I sat down to speak with Scarlett Hope-Gates about her practice, experience as a recent graduate and the inspirations in her work. Talking about Phyllida Barlow and explorations in scale and materiality. We discuss her work from a range of perspectives; thinking in detail about colour choices then, the relationships sculptures can hold and act of personifying the things we create. Scarlett makes work I find personally inspiring and influential in my artistic practice and hearing her discuss the relationships between her sculpture was a real joy.
Read more about Scarlet and her practice below.
Holly - Tell me about yourself?
Scarlett - I'm Scarlett, I was raised and still live in Surrey. I have just recently graduated from the University for the Creative Arts, Canterbury and I studies Fine Art. My main interest is Art, mainly contemporary, conceptual art, but I also love being creative with my fashion. Holly - What are your main focuses in your practice?
Scarlett - My work rejects institutional norms by citing itself as un-placeable within any specific tradition to enforce a feminist agenda. Using a large variety of materials that aren't traditionally used for sculpture (tights, expanding foam and cotton wool), as well as the use of the formless and anthropomorphic, has lead to the work gaining an intentionally subversive positioning. My use of subversion is about having something within the work hidden, not as an evasion, rather as a feeling about what is hidden as holding significance. I see my sculptures as people, not physically, but they have emotions, relationships and feelings, and we’re witnessing their acts with one another. Their installation produces combinations that explore intimate moments which we experience throughout life. They're seen to hang, drip or morph into one another as if they are alive, this is used as a physical representation of how the human body functions. Hand-made paper is used as a casing in order to protect the sculpture's internal form, which can be interpreted as a representation of the skin.
Holly - What materials and processes inspire you?
Scarlett - I am normally inspired by other artists and seeing their work physically. Phyllida Barlow is a major inspiration within my practice, I love her use of colour, scale and materials. The main material I use is expanding foam and how it grows and produces its own forms also inspires me and challenges me to adapt the way I work to create successful outcomes.
Holly - How does this inspiration feed into your working?
Scarlett - The inspiration I get from other artists feeds into my work through its visuals, I don't try to use exactly the materials as other artists but I find my own way to create similar textures that I combine with my own forms. I can also be inspired by other artists installation/layout ideas and I will experiment on how I can use those same ideas to produce professional installation with my own work. Holly - What value does research hold in your practice and how important to do you find it to be in the process of making. ( research can be anything from experimentation to reading, I’m interested in everything up until the final product and what those processes mean in your making)
Scarlett- Theory research isn't very important to my practice, I do read up on different theorists and their ideas in order to add context, but I can create work without having historical theory research first.
Sometimes I can just have an idea in my head of something I want to make and I'll make it asap, this just happens organically but could be influenced unconsciously by something I've seen, read or heard about previously. If I am lacking some artistic inspiration I like to browse Pinterest, go to galleries or read contemporary artist books to hear about other artists talking about their work and that kind of research can be very important to my process.
Holly - I’ve always believed sculpture have held some form of life and emotion and it’s intriguing to hear about the intimate relationship between the works you make and how they mimic life. Can you expand on how these choices come about? Is it in the making of the work that you realise the relationship or the curation of them when placed together?
Scarlett - Although the work can suggest a bodily/figurative form I didn’t actively choose for this to happen, the material dictates this suggestion of life by itself. I think the relationships created emerge organically between the pieces and I just play off of those forms when it comes to the curation of the work in order to emphasise those relationships.
Holly - You’ve spoken about Phyllida Barlow being an inspiration and her use of scale. Do you see your work taking on this kind of dwarfing size in future?
Scarlett- I would love for my work to scale up to that size at some point and create an immersive installation that fully fills a room. I love to experiment with scale, materials and colour as my work is very adaptable in that way, so there’s definitely a possibility of that later on in my career.
Holly - There something very sensory about your work, it’s has an ever-changing texture and tactility as you push materials to their limits. These kinds of sensory ideas make you want to touch and hold the work to discover more. Is this intentional?
Scarlett- I have had this response to my work frequently, but the idea of them being sensory wasn’t intentional. I have developed these ideas and worked off of feedback from my audience, so at the moment I do encourage my work to be interacted with. This is in order to add another element to the audience experience.
Holly - When thinking about the emotions these sculptures may hold, does colour seep into your thinking? With your work often remaining quite neutral with hints of occasional pink or green, I’m interested in the reasoning for these colour choices. Do they reflect emotion or, equally as important, are they just visual?
Scarlett - My choice of colour is based on the type of paint I use, which is house emulsion. I use this specific type of paint as a way to comfort the audience after they’re confronted with the unnerving or confrontational forms and context of my work. Most of my colour choices occur by chance, depending on what is in stock at the time or what I find in my studio. From those colours, I do try to choose combinations that are aesthetically pleasing as the visuals of my work are just as important to me as the concept. I create my own paper that I colour with the same emulsion, during the process of making the paper most colours become toned down so this stays in line with my neutral scheme.