sculptural works that I feel able to communicate through. There’s an intimacy in the making of my sculptural works that comes from both the physical act of making as well as my continual questioning of process, form and materiality.

Through sculptural works I’m able to explore my internal world and its relationship with the nature of the materials and structures that surround me. My work evolves from a combination of the cerebral and an intuitive process of making: I use my knowledge of a material, its cultural references and myths, its very physical properties to push them to reveal themselves in various states, exposing their inherent qualities. I expose the materials that I work with – clay, foam, plaster- to forces such as gravity, light, air, heat, pressure. Some things work, some don’t. Working with forces that have their own set of rules can be exciting and unexpected – sometimes harmonious, sometimes frustrating but always interesting.

A:Do you ever work with other mediums?
LW: Yes, all the time. Drawing, print, photography and video – they are all part of my creative process but don’t appear often as final works. I use video a lot – I always have my camera with me in my bag – it’s a “point and shoot” and I guess it’s comparable to using a sketchbook or a notepad – some of my most important works are in there. I will be showing some of the videos that were involved in the making of my Invites show at my artist event at the Zabludowicz Collection on 9 February. I’ve not shown them before so it’ll be interesting to see where it takes me.

A: What does it mean to you to be part of the Zabludowicz Collection?
LW: To be part of a collection that includes so many artists whose work I respect and admire is a great feeling. The recognition of my works by the collection and the support given to enable me to develop a new body of work only months out of my MA is invaluable. Not only have I been given the opportunity to be a part of their Invites series, I have been given the freedom and space to make the work I want to make.

A: Your work is described as being a “poetically conceived internal world, which operates independently of specific cultural references.” How do you want your viewers to respond to it?
LW: There are those who will connect with my work, those who won’t and those who will connect to something quite different to anything I could anticipate from it. I want people to slow down, to question the materials used and the process that might be behind the work’s making. These works don’t set out to make specific cultural references explicit but the materials I use and the forms they take do of course carry with them their own set of references and identities. I use a lot of materials from the home, as well as industrial steel, foam, plaster, concrete and clay – all of these materials have their own histories and of course I use those as a part of the work. I hope my work is open enough for individual interpretation, to offer an ambiguity and stimulate the imagination. A lot of the materials I use are familiar but used in an unfamiliar way.

A: What are your future plans?
LW: Well, the work I’ve been making for this show has thrown up some new ground to explore. Larger scale clay and plaster works are definitely on the horizon. There’s lots going on in the show that I can take further, I have never had the opportunity to have my work installed for so many weeks so I fully intend to take advantage of this as a chance for reflection – what worked, what needs work and to think about where my practice goes from here. It’s a really exciting time for me, I have got some great artists around me with lots of ideas for shows. I’m moving to a larger studio that will quite literally give me some perspective on my work. Most importantly I’ll be straight back in the studio.

A: What was the inspiration behind this particular body of work appearing at the Zabludowicz Collection?
LW: The new works in the show are a response to my works in the Zabludowicz Collection and to the room in which I’m showing. It’s just the right space for this work – when you walk in you slow down, it’s quiet and to the side of the main gallery – it somehow has a very intimate human feel to it. The benches are great and I’ve made use of them. It’s contemplative and I like the way it mirrors the library on the other side of the gallery.

A: Which artists inspire you?
LW: There are too many to mention. I’m inspired by so many different aspects of people’s artistic practices- not only visual artists but choreographers, musicians, textile/ fashion designers, writers – the different creative processes are what often sparks inspiration for me, and those who are passionate about their practice. Artists that create work that they need to make and leave it open enough for others.

Lucy Whitford, January 17 – February 24, Zabludowicz Collection, 176 Prince of Wales Road, London NW5 3PT.

1. Lucy Whitford, I can’t tell you why (woven earth), 2012, Installation view, Courtesy the artist.
2. Lucy Whitford, Island survival An offering (England), 2012, Courtesy the artist.
3. Lucy Whitford, I can’t tell you why (woven earth) (detail), 2012, Installation view, Courtesy the artist.
4.Lucy Whitford, Shedding (of shade) and Untitled (fading), 2012, Courtesy the artist.