Conceptual or representational? What kind or art makes your heart beat faster? In this episode of the podcast I chat to artist Holly Drewett about this very topic and how her work in printmaking has changed over the years since graduating moving in a more experimental and conceptual direction. Holly’s work originally explored landscapes and our sense of place within these, often made up of textures and marks that described the terrain and atmosphere of a location.
A study trip to Japan during her degree helped her to appreciate the value of craftsmanship and nature of materials more deeply and it was here that she discovered the lithographic technique of Mokulito. Practical issues of language however created some barriers to her experimenting with the printmaking equipment and chemicals more fully and she found herself instead exploring digital media and animation techniques which would come in useful in developing later works.
Holly talks about how travel has affected her practice and how a scary experience high up a mountain in a freak snow storm had a huge impact on her personally and her work thereafter. The thundering sound of the storm had such a profound effect on her physically and emotionally, that she felt compelled once back in her studio to explore the effects of sound in a visual way. She talks about how our relationship to sound is very personal and what may be positively stimulating to one person can be overwhelming to another. It’s the first sense we experience in life and it’s the last that we lose. Sound has a powerful effect on how we experience our environment.
By recording sounds through gestural mark making in her drawings whilst blindfolded, Holly immersed herself in the physical experience of sound and how to make that visible. From abstract works through sculptural installations her exploration of soundscapes continues in her more recent experimental and collaborative work with underwater sound recordings studying the impact of mechanical sound on sea wildlife.
We discuss the reasons why representational art tends to be more seductive initially to people looking to buy art but how conceptual art can often have more longevity in terms of what it continues to gives back and how it leaves something different to be discovered every time you look at it.
Conceptual work tends to focus on ideas, personal perspectives, emotions, sensations and other intangible things that are an important part of our experience of this world. Making the unseen visible is a challenge. A conceptual piece of art may have as much if not more blood sweat and tears involved in the distillation of a concept to present it in a way that more of us can appreciate and identify with it than representational work where everything can be recognised in one glance.
Holly’s work is not the sort of work that jumps out and grabs your attention immediately as you walk by. It doesn’t shock or make any loud political statement or present us with a story that’s easily readable. It’s quiet, meditative work. It’s the kind of work that if you try to connect the marks to make a ‘picture’ or recognisable image that makes sense to you, you may become further way from connecting with it. But clear your mind and allow your eye to make a journey over the peaks and troughs of the marks and scores and through the translucent misted tints of colour and you’ll find a different kind of sensory ‘scape’. The physical form that can be found in sound that takes you to a place you’ve never seen yet can feel intimately connected to.
It’s not instant gratification that makes an artwork great and with the extended virtue of patience we’ve all gained this year, allowing time to sit with a conceptual piece and being open to the possibility of what is being presented in front of you could open a whole new world of art to discover!
Holly’s latest series of work ‘ Notes on Sound’ can be seen in our Winter Show ‘Emergence’.
You can listen to the full podcast here ….