An Interview with Visual Artist Scarlett Bowman at her Studio in Fulham, West London
Scarlett and I met at her studio in Fulham, London and she showed me her recent works, walking me through her process and the unexpected materials she uses as a mixed-media artist. With her work exhibited at the Sunny Side Up! show at Rook & Raven Gallery as well as Polymer at Fold Gallery this summer - following the Hyperion show with MTArt during Frieze New York - it’s a big year for the young British artist. She was even shortlisted for Bloomberg New Contemporaries 2016 - the leading UK organisation supporting emergent art practice from British Art Schools. Scarlett studied Fine Art at the Chelsea College of Art after pursuing Art and Design at City & Guilds of London, which gave her the experience to develop her strong aesthetic. Their once utilitarian value gives way to a more symbolic value, inviting us to think about the complex process involved in taking a raw material to its final manufactured form. In her words, increasing our awareness of "abundance, banality, process, labour, dependency, industrialisation, consumption, fetishism.”
Balancing conceptual and material exploration by repurposing the selected objects and materials from their natural habitat, she reassesses the modes of production in contemporary commodity culture as she combines both handmade and industrial techniques to make beautiful, textured works. In essence, Scarlett is interested in how our existence is shaped by the industrial processes so often hidden from the consumer. This places as her as a truly contemporary, cutting-edge voice in the art world. She believes that by re-purposing readymade and handmade materials and appropriating them through various processes to form a new type of media, these tangible hybrids enable multiple references to be weaved into a single narrative. With such deep consideration of the narrative behind her work, there’s no doubt that Scarlett’s art will continue to both challenge and intrigue her growing audience both in London and internationally.
Was there a pivotal moment when you decided to follow your passion for art?
Yes – I was working in a different industry but making art was I guess becoming a full time hobby and there was a turning point when I decided to take it more seriously and went back to school to study for my Masters.
What piece of your artwork would you like to be remembered for?
I haven’t made it yet.
Can you tell us about the process of making your work?
Sure, it all starts with selecting and sourcing the material, which is part of the process and requires a certain amount of labour. Material is either found from around the city and then purposely recycled back into the work or sourced from the local homeware store. It then gets deconstructed and re-assembled/collaged together, either in composite or by stitch.
Can you tell us about the decision to move from acting to art?
I always had a vested interest in art from the beginning. Having studied Art, Textiles and Photography at A-level the plan was always Art. Acting was a temporary happy accident.
If you could be born in another period of history, when would it be?
I’m pretty happy living in the present. I think we are living at a very exciting time. The grass isn’t always greener.
How would you define beauty in 140 characters or less?
In the words of Dave Hickey, “…As Baudelaire says, ‘the beautiful is always strange’, by which he means, of course, that it is always strangely familiar”.
Do you have a favourite book, film or painting, which inspires you?
Many pieces of writing but I guess Michel de Certeau’s The Practice of Everyday Life always gets me thinking.
What is your greatest indulgence in life?
Travelling. Nothing better than exploring a new culture for the first time.
What fictional character from literature or film would you like to meet?
Hmmm I’d say Lewis Carroll’s Mad Hatter from Alice in Wonderland.
Do you believe that true creative expression can exist in the digital world?
Yes, it’s just a different process with a different output.
What do you wish every child were taught?
Not so much taught, more not taught. In the words of Howard Singerman, “…child art is seen as art, precisely because it is unskilled, and because its practitioners took images from their imagination and struggled with the medium to give them form – a struggle necessary for any creative art, for keeping the scent of creative barbarism”.
Have you ever had a moment when you questioned your career entirely?
I've had my moments.
What is your favourite art gallery and why?
If I had to name one I’d say I always see something interesting at The Whitechapel Gallery. Also the super Zabludowicz Collection.
Who would you most like to collaborate with and why?
Phyllida Barlow or Karla Black as they both transform the mundane everyday into magic.
What is your daily routine when working?
When I'm working towards a project or show it’s normally quite manic, mainly because the work is made with no fixed agenda or outcome and so there is much trial and error involved which is time consuming and labor intensive. This means early starts and lots of tea.
What has been your most inspiring travel experience?
I recently returned from Morocco. It was my first time back in about 10 years and it was mesmerizing. The light, the colours, the plants, the people, the culture.
What advice would you give to a young person following in your footsteps?
Trust your instinct, trust your passion and trust your motivations for doing the work you want to do. They will lead you to where you need to be.
Do you find that London’s culture inspires or influences your art?
Not so much British culture more my urban surroundings. The area of South West London where I work is surrounded by vast derelict buildings that are waiting to be demolished. These are directly adjacent to new builds that are getting bigger by the day. Its nostalgic, but also a sign of things to come.
Why do you love what you do?
The very process of making.
Written by Flora Alexandra Ogilvy, founder of Arteviste.com