How did your artistic journey start?
Way back- I started drawing every moment I could in primary school! I cannot imagine not picking up media and drawing, cutting or tearing something. The plan to have art at the core of my life never faltered through high school, art school, my teaching career and my spare time. I used to sit with my dad drawing all the costumes in the Miss World contest in the 1960s (when we didn’t consider P.C) I used every moment I had to set the wheels in motion for getting into Glasgow School Of Art. I knew I wasn’t the best so I realised I had to work hard to get there. When I had homework, I drew 5 versions of the task, never thinking one was good enough.
How did you arrive at the theme of your work?
Words and set themes always create a starting point for me. The concept of “curio” of hidden treasures opened a rich seam of thought.
I considered beauty in dark in hidden places and this led me to darkness within. I was inspired by both physical and spiritual hidden spaces, dark thoughts and beautiful truths.
My interest in religious and spiritual symbolism seemed to thrive in the mind maps inspired by Curio.
Can you walk us through your creative process?
I have an artistic, creative interest in the value of religious symbolism and in the emotional suggestions we find in colour and shape. I moved between the idea of real containers and implied containers, I became more interested in the inner thoughts, regrets and whether dark thoughts and actions can find forgiveness. This brought me to massive global events and to the tiny cubicle in Catholicism where, if repentant, sins can be absolved.
Words and materials always inspire my thinking.
Exploration of surface and found object are integral to the work. Once I have the word I can see what I am looking for in the everyday things I just chance upon. Look and you will find!
How has your practice changed over time?
I continue to love the practice of drawing and cannot imagine a time where I do not start drawing with pen, ink or even thread as I begin to work through initial starting points and ideas. My practice has become more abstract and conceptual and I am beginning to move between two dimensional three dimensional pieces. I have become more aware of the space the artwork inhabits and how the position of the pieces can inform. I continue to explore mixed media and textile art, I cannot see a point where I can run out of ideas when there are scraps of fabric to be repurposed and re-loved.
I have also realised that the concept of symbolism and visual representation of “bigger things” is central to my thought process.
How do you overcome creative blocks?
By starting, I begin to work on simple, familiar processes, just to relax my mind and to produce something. I let the thoughts grow as I consider the new theme while I work on the familiar. I use collaborative practice, discussing ideas with other artists. I leave unfinished pieces lying to use as starting points when I draw a blank. I can always make textile pieces and explore scraps threads and techniques, they don’t always come to anything, I guess they are doodles ! A new word or phrases will also inspire. I am a member of Sketchbook Circle and the process of being surprised at the way another artist will work with and manipulate your sketches is an exciting way to keep ideas flowing.
Who influences you? Which other artists work do you love?
I love fashion designers who don’t know whether their work is for wearing or can be a work of art. Iris Van Herpen, Alexander McQueen, Jean Paul Gaultier produce works of imagination and beauty. I love the blurred, suggestive colours and texture of Monet, the texture in a Van Gogh and the patterned opulence of Klimt. I know these people are well known and seem obvious but there is a reason we love them, they provided joy, wonder and in the case of McQueen, beauty in the macabre and dark thoughts.
There are less well known artists who inspire because they are a surprise and it is valuable and inspirational to come across these jewels.
What advice would you give to artists who are just starting out?
Find a bundle of surfaces, make or buy and personalise a sketchbook, .. Do something, start, lose the fear, let your idea grow, revisit old friends and give them new life. Not everything will work out. Somethings won’t come out even the way you have planned them in your head, but just keep going and work with other people if you can !
Is there anything else you would like people to know about your work or your experiences as an artist?
I worked for nearly 40 years teaching art. I loved working with young creative minds and encouraging bravery and experimentation. I believe I helped some of them to be experimental and to understand that they are artists. Now I am retired and I am trying to find out how to push my own ideas and be courageous and imaginative. It is a a challenge and a joy!
I am now very involved in creating art using sustainable materials, I am encouraged by the value society placed on the creative process during COVID and I would hope that we continue to give importance to any process where we give ourselves time to enjoy an artistic, musical, informative or physical activity.
See Audrey McMenemy’s work at our latest show, “CURIoS“, running at Six Foot Gallery until Tuesday 5th December.