04 Feb 2021

Artist Caro Halford discusses her new collages, highlighting overlooked female artists and her influences

Zoë Foster

Artist Caro Halford discusses her new collages, highlighting overlooked female artists and her influences

We catch up with London-based artist Caro Halford to discuss her recent collages, as well as what has influenced her recently. She discusses a wide range of topics, from Fleabag, to Franz West, her performance art and the influence of Marina Abramovic, as well as her quest to champion overlooked women.

In this exclusive interview, we talk with London and Suffolk-based multi media artist Caro Halford about her new collages. These works are based on her research into the overlooked women from the past, specifically the Lady Etchers of the Long Eighteenth Century, such as Mary Moser and Angelica Kauffman. In the new work, Caro combines a wide range of sources, making a nod to feminist art icons, high fashion and her own performances, such as at the Tate Britain and National Portrait Gallery. Her vibrant series of collages are multifaceted works.

Caro’s work spans performance, video, sculpture, collage, photography and painting. She often examines social and political concerns of women and their sexuality in her practice, using the overlooked women of the past to do this.

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Caro Halford

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Collage – including watercolour wash, found imagery, photographs, typography, silver and gold leaf, gold thread, 2020

60 x 42 cm

Inspiration for the new collages – The Spotlights Room @ Tate Britain

ZF: Can we discuss your inspiration for this body of work. Much of your inspiration stems from your experience in the ‘Spotlights Room’ at the Tate Britain. This is dedicated to Angelica Kauffman and Mary Moser. Both these women, and the Long Eighteenth Century, are the prominent focus in your work. They feature heavily, particularly in these new collage works. It would be really great to discuss why you’re drawn to these women rather than other key females figures from the past.

CH: Well, my interest in Angelica Kauffman and Mary Moser actually stems from when I was applying for PhDs in 2017. I came across this opportunity to apply for A H R C funded PhD studentship research. Specifically one on amateur and professional women printmakers from the Long C18th. It included looking at strong collections of women at the Victoria & Albert Museum. I was really excited by this opportunity to reconstruct and investigate these missing women that were printmakers. The whole research sounded really relevant to what I was doing at Goldsmiths at a time, which was performance and the print. And I was really keen to make a contribution to the history of art and design and print. 

Caro Halford studio 2
Caro Halford – studio

CH: My tutor Milly Thompson encouraged me to do it. She knew my work really well. She was also one of my tutors that really inspired me on my collages and texts pieces. So initially I went to the Victoria & Albert Museum and looked at an etching titled ‘Juno’ , 1770, by Angelica Kauffman. While there, I also found that there were only etching tools belonging to her male contemporaries. Shocked by this information, I made my search for the female tools an important part of the research too. 

ZF: So, this was specifically because you saw something advertised for research?

CH: Yes – an opportunity for a funded PhD investigating Angelica Kauffman, in particular, and the other missing women printmakers.

ZF: That’s really interesting. So up to then you hadn’t thought of them…

CH: No. I’d been looking at PhDs and looking at feminism generally and doing my PhD on an area within one of those strands. But I hadn’t looked up the Long 18th Century specifically until then. And again, at that point, I didn’t even know about Mary Moser, nor Angelica Kauffman.

Then it was quite interesting because I didn’t actually get anywhere with that particular opportunity. I suddenly thought, okay, why don’t I apply to the Royal College of Art. They were really excited by it and were really supportive about me going down that route. And they knew about Birkbeck. But obviously, Birkbeck were looking for somebody who was more of an art historian strand than artists. And that’s what then led me onto the Tate Britain. The first project was Artists in Residence in October 2017. And so then I noticed they had Spotlights on Angelica Kauffman.

CH: It was literally again by chance that exhibition was being curated by Martin Myrone. And he agreed for me to go there. And initially I didn’t plan a performance. He said I could just take photographs. But then the photographs then became a performance. So, it was all a bit of chance. I was really lucky that Martin Myrone agreed for me to take part in it. This then recently led to the print making. That performance was a really important part of my research and I’m still even now really fascinated by them.

Tate performance
‘Angelica and Performance’, 2018 @ Tate Britain, Caro Halford

CH: And I’m still researching the other key figures from the Long 18th Century. I’m really keen to find out about the other female artists and the printmaking aspects is also really interesting. I recently purchased a Rochat etching press. This suddenly feels like the right thing to do. I think it will really help with my art practice and with my research. The two tie in together. Somehow having the etching press feels like it’s going to be a really strong part of the next part of my research and my practice.

ZF: That’s amazing that you just stumbled across this by chance. It fits so well within what you were doing anyway.

CH: Yes, it was the anniversary celebrating 100 years of Angelica Kauffman at the same time. That was another coincidence. Well, it was quite good in a way as it led me to looking at the Spotlights Room on Angelica Kauffman again. And specifically this collage, ‘Alter egos of Angelica I’, is, I feel, an imaginary meeting in this space in the Tate Britain with the alter ego of Angelica Kauffman. 

Alter Egos of Angelica I

Caro Halford

Alter Egos of Angelica I

Collage – including watercolour wash, found imagery, photographs, an etching blanket and gold leaf, 2021

60 x 42 cm

Overlooked women

ZF: But can we discuss why are you drawn to these particular women? Even though it was chance that you discovered them, the relationship that you have with them is a really firm one now. And it’s central to your practice going forward. So, it would be great to discuss why that is. Why them and why, although you came across them by chance, you stuck with them?

CH: Well, I suppose my whole practice when I was at Goldsmiths was about women, being a woman, and female artists. And then also the fact that women are overlooked. Even in my Goldsmiths 2016 show, it was all about these conversations….

CH: Also at Goldsmiths we had a lot of crits and seminars – I always felt like women were overlooked, even in those to an extent. I didn’t feel I had as much chance to voice my opinions as some of my male contemporaries in the room. My tutors were male and female. But it was more to do with the fact that I was constantly having conversations with my tutors about being a woman and the struggles of being a woman artist. And also all the domestic demands and of other female artists. For one of my tutorial’s I had the opportunity to meet artist Laure Prouvost. She had just won the Turner Prize. Part of our critique was spent talking about the struggles of bringing up a baby in the art world. As well as the constant demands we face as females.

Female Royal Academicians

CH: I just got a real urge to unravel women artists. I wasn’t really looking at history. Well, I was looking at the artists from the 1950s & 1960s artists, like Helen Chadwick or Martha Rosler. People that were there before me and were doing feminist art making. But then the whole Long 18th Century just seemed like this huge gap that nobody seemed to know about. And also I wanted to highlight the fact that at the Royal Academy, it’s generally only men rather than women represented in the galleries. Women are underrepresented. And the fact that all those years ago the same thing was happening and it’s still happening now. So, it’s more to do with that.

CH: In the Long 18th Century, the fact that it was only Angelica Kauffman and Mary Moser that were made the Royal Academicians in 1768 is remarkable. It wasn’t until 1936 that Laura Knight became a Royal Academician. It feels like that’s the same in the art world as well. At the Royal Academy you still have hardly any female Royal Academicians. They’re still three quarters male, even today. So, there’s part of me that also wants to highlight that as well as them. I want to highlight the 18th Century to highlight the current as well. I also want to stress the fact that even then women were being overlooked.

CH: Also, because I was doing performance at Goldsmiths anyway, the whole point of looking at these women printmakers was the fact that when you’re printmaking, you are performing, to make an etching or a screen-print. So, I was looking at them more initially thinking about the performance part of being a printmaker. Initially my research and PhD were Performance in Print. So that was what I was looking at at Goldsmiths and that then moved to the Long 18th century.

Printmaking as performance

ZF: This concept of the performance element of printmaking is so interesting.

CH: Yes. When I was at Goldsmiths in the run up to the degree show, one of the technicians in the print lab on one occasion timed me to see how long it took to print one of the colours of the cymk screen print. It was really stressful. So, then I saw the opportunity. I imagined all these women in a studio racing to get etchings out, and being judged by how many plates they made, how many prints they made. This is why it’s really exciting that I now have the etching press, because that’s in a white cube. I’m thinking about how that could work my research as well.

ZF: You mean liberating the printing press from all of the shackles, or of historical shackles in a way.

CH: Yes, because it feels like there’s a lot of weight there as well. And it’s very much a male machine as it’s so heavy to move and operate.

Rochat Etching Press

The Rochat Etching Press I have purchased is owned by the Rochat family. The person who designed and engineered the etching press is the grandfather of the siblings who collected and delivered my Rochat Press. This is due to the closure of the londonprintstudio on 1st October 2020.

It’s very much a family business! To move the press, all parts of it had to be dismantled and put back together again. This is a very heavy process to be honest and the brother showed me how to how to set the weight of the press. Even that feels quite male even now still. And it shouldn’t be really should it, I mean, women are quite capable of operating a press and making an etching … I guess I am going to have to do some courses on this part of the press! Unfortunately they are all cancelled now due to COVID 19… 

Feminist art and overlooked artists

ZF: No, of course women are capable. Which actually leads me on to my next questions – Would you describe your work as feminist art?

CH: Yes. That’s interesting because I was just chatting to Dr Lara Perry, at the University of Brighton, about this. She asked me a similar question in relation to my research and my art practice. And I’d say I definitely feel like I’m taking a feminist approach to understanding the women in the Long 18th Century.

CH: But also, I’m trying to imagine that I’m one of them. And then through performance, I’m trying to unfree my collages and paintings at the moment. I’m trying to give them a voice to the audience in a gallery or museum space. I was keen to discover the other female names and focus on the art historical / art history.

CH: Alison Jacques was recently interviewed in the FT and she was saying how the main aim of her gallery is to focus on art historical and female artists. It was a really good article and really relevant to what I’m doing. She said that she was really keen to make it future proof for other contemporary artists. And also to highlight female artists where they didn’t get their dues. Apparently, she took on Dorothea Tanning at the age of 100. 100 years old and then she had her first show at Alison Jacques! I just find it astounding.

CH: And then Hannah Wilke as well. She’s taken on quite a few artists recently that are literally nearing the end of their life. And then she’s representing them at this stage because her gallery and her philosophy of the gallery is to represent women, art historical artists, unknown contemporary artists. Now she’s representing a really young artist, born in 1996.

Handsome Helen

Caro Halford

Handsome Helen

Collage, oil paint, 24 carat gold leaf, onion skin, dyed nylon, nylon cord, 2020

60 x 42 cm

ZF: In London, Pippy Holdsworth is also doing this. She’s been highlighting overlooked female artists as well. There’s all this information about how galleries programs are at best 30% women for the bigger galleries. So those two galleries, I think, are really inspiring with how they’re just championing women, both up and coming, but also overlooked women. But would you describe your work as feminist art within all of that?

CH: Well, I think it is, yes. I’m definitely highlighting the woman in all my work, certainly in all of my collages. But I was doing that even when I was at Goldsmiths, trying to highlight women through collage and print. It is a difficult one to answer because I wouldn’t say I was a real feminist as such. If you’re a real feminist, I think of my work would be a lot more extreme than it is at the moment probably. 

Feminism through empowerment

ZF: We talked previously about the fact that you are empowering women and giving them a voice. That’s your form of feminism and your approach to it within your work. But without a doubt, because of the focus of the subject, it’s unavoidable that it’s seen as engaging in addressing this imbalance and empowering women.

CH: Yes, I think my work is partly curating as well. Both as an artist, but also, I was thinking that I’m pretending to be a gallerist as well as being an artist. I’m trying to show those artists in a space so that people can actually come and see them rather than not see them at all.

Dialogue between the collages

ZF: That really makes sense. And it leads me to my next question. Can we look at the dialogue between these new collage works, both literal and visual? Within that as well, the concept that you’re curating and highlighting. I was thinking about the dialogue between works themselves, between the different collages. Let’s talk about ‘Mary Moser’s Friends’. I had this visual image, when you said you were curating the works. For me, when you’ve talked about, for example, this new series of collages, you talk about giving them a voice. You don’t just extract these women from the past. You also give them a voice and that voice then becomes a dialogue between the different voices within the collages. So, there’s this interesting interplay between the different works. 

CH: I feel like my texts and collages are talking. But what I’ve noticed that I have subconsciously been doing in all my collages, but I didn’t realise I was doing, was putting two people in each of those collages. Usually, one of those figures is somebody I haven’t actually researched yet. Then it’s usually with a second image, or maybe a current contemporary image of somebody now, or even myself. It’s usually one of those three strands.

CH: For example, in the collage titled ‘Friends’ 2020, this was instigated by my research on artist Maria Cosway. In this I discovered that Maria Cosway had met Angelica Kauffman in London in 1779 after her father’s death and Angelica had been her mentor. Kauffman had even introduced Cosway to her future husband Richard Cosway!

Friends

Caro Halford

Friends

Collage – watercolour wash on paper, oil paint, grey tufted lips, part of an etching blanket, white chord, gold leaf, found imagery & photographs, 2020

60 x 42 cm

CH: When I actually finished that body of work, the 10 collages, I put them all up on one wall.

What I realised was that in each collage there are two people, two characters, two females. It almost feels like when you look at them, they’re all having their own separate conversations. And then it also feels like one collage is talking to the next collage.

CH: The second thing was, I’m not necessarily convinced I even need the text. I think most of the collages tell you the story. The text is maybe too obvious. A lot of them, I took the text out because I felt like that was too literal as in, it was too obvious to the person.

Caro Halford with Adaptive

But the aim would be to do a sound piece of it, like the ones I did before. It’s as if they’re talking to you, you know, through audio. It’s like when I have made a collage it then moves into another collage. I start one and then usually I’ve got another piece of paper next to it and then they sieve into the next one. I don’t do them separately, I do them all together. Previously I have done a sound piece coming out of a large dabber titled ‘Angelica and I’ at the Royal College of Art in the MRes Interim Show in January 2019. This also had a publication titled ‘Angelica and I’. And then again works titled ‘Mary Moser’s Friends’ in the final show in September 2019 is a sound piece in an adaptive which was also accompanying my research.

‘Mary Moser’s Friends’

Mary Moser Collage
Mary Moser’s Friends, 2020 Caro Halford

ZF: That’s really important, knowing how you work on them. You’ve shown some images of your studio during this process and the collages are always together. It’s not that you do one and then the other – you do one and you start another new another, and you come back to one. There’s an inherent relationship between them all. But let’s look at ‘Mary Moser’s Friends’ in more detail. I like to call this collage the mother piece for your collage work.

CH: This is an important piece of mine in the research. Interestingly, I made it in the second year of my MRes at the Royal college of art and initially it was designed as a poster for a play. I made it in 2018. It’s actually inspired by ‘Plakatentwurf’, a collage shown at the Franz West show at Gagosian in 2007. And from his show at the Tate Modern, ‘Worldly Pleasures’.

Franz West Poster Design, 2008

CH: And when I went to it, it was quite interesting because it looked like it was like a poster for play. It actually, interestingly, is a collage on a painting. That was the inspiration for the collage ‘Mary Moser’s Friends’, as it happened. And then it was almost like a timeline. I was trying to piece out all the bits of work I’d done so far in my research. 

‘Fleabag’ – Phoebe Waller-Bridge

CH: ‘Fleabag’ by Phoebe Waller-Bridge is also an inspiration. I was trying to do an imaginary conversation with myself and the printmakers.  And then at the time I also went to see the play ‘My name is Lucy Barton’ by Elizabeth Strout, which is a one woman play, which was on at the Bridge Theatre in February 2019. In this play there is just one actor, Laura Linney, and just a scene of a bed. And then she’s having this imaginary conversation with her mum and in lots of different scenes… Both female writers, but both doing things about the persona of the woman, the alter ego, with the woman talking to herself and talking about struggles in life, being a female. So, I related to both of those as well.

CH: And then I wrote a script, based on the Royal Female School of Art in 1842. This was a royal female school of art, which apparently had queues the length of a street, for female artists who wanted to train, which was interestingly at Somerset house. And it was below the Male School of Art. So, they had a Female School of Art and a Male School of Art in the 1800s. And then it turned out it was a little bit problematic because that was in 1842, so not the Long 18th Century anymore. It’s moved into the 1900s.

CH: So, at the Royal college, they said, you can’t use this, but this isn’t long 18th century anymore. This is another bit beyond. Mary Moser was around before then, but I was trying to have an imaginary art school in the Long 18th Century, but there weren’t any art schools in the Long 18th Century.

CH: It was all then studio led not art school led, so this was a bit later, but the idea of my research was to try to have an imaginary art school in the Long 18th Century, which is where the whole poster idea came from.

Conversations

ZF: So this poster was your imaginary art school and then from this large collage you’re pulling out the characters from within the Spotlights Room. All of the separate collages from this body of work come from from that main collage?

CH: Yes, the idea was that there would be a print room, like the one I’ve just set up in Suffolk, and that Mary Moser would appear in the room and then she’d meet somebody else from the Long 18th Century and they’d have this imaginary conversation – I had it all planned as the first two Scenes of the play. It’s something I still really want to do. So, I am planning to do that, write a play and have it in the etching room. That’s partly why I got the etching press. But the etching press, which I’m using as an operational etching press for printing, also becomes a prop at some point, .

CH: So, this idea of visualising this etching room where these artists all come across each other while I’m making their prints influenced me. Then through making the prints, they discover another woman from the Long C18th. So, each time you make a printout of the etching press it becomes another woman from the long 18th century. So, it’s like a visual dialogue of sorts.

Relationship between the performances and collages

ZF: The collage is a visual exploration of this concept. That’s really interesting. Can we discuss the relationship between the collages and your performance work? Within the collage, the ‘Mary Moser’s Friends’, you put an image of yourself from the Tate Britain, ‘Angelica and I’ performance. And then that image then appears obviously within one of the collages.

CH: I tend to do the performance first and then the collage comes second to be honest. But then when I was at the Blyth gallery at the Imperial College in the second year of my MRes, I did a performance with Mary Moser in the frame. But then that interestingly then became the idea for the performance at the National Portrait Gallery because one of my tutors said that it was too literal. It was too obvious, with me standing in the frame as Mary Moser. I needed to look at it from a different perspective. And then that then led me into then going to the National Portrait Gallery and then having an imaginary conversation with Mary Moser, again filmed by artist friend and photographer Mars Gomes very early on a Sunday morning in September 2019!

Halford NPG
Caro Halford Performance ‘I have a Meeting with Mary Moser!’at the National Portrait Gallery – filmed by Mars Gomes, Sleeves by Tracey Lewis

CH: It’s interesting, because some of the collages happened a while ago and then some of them happened more recently. I wouldn’t say that any collages are really representing a performance as such, they’re just more the research for the performance or they’re what comes out with the performance. But I tend to try and look at them as separate things. Really the performance is one thing and then the collages are another avenue. I don’t really see them as together. The relationship to collage and performance works is basically the text from the performances and the text then becomes part of the collage work.

Source images for the collages

ZF: It’s that link between them all, but also the source images. So, I was thinking of the image of your performance that appear in one of the collages. It would be really interesting to discuss the source images for the collages and how you select them. It’s quite a varied selection of images, objects and textiles that you use.

CH: Yes, that’s an interesting question as I’m constantly trying out new materials in my work and so the range of sources vary a lot. Initially they’re from my visit to the print and drawing rooms at the V&A. That was where the first stage of the collages actually came from, it was me photographing a lot of etching tools. But I often begin with an image from a photo, or from a visit to a gallery. And then obviously, I look at fashion and lifestyle magazines including the Gentlewoman. I also just started reading ‘The Skirt Chronicles’ which is a very interesting read… The FT colour supplement actually is a really useful magazine, which my husband sometimes gets at weekends, just because they have really big, large glossy images of a leg or foot or a hand or a part of a face.

CH: I often look at Frieze or Art Review as well. So, it’s usually art magazines or a colour supplement, I would say are the two main strands and then the other thing is, I tend to take photographs of a sculpture or an object in my studio and then that becomes part of the source to the image. So, I tend to look around for another interesting material to add like oil paint, enamel, wax, wool, silver, gold leaf cord, even, use, more recently, etching blankets. And then I’ll just tend to keep just looking around my studio space actually.

CH: I tend to mix a lot of things together. I don’t tend to stick to one thing. I’m always trying out something new. I like to see what that’s going to look like on the image or in the piece of work. So, I tend to take quite a lot of risks because I like to experiment quite a lot.

CH: I tend to want to use household objects. I tend to stay away from resin and things that are very much materials a sculptor would use in my practice, probably because I was speaking to an artist friend recently, and she was saying the same thing because we both haven’t done a sculpture degree. There’s an area of art practice that you don’t tend to go into unless you actually know a lot about it. So, I tend to stick to the household objects a lot more than what maybe somebody else might do. So, some things work, and some things don’t work, but I’d say the sources are very, very varied. They’re not one particular source at all and at the moment I am collecting my Boreray’s wool and hoping to make into dabbers, from my sheep!

Alter Egos of Angelica II

Caro Halford

Alter Egos of Angelica II

Collage with watercolour wash, found imagery, photographs and gold leaf, 2020

60 x 42 cm

ZF: You’re just using the objects and the images to suit your purposes, basically, keeping an open mind on it.

CH: Yes, definitely.

Caro Halford – Collages as self-portraits

ZF: Can we discuss to the idea of whether you see these as self-portraits at all?

CH: Partly I do, because I feel like I’m having a conversation with the female artists that I’m looking at and then partly having a conversation with myself about being a female artist in a way. Also, to do any of these works, I feel like I have to get into them – into the mindset of being that woman, which is why I tend to dress up because I feel like then I become part of that era, even though obviously I’m not at all. And then, in the collages, I was looking at those yesterday, there’s maybe my hand in one, or part of my body in another. And then also my adaptives, attached to me. So, then that feels like there is a self-portrait part of me in that as well.

Angelica and I

Caro Halford

Angelica and I

Collage, 2020

15 x 10 cm

CH: So, I think there’s definitely parts of me. Funnily enough, an artist friend and colleague from the Royal College of Art came to my studio recently, asked me the same question. She said to me that she felt like all the collages were me in different formats, which is quite interesting. But I think because I do performance, I think that doing any type of performance art, you have to embody the person or what you’re doing as well, to an extent. So, I think, I’d say yes, partly me partly not me is in my collages and paintings too…

The importance of other female artists

ZF: Let’s move on to the artists that influence your work and the ones that you admire. I know that we talked when we’re talking about this question the other day, we were talking about the connection between the text and the written word, and you brought up Martha Rosler, ‘The Bowery in two inadequate descriptive systems’ by Steve Edwards.

CH: Yes, that is a big question for me because I tend to look at a lot of female artists, probably a lot more than a lot of people. I think I’m partly a researcher as well as an artist because I tend to have a lot of books – if you look in my studio at the bottom of the garden, or around this room, I have so many books, literally, I just sort of look, I’m constantly looking at, artists in relation to their artwork, in relation to their performances.

CH: The artists that have really significantly influenced…. I’d have to say Rebecca Horn, for her performances, Eva Hesse for her materials, Louise Bourgeois. I really love the fact she again wore adaptives. So, she also is a go-to artist. Helen Chadwick and Hannah Hoch. Hannah Hoch, I looked at a long time ago when I first started making collages. So I’d say she was definitely somebody that influenced my practice.

CH: And then currently the artists that I admire…. I really like Marina Abramovic because I just like the fact that she just continuously is making performances. You know, she’s in her seventies, but she still just never, ever gives up. She is still carrying on. Lubaina Himid, the lady that was in the Turner prize a couple of years ago that did all the large figures. I really like the fact again, because she’s an older artist and she was overlooked as well. Also, the fact that she was overlooked for such a long time seems astounding. 

Halford studio
Caro Halford Studio

CH: I really like artist Sophie Barber, who Alison Jackson has just signed actually. I went to look at the exhibition at Goldsmiths Gallery and I really liked the scale and immediacy of her work. The scale of it is really, really impressive. And then she has these very small, plaster paintings on the wall. So, she goes from one extreme to another, which obviously, I’d say is my aim long-term, to have really large scale works that encompass the whole space. I could go on forever, to be honest with you because there are so many artists that I do tend to look at. 

ZF: Let’s talk about Martha Rosler as well. And her influence on your work….

CH: I was drawn to her a long time ago when she did the ‘Semiotics of the kitchen’ in 1975, because at Goldsmiths, I was doing quite a lot of performance at that stage. And then in particular that again led me onto ‘the Bowery in two inadequate descriptive systems’, Her work is very political. It’s like a political documentary whereas with my work, what I’m trying to do in a dialogue with the text works is to debate about the significant movements in the Long 18th Century, in relation to these missing female artists. So, through the texts and the collage and through looking at Martha Rosler, I’m focusing on the repositioning of these female artists through the interconnection of the text and imagery.

CH: And then I’m also trying to play with the image and text in a playful and imaginative way as well. And then that will also then lead me on to another artist that I really, really like – Sophie Calle. I just like the way she works with words and imagery. Again, both those artists are actually interestingly photographers, Martha Rosler, photography and performance. And then Sophie Calle obviously is very largely photography. But they’re both working with texts in a significant way and I tend to look at them both quite a lot in my practice. I think it is what I’m trying to do with the text. To make people look up and listen to what I’m saying, or to what all these women are saying. It’s sort of ongoing process.

Collage

ZF: Of course. Interestingly, you include on your list a few artists working with collage. Let’s discuss why you choose collage? Collage is something that you’ve done quite quite a lot throughout your practice. Its alongside performance and painting and sculpture and installation on these sound pieces and videos. Very specifically though, collage is a key medium within your practice. 

CH: It’s interesting. My collages have really just stemmed from probably 2012 really. I didn’t really do much collage before that. I did it a long time ago when I did my undergraduate at Chelsea. And then more recently at Goldsmiths. A lot of tutors used to look at my work and say, collage is what you’re really good at. You need to really push it, you know. One of my tutors, Milly Thompson or Jemima Stehli, said it had ‘very kick-arse’ attitude. Mainly because I just throw it all on, although you are aware it’s cut and paste imagery.

CH: Other conversations have linked it to more advertising-linked work, such as the work of Jenny Holzer or Barbara Kruger – linked to their approach. Usually in the collages the collages are usually the idea for the performance or the print which I then make. That’s also what Linder Sterling does. Apparently she always goes back to collages in her practice.  Otherwise she tends to work in performance too. She made a large rug titled ‘Diagrams of Love: Marriage of Eyes’ , created in collaboration with The Dovecot Foundation and Creative Scotland, performed at the Dovecot in Edinburgh February to May 2016.

ZF: It’s interesting, when I was talking to Janet Currier recently, she mentioned the same thing. She talks about how she uses the sculptures. When she has a block in her painting she goes back to the sculptures. They then open her up again. There’s a freedom to it. And in a way, there’s the same relationship for you. The collages open things up and give you the space to think about the next stage of your other work.

CH: Yes, this is the same for me. 

ZF: Can we discuss what you are working on now, which is the paintings that have come out of the collages.

CH: I’ve just started the first of three paintings which will form a triptych. I see these paintings as collages, in the sense that I construct them from an assemblage of either photographs, objects or textiles. They are an extension of these collage works which I recently completed. The working title for this is ‘The Alter Egos of Angelica Kauffman’. The idea is that these works will be half paintings and half collages. There will be an ambiguity to this when you look at the painting. It all stems from when I did a performance in Oct 2017 with Angelica Kauffman, at the Spotlights Room. So, I have chosen this particular blue/green which conceptually represents the walls of the Spotlight Room at the Tate Britain. So, when you look around the room, all you can see is the different alter-egos of Angelica Kauffman?!

ZF: We look forward to seeing them in due course. Thank you for sharing this new work with us. The new body of collages is a really cohesive body of work. It’s a really impressive body of work that you have made during lockdown. And there seems to me to be a freedom that comes through as you are doing them. The concept of you highlighting these women through your collages is really key. It’s a really extraordinary thing you are doing within your work, going back through history and picking out these female characters and celebrating them.

CH: The idea is that I have these overlooked female artists sitting within my works and collages. This makes them present, here rather than there. I am always aiming to bringing the overlooked artists to the present, to the here and now. 


Caro Halford interviewed by Zoë Foster on Zoom – December 2020.

Caro Halford has recently launch Mill Street Etching Studio in Suffolk – a print workshop and residency programme. She is also is also Creative Workshop Tutor at University of the Creative Arts.