Now Featuring Amy Moffat
Artist and designer Amy Moffat creates collages, digital designs and installations that stem from a strong sense of location. Asking “How to be here?” − as opposed to “How to be?” − Moffat unwinds the the thread of a place into serene, subjective moments.
MH: You do quite a bit of design work under the same Studio Cremer. Can you talk about this side of your work?
AM: Studio Cremer came about when I started developing my fine art practice for more utilitarian ends. I studied painting at Wimbledon School of Art and after graduating the painting work became more and more three dimensional. In London we have an exciting set design industry and I was finding that a lot of my influences and a lot of work that was appealing to me was coming from young emerging set designers in the city. So I started freelancing as a set design assistant to understand more about the industry and see if it was for me. It was a really fun time and I had the fortune to work with some wonderful people on some amazing sets for Paris Fashion Week, London Fashion Week and editorial shoots. However it’s a pretty hardcore job, you can be working long hours with not much rest or sleep between. Around this time I was also helping my boyfriend set up a new electronica night in London called Warm Up. I ended up doing all the visual stuff like logo design, poster artwork and video projections for the parties. As I was developing all these new skills and learning as I went along – and loved the work I was involved in – it seemed like a good idea to set up my own “studio” where I could put myself out there for other similar work. Since then I’ve had my own set design commissions, logo and branding design work and I also still do a lot of self-initiated stuff like my prints for LPP, exhibitions of my sculptural work, silk print designs and I’m about to publish my first ever magazine.
MH: How do travel and sense of place shape your practice? I see you’re about to publish an annual journal themed around travel and location, Junko. But images of specific geography pop up in your other work too.
AM: Travel is vital. I’ve had the richest experiences during my travels and the most treasured memories. You need to get out of your neighbourhood, your city, your country to really understand your place in the world – at least in my opinion. After great travel experiences I always come back with new perspectives, with knowledge I couldn’t get from reading a book or watching a movie or documentary. It’s all about real life interaction, challenging yourself and being open to meeting all kinds of people in all kinds of places.
The most influential trip I had was to Nevada and California a couple of years ago. I had just finished working on a big set job and needed a break. My friend was about to go to Las Vegas to work at a conference for a few days, so I booked a flight to join her and we hired a Mustang and drove through the most incredible landscapes from Vegas down into California. The All-American road trip! The vast space and sensation of limitlessness out in those landscapes was empowering for me. I felt like anything was possible being out there. Being in a completely different environment to what I was used to in London and in my small hometown where I grew up really flicked a switch in my head and I had a sense of assuredness that life is all about adventure, about being creative and being in touch with real life; nature, mountains, sky, people. It sounds super romantic and of course, being back in the grind of London, that feeling can wear off after a while. But it’s an experience that definitely stays with me. I can hear the silence of places like Joshua Tree and Death Valley if I put myself back there. After ten years of living in London I definitely find that I am craving more more coastal trips, bigger skies, being in open landscapes much much more.
After that trip I had an exhibition lined up in the UK and the theme of the commission was “Of This Earth,” which perfectly suited where I was at. I got to work on using my experiences of being in a new landscape and of the transient quality of traveling. I collaged lots of imagery together from the trip, as well as another trip I did to the south coast of England the same year. I had images of rock textures and palms, plus sketches I’d made. I used the legend icons you get on maps as cookie cutter shapes in which to pull out my imagery. I made the collage into a silk print piece that hung over a simplistic wooden structure that balanced very precariously in the gallery. After my enjoyment of working that way I that I wanted to develop the idea further and that’s how the prints now at LPP came about – they’re all images from memory, photographs and drawings done along the way and since my return, a reflection of that time.
As for Junko – well this is a whole new learning curve! It has turned into a much bigger project than I anticipated and it’s been really challenging at times learning about a whole new genre of making, of publishing. But I’ve really enjoyed the design element – I’m obsessed with indie mags, with interesting page layouts, and with the amazing array of papers out there – so that side of it is really exciting for me.
Junko came about in response to that trip through Nevada and California. I became really interested in how our environments shape the work we make and the way we choose to live our lives as artists, seeing as it had such an impact on my life and the way I wanted to make. I began to wonder just how much of an influence our locality has on the act of making – whether that be aesthetically, logistically, economically, environmentally. People all over the world make every day in very different places and with Junko I intend to travel to a new region of the world each year to find out how the artists and designers who define their visual scene respond to their place – and not necessarily in an obvious way – it may be how they go about their day to day lives, what their priorities are, not just what their subject matter is. I think if we can understand how our environment affects us, in the multitude of ways that it does, we can begin to understand more about the act of making, and also living.
MH: Do you have any future trips planned, or landscapes on your wish list for exploration?
AM: I would love to visit Norway. I love being out in elements and Norway has such beautiful landscapes – the combinations of beautiful lakes and mountains. It seems like a peaceful part of the world. There are also some great Norwegian designers so it could be a great place for a future Junko! And ashamedly I’ve never really explored Scotland, which is just a few hours drive north of where I grew up and my grandfather was Scottish so it’s definitely on my hit list – again there are some great up and coming designers and creative companies working in Scotland.
MH: What are your primary tools? I see you do collage and work that you do digitally and in print seems to owe a lot to the collage form, but it may not be a physical part of your process.
AM: I love, love, love making with my hands. The sensation of making a physical mark for me is what creativity is all about. Pen on paper, scissors cutting through material, paintbrush on canvas, banging a nail into piece of wood – it’s all about touch and mark making. It speaks to the primitive me. Having said that, I do work a lot more digitally now but I often make marks, colours, textures, patterns on paper and scan them to use in my designs. Plus I have a middle ground with my Wacom – my drawing tablet – which means I can draw digitally but still by hand. It fulfils that need to make a mark even though the medium is pixels and vectors.
One of the things I found difficult with painting, sculpture making and set design is the amount of physical material you have. The amount of stuff used perhaps for a month, a week, even a day or an hour in set design – just for it to be stored and take up space or thrown away, I find that difficult to get my head around. It’s one of the reasons I became so enamoured with digital work. I don’t have to have a big studio and workshop anymore or to go through loads of materials that are just going to be thrown away at the end.
MH: Can you talk about your sculptural work? It shares a sense of airiness and negative space with a lot of your two dimensional work as well.
AM: The sculptural work deals a lot, at least in the act of making, with perception. I’m really interested in how something can be bold and strong and solid but at the same time fragile, delicate and vulnerable. I hope somehow this translates to the finished pieces, but I’m not sure how successful they all are! For me Lunatus speaks mostly of this. It’s a pretty large structure and fairly solid looking – but the surface is a soft brushed painted linen and the panel down the middle of the semicircle is a super delicate silk. The way it is exhibited is balancing against a wall without anything propping it in place, so it’s quite precarious. I also like how, because of its materiality – the oil paint and linen – it could be defined as a painting, but you can walk around it. You can even walk under it in the space between the structure and the wall. You have to negotiate it on the level of something three dimensional. More senses get involved than having a two dimensional painting on a wall. That’s how I came to make the series of silk prints and why I used silk in the “Of This Earth” commission – I was after a material that was seemingly delicate and fragile, that would move with the slightest draft, but was likewise strong and resistant. Silk seemed to fit the bill.
I’m definitely interested in more minimal aesthetics and shapes and that does translate in some of the sculptural work. And I agree there is a sense of negative space which is something I don’t consciously think about, but I think that comes from having trained in drawing and painting for many years – it becomes second nature to consider the negative space as much as the positive defined space.
MH: Who are some artists and designers who have influenced you? You work made me think a bit about European avant garde theater/film design from the 1920s/1930s, with all the Expressionist, impossible angles and great geometric shapes.
AM: I have such a wide ranging and eclectic mix of influences really, and not necessarily obvious influencers. I’m obsessed with Hockney, I love Jonas Wood’s painting, Phyllida Barlow’s sculptures are incredible, Richard Tuttle’s textile pieces are beautiful – I love the more subtle palettes and work that has obvious touch of hand. And I love bold and minimal forms that have aged or faded surface textures, like the graphic design work of Karel Martens – there are so many amazing Dutch designers working at the moment. So yeah, I like a lot of different kinds of work and different kinds of makers but I think a strong sense of decision making is evident in all of these people’s works I’ve mentioned. A real commitment to what they’re doing: strong shapes, materials, color choices and quite playful as well.