I’m from London, and studied in Brighton, doing my BA about nine or ten years ago. I had quite a long gap between then and coming to the RCA. In those years, I had studios in London and was working as a painter, but it had got to the point where I’d pushed my practice as much as I could, and I just needed to re-evaluate it. I wanted to hold off until I felt it would be most beneficial, though.
I’d always wanted to come to the RCA. It’s the only MA to have a specific painting department. I see myself as a painter, and not as a fine artist, so the College was the only option for me, and it was the only MA I applied for. I looked round other courses but I wanted to specifically be in a painting department as opposed to a fine art department. It’s not that you have to be a painter to be in a painting department, but all the conversations often come from a basis of painting. Even if people are making film or installations, it’s usually got some reference to painting. So, I wanted to be in a department where this was the main focus, and where the topic of conversation and practice was mostly within painting. I did consider fine art courses, but it wasn’t where I wanted to be.
The application process was really useful. It brings to your attention the issues you’re having and helps you focus on where you’d like your work to be going. The interview was like an intense tutorial, and I thought, ‘if that’s what it’s like, then I really want to come here’. It gave me insight into what the course would be like.
Through the years I’ve had in the studio, I’d worked quite hard to develop a style of work but I’d got stuck within that process and couldn’t see how to break through it. I’d almost created the perimeters of my practice to the point where I needed to come on an MA to take it down to its base components and reassemble it. I wasn’t able to do that on my own. I needed to come somewhere critical, where I could get feedback from other students, as well as the tutors. I wanted to be in an environment that was critically engaging but supportive. That process is hard at times – it’s undoing something you’ve built up over years.
The images I make are fictitious. They’re about the notion of a journey, passing through a place, and how you can capture that imagery in a way that doesn't pin a location down. Before, my approach was more contained, structured and precise. It was a tighter way of working. I’ve started working on paper, which has helped me break down the idea of making finished work and be able to go back to unfinished work. The MA isn’t a break from practice, it’s a reassessment.
The first year is quite structured. You have a lot of lectures, and you have your dissertation to write. By the second year, it’s far more about your own painting practice. My dissertation was called, From the Lands of the Lemon Tree: Journey and the Image, and was about how the act of making a journey is similar to the act of making a painting. Ever since I finished my BA, I’ve made several journeys into various landscapes – it’s been about trying to put myself in a new environment, so that I can look at the environment I’m in freshly and without preconception. It helps me see things clearly, and that influences the paintings that I make.
I don’t really see life after the College as being vastly different. I intend to get a studio in London again. I’d like to keep making work and pushing my practice, and exhibiting in London. I’m trying to be quite fluid about how life will be after the course and focus on the months I’ve got left.
"My work now still deals with the same issues, but I have a much more loose and fluid approach. My work is mostly about making journeys: how you negotiate spaces you’ve been to and visited, and how you remember."