Friday, 7 February 2014

Featured artist: Lisa Denyer

Clare Nadal writes

Tonight is the launch of Lisa Denyer’s exhibition Geode at South Square Gallery. A recent graduate of Coventry University in 2009, Lisa has begun to establish a critical platform for herself in the North West since graduating. I took ten minutes midst the bustle of install to catch up with Lisa and speak to her about her artistic practice and professional experiences as a young emerging artist.

This is your third solo exhibition to date. Talk to me about the progression across these different exhibitions.
Geode marks a pointed departure from my previous shows that tended to be more landscape based featuring large canvases, often 5 ft in size. The work for South Square is smaller scale, more intimate and marks my development into abstraction. This has been a gradual transition for me that I would date from my move to Manchester after graduating in 2009. This was a key point in my practice as I encountered the urban architecture of Manchester for the first time. For some time I developed work that engaged with geometric abstraction. I also curated a number of abstract painting shows including Treatment at PS Mirabel.

Like many practising artists these days, you are also a curator. Tell me your thoughts on curating and this new ‘breed’ of Artist/Curator. How does one practice impact on the other and do you think it is beneficial?
Although ‘networking’ is something of a dirty word in the art world, it is something vital for survival and I do feel that working as an Artist/Curator has opened up many opportunities for me. It is definitely something I would recommend to artists when graduating from art school. I moved to Manchester straight after graduating and I found it very hard to get involved in the art scene there at first. I found that I needed to be incredibly proactive and also to think about making my own opportunities. To this end I set up PS Mirabel, an artist led project space, where I have been involved with a number of curatorial projects. I have also found that my curatorial work has very much led into my own artistic practice. With the abstract painting show Treatment I found myself influenced by the works I selected for exhibition.

What is your experience of developing as an artist since graduating from art school. Do you have any advice to offer recent graduates?
For me, since graduating I have found myself being much more spontaneous in the way I work. This has been important for me in reflecting on my practice more critically in terms of honing in my interests. I have been influenced by non-Western art forms after watching a documentary entitled ‘Outsider Art’ and have found myself endowing my art with a childlike spontaneity. In terms of advice, after graduating I was able to join the Castlefield Galleries associates scheme in Manchester, which has been enormously beneficial. They have opened up a large number of new art spaces across the city for which they provide opportunities for emerging artists like myself.

Tell me a bit more about Geode and its position within your work as a whole.
Geode is all new work from 2013 onwards and draws upon my background as a landscape painter. There is a sense of contrast between the micro and macro as I look at both geological and microscopic formations alongside mountain panoramas. These inspirations transfer into my methods of working as I now paint on found stones, which in their rugged shapes closely resemble the contours of a mountain range.

This interest in found objects is key to my practice at the moment, as I scavenge for found stones and plywood. I am fascinated by the marks, fractures and faults in these materials. Rather than viewing them as flaws I like to see how the paint reacts and responds to them.  The stones are also significant in being scavenged from the local area and thus reference the quarrying heritage of the region. Referencing this post-industrial landscape more directly, the exhibition features the inclusion of found coal placed as a sculptural artefact within the gallery space. Challenging coal’s status as a polluting fossil fuel, these individual pieces have been cleaned and display an unexpected beauty as they shine like gemstones.

The exhibition also features a new limited edition print, specially made for the show. Being primarily a painter what was your experience of working with lino prints?
I’d not worked with printmaking since my degree show in 2009 so it was a really fun experience, providing me with the opportunity to work more experimentally. I was quite innovative and used vegetables as well as placing paint on the prints. In this way they fit more closely with, and can be seen as a direct extension of my painting practice.

What future projects do you have lined up and is Geode likely to inform and direct them in any way?
I will shortly be doing a sixth month residency in Federation House in Manchester with Castlefield Galleries. From engaging with the stone heritage of Thornton and the surrounding area I have began to consider ideas of masonry and architecture, thinking of particular man-made spaces and shapes such as doorways and windows. I am also keen to use this residency to consider my interests in found objects further, specifically thinking about surface and materiality within the damaged found boards I paint on.

Geode opens on Saturday 07 February and runs until Sunday 02 March. 

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