Artist interview: Sophie Willoughby

This weeks interview is with artist Sophie Willoughby.

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Dancers by Sophie Willoughby

How and when did you decide to become an artist?

I grew up with artistic parents so creativity was always encouraged and has continued to be an important part of my life. However, it wasn’t until a while after I had completed my fine art degree that I actually decided to pursue being an artist.

You visited India, an extraordinary country. How do you think that experience influenced your work?
I wouldn’t say the experience influenced my work directly, but most people I have spoken to who have traveled there feel it had an impact on their lives.

India has such vibrant and diverse cultures. It is an intense, weird and wonderful place that can make you smile and laugh, but also make you want to scream.

Traveling through the country your senses are bombarded with clashing smells, colours and noise.

Scrumptious street food everywhere, fragrant chai, aromatic scents from the flower markets all mixed up with traffic fumes, rubbish and sewers. The colours are vivid; women’s saris, piles of pigments in the markets and painted billboards. The noise is constant – they use their horns as indicators and like to shout a lot.

The poverty is very humbling and you are never alone in India.

Which artists have inspired you most?

There isn’t one particular artist who inspires me as I am inspired and influenced by all sorts of artists for different reasons. At the moment I have become particularly drawn to the work of Sarah Moon. She is a contemporary photographer but uses traditional processes.

Your current work is screen printing and photographic images. Do you always use the same medium? How would you describe your methodology?

I don’t always use the same medium to make art but photographic image extends through the majority of my work.
My work is process driven and this is why I am particularly interested in printmaking and photography. I have always been drawn to photography, but rather than working with straight photographs, I prefer to use a more hands on approach and to try out different methods of portraying image. Printmaking also gives you a good scope to experiment with different techniques and styles of image making.
I am keen on combining old and new processes, such as digital photographs converted into cyanotypes and have used super 8 film converted into digital images.

I also like to make collages and often use these as a starting point. I collect a lot of found imagery and am attracted to strange or melancholy imagery. In the past I have also experimented with installations.

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Fox by Sophie Willoughby

What influences do you have outside of the art world?

I collect a wide variety of ephemera. This extends to second hand books, magazines, postcards and interesting pieces of found material.
I enjoy the freedom of dance, foreign places and films, although sometimes I find that the most interesting images come from our day to day life; noticing fresh things in a familiar background.

What music do you listen to on your ipod?

I’ve been told that I have quite an eclectic taste in music, and depending on what kind of work I am doing I will listen to different music.

For printing it will be quite upbeat, but if I’m working on the computer I’ll pick something more mellow. I used to play the piano so am attracted to the sound of piano music. I recently discovered Ludovico Einaudi who did the soundtrack to The Intouchables.

I like music by: :
Little Dragon, DJ Shadow, Belle and Sebastien, Massive Attack, James Brown, Ray Charles, Manu Chao, Nitin Sawney, Groove Armada. Bjork, Mr Scruff, RJD2, Buena Vista Social Club, Daft Punk, Dark Dark Dark, Gotan Project, Nightmares on Wax, Rodrigo y Gabriella and more….

What was the last exhibition you visited and what did you make of it?

The last exhibition I visited was a photography exhibitions at the V & A: Light from the Middle East.
The exhibition presented works by photographers who live in the region and diaspora. It was split into three categories: Recording, Reframing and Resisting which demonstrated the diversity of the medium and different approaches to similar concepts.

The subject matter of the show was based on areas of the world that we are familiar with, but mainly associate with conflict and negative news coverage. The show highlighted the complexity of the region and I enjoyed viewing the images from an art perspective and merit rather than concentrating on the clichés we often associate with the Middle East.

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Hands Berlin by Sophie Willoughby

How do you decide on your new subject/idea/themes?

I try to brainstorm and make lists, but the work usually develops through the practical process of producing work.
I have a bank of images that I go to for inspiration; these are both found and images from my personal archive. I generally take photographs on a regular basis, and after a reviewing of the results, am more comfortable to develop the ideas further. I gather inspiration both from my immediate surroundings and foreign places, and also use friends and family as subjects to reach a deeper meaning about what the image might represent.

How would you define good or bad art?

I think a lot of art is judged on personal taste and knowledge.
Personally, I consider good art to have good skill but also a good concept behind the work. If it hasn’t got either then I’d say that was bad art.

How do you see your work evolving during 2013? Do you have a specific goal for the future?

I’d like to become more experimental with printmaking, in both technique and display and to create installational works. I also want to develop my photographic skills and learn more alternative processes.

I hope to gain an MA and plan to apply for residencies.

museum of childhood

Museum of childhood by Sophie Willoughby
Thank you Sophie.

Next time we will intoduce our special exhibition guest: Professor James Ladyman

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