Hello Bruce! I’d love to know a bit more about you — you’re currently based in the UK? What first interested you in making art?
I guess making art was a natural progression from my childhood interests. Like many children I enjoyed collecting things. I collected stamps and old bottles, erasers and badges. I loved arranging these items, making little displays and presentations; on reflection I am still collecting things and arranging stuff in my own way. Like many artists I cannot walk past a skip without having a quick look, I often pick up bits of detritus off the streets; a piece of flattened metal or a strange shape can be the start of a new artwork. I enjoy these little day-to-day discoveries around the area I live.
I’m interested in how you interpret the idea of collage, or assemblage, in a sculptural sense. What first interested you in combining materials this way?
Collage has always been my creative avenue. I like the gathering and organising of images and materials; I also like the potential for an object or a printed image to take on a new meaning or reading when included in the mix of other more traditional materials. I am drawn to tactile materials and objects and images that are rooted in the daily experience of the ‘real’ world. My work has always made a shift from the flat to the three-dimensional. Techniques of layering and concealing have become very visible in my recent constructed collages.
I have been preoccupied with the relationship between the flat image and the three-dimensional surface since my study at the Royal College of Art. Over the last couple of years, I have been producing installation works that also engage this theme. The works are made from a varied mixture of materials items, many of which are left over from previous projects and placed or scattered directly on the gallery floor. These works have also evolved from an introspective interest in my own studio process and an acknowledgement of my working processes having the capacity to form an outcome. For me, these works act as a three dimensional sketchbook that only exist within the moment of creation and visible only during the duration of the exhibition.
Your process is layered and involves various aspects of painting or drawing, collaging, and arranging. Can you describe your process a bit more? How do you get started on a piece?
I never think about an idea in my head and then visit the studio to realise the artwork. I tend to let process dictate the direction of an outcome. A work will emerge through the accumulation of experiments or the gathering of materials that I have on hand in the studio. I spend time playing with materials and objects that I find or collect, sometimes I am simply trying to find out how objects might link or slot together, this might become a sculpture or an armature for a three dimension collage. My collage works start from stapling scraps of cut pieces of paper together and the form might evolve through the connection of other works on the studio wall. My favourite way to start a new collage work is to deconstruct and remove areas of a flat collage and join these elements into a three dimensional form – the failure of one outcome always generates new avenues. I like the sense of reinvention in forming a new work – the piece has a personal history of a trace of another artwork.
What is your studio space like?
My studio is a white cube with no windows. I like this as I am not distracted by the outside world and I have more wall space, it can also be anytime of year in my studio! I find weather a distraction. The floor and desk are covered in collage material and small offcuts of paper. I rarely tidy or throw any paper as I like to pick up scraps from the floor and bring them into a work, often a paper offcut can have an interesting shape and I will paint it and include in a layered collage. I like the sense of a personal history around me. The off cuts of paper form an archive that I can draw upon when working.
Do you have a favourite medium? What about it makes you like to work with it?
My go to material has always been paper. I am attracted to the versatility of surface but also the temporal and fragile nature when used in making and constructing. I generally make all my work with scissors and papers of some sort. Everyone can cut something out with a pair of scissors, I like the universal quality of this process, I love making collages with kids and I often teach projects to students based around themes with my own work. Everyone has their own approach to collage and I am fascinated in how other people interpret this process.
Is there any object or a tool in your studio that you can’t live without?
I have favourite pair of scissors that I love to use. I make all my work with them and they are always on hand. Also, staple guns are scattered around my space, as I always need to fasten and join paper together. I enjoy the instant click of the staple gun. A satisfying mechanism!
What is your go-to when you find yourself at a creative standstill?
When I am feeling uninspired, I return back to mark making and painting. I can spend a whole day just painting large sheets of card and layering with paintbrush marks. Painted paper is the beginning of my collage process and the ingredients that feeds back into the layered paper works. Through this process I will start cutting these larger sheets down to smaller pieces, I will identify areas and shapes that are of interest. This process often kick-starts a new investigation. I have to go through this process to generate information to draw upon in the process of collage and construction.
What do you consider to be the most challenging aspect of pursuing art? Or, what do you need most as an artist?
I love being in the studio and experimenting, the solitude is a luxury. I always tell people that spending time in my studio makes me a nicer person to be around and I think that’s true. Having the space to be consumed by my own creative activity is really important for me. I am a low-key artist in terms of materials; I can generate outcomes from humble means, so just having the time and a studio is enough for me. I think many artists will suggest time being the most important aspect for an artist and I would agree.
Is there a piece of advice you’ve received that you feel has served you well? Any advice you’ve received that you’re grateful you decided to ignore?
I have received so much advice over the years from all sorts of people, my work is ephemeral and delicate and I have been encouraged to make it more solid and robust for commercial purposes. I have chosen to ignore this advice! I make the work I want to make and do not want to compromise my intention.
What does “success” mean to you?
Success is the feeling when you walk into the studio and look at a piece of work that you have been working on and know its finished and you are happy, for me seeing it with fresh eyes on my next visit to the studio, I will instantly know if it looks right or not. Sometimes I might destroy a work at this point but something else always regenerates out of this process!
Do you have any upcoming exhibitions or projects that you’re currently developing?
I have work featured in a couple of forthcoming group shows and I am also a developing a concept for a group show of London artists.
+ + +