Beth Cullen Kerridge
Beth Cullen Kerridge is a sculptor. Her studies at the Royal College of Art (MA Sculpture, 1996) proved to be a springboard on to the London art scene, with two of the London Parks Showing her work consecutively. She then showed in many exhibitions in the capital and around England, including commercial site specific sculpture for her home town of Stoke-on-Trent.
She honed her craft working in foundries and producing works for Edwardo Paolozzi, Elisabeth Frink and Alberto Giacometti.
For eight years she was lucky enough to work closely as a Studio Assistant with the legendary Mike Bolus and for another champion, Sir Anthony Caro. With Sir Anthony Caro she participated on large scale projects working with Sir Norman Foster on the Millennium Bridge; Richard Rodgers, The Tate Gallery and on shows at the Venice Biennale, Marlborough Gallery New York and the Baptistery Chapel of Light Bourborg France. She won the Global Art Award for Sculpture 2017 and The Formidable Women Award 2018.
You said you tried to deny your calling and go any way but into art. Are you happy that you went the way destiny might have set out for you?
I don’t think it was art I was trying to deny, but my father is a painter and I never thought I could ever even dream of being in is league, so thought I should find my path. As it is now we go and carve together in Carrera. A treat, to say the least.
Do you remember your first sculpture? How did you move over from painting?
A painting tutor said in Liverpool, “I could have hugged you when you did that!” and my paintings were rolling out of the wall… I had welded some offcuts together once, which are really cute, but the paper coming out of the wall was when I realised I couldn’t help it.
You have said of your time at the RCA that you felt you were set free and gained your skill there. What did you learn that saw your work evolve differently?
I love skill and craftsmanship, I just wanted to know how to cast, and Richard Rome, legend, showed us everything he knew. At the time I was there we had a foundry refurb too, so it went from a student throw it together, to all singing and dancing equipment. I also learned about sponsorship and managed to get lots of materials for the College for free, and thus paid my way to the degree show. And meant I could think a little bigger.
Is your thought process the same for each piece? Our Dhow Sail is bigger than, say, Boardroom Sacrifice. As an artist does your method change with each piece or do you find you follow a set of the same criteria each time? Is there a thought process?
I suppose the thought process is similar, but of course there are differences physically, for instance the criteria for the client, Dhow Sail needed to be something to do with the sea, then laws of gravity have a big part to play with 30 tonnes of marble. Perspective is massive with site-specific sculpture, where will it be seen from, that leads one's eye in and around sculpture. Where as ‘Boardroom’ (or 'hung out to dry', as my dad calls it) is an impact piece, even though it is big I can walk it through a normal door. The narratives evolve as I am making, and this process remains the same.
You said you have had lots of 'Sliding Doors' moments. One of those was getting a call from a tutor to work with Sir Anthony Caro. He used a lot of different metals in his work from steel to cast iron. You focused on bronze casting at the RCA. Did you feel working with him was a natural progression to enhance your practice?
Yes it did enhance my practice, but not at the time… I was a little burned out from RCA I think, so it was a great place to be in Camden meeting great people and welding for a living for one of my heroes. It enhanced an attitude and work ethic, and Tony asked thing of materials that, if you made them yourself you would shy away from, and it pushed physical boundaries, and thus helps me be a little more brave.
There are a lot of shirts and ties in your work. What is the meaning behind these pieces?
The shirts are from the Empty Suit Series, reacting to the rubbish suit people who did not help when starting up at The Hand and Flowers… ‘computer says no’ people of incompetence… sent to hinder and drive me bonkers!
Sculpture involves carving, casting, modelling and more recently constructing and assembling. How do you see the future of this artform progressing?
I am working in freeform on the screen to embrace the future, which is fun, 3D printing is pretty spectacular… but working through that…
Is sculpture to be appreciated by the few or the many?
I am happy with mine to touch just one person, but if we are lucky enough to get those lovely big commissions and if people like to see it, then all the better.
From the ancient world via the Renaissance to 20th century modernism and the present, what would you say has been one of the best sculptures of all time?
This is so hard! I cried at Michelangelo’s Slaves.
Do you think that there is a certain long lasting impact that makes the nature of sculpture different from other art forms which may be considered more transient?
I think that if we are humble enough to give ourselves to the evolution of a piece, and it stands the test of time, then we are ultimately lucky. I think long lasting isn’t the motivator for me, just a bonus. I think your craft, if true to oneself, is chosen just because you can, and can't, help yourself... It is different because you have to walk around it by nature. Physical difference for sure...
You took some time away from your practice to help your husband launch the only two Michelin-Star rated pub in the world, The Hand and Flowers. You played a huge role in the set up and running in the first few years. What has this taught you that the artistic side of you hasn’t?
I can do anything if I put my mind to it, and don’t sweat the small stuff, oh and excel! Oh and keep going at all costs.
You have worked on some really iconic large scale projects like the Millennium Bridge and the Tate Gallery. Are there any future projects of this kind you can tell us about?
In the throes of the best sculpture of my life… My son Acey…! I am now developing a new show about gender and assumed roles in society… who knows where it may lead.
"I think that if we are humble enough to give ourselves to the evolution of a piece, and it stands the test of time, then we are ultimately lucky. I think long lasting isn’t the motivator for me, just a bonus"Beth Cullen Kerridge