Lovell Prize Artist Spotlight: Mary Wintour on altering reality and the 'uncanny'
29 nov 2016 by Brooke Eastman
2016 Lovell Art Prize shortlisted artist Mary Wintour sits down with art:i:curate to discuss her submission 'Literal Drift.' Her works fuse collage and painting to explore how recognised details of domestic environments can be recontextualised.
B.E. Tell me about the work you submitted for the Lovell Prize.
M.W. I submitted a work called ‘Literal Drift’ for the Lovell Prize. It uses a combination of collage and painting to portray a surreal domestic environment. The home interior and its contents have long been a principal theme in my work, and due to their familiar nature have provided a fitting foundation for investigating ideas of ‘the uncanny’. I am interested in the subtle shifts that transform something known into something uncertain.
B.E. What was your inspiration for Literal Drift?
M.W. Notions of ‘the uncanny’ and its construction in film and literature have provided key inspiration for this work. In his essay Das Unheimliche, Freud describes the uncanny as being ‘that class of the terrifying which leads back to something known to us, once very familiar’; the literal translation of ‘unheimlich’ being ‘un-homely’. I am drawn to the idea that this particular sense of foreboding is intrinsically linked to what is known and mundane, and have sought to explore this relationship in this painting.
Mary Wintour, Literal Drift, acrylic and collage on paper, 2014.
B.E. What’s your artistic process?
M.W. I generally start a painting by choosing an image or group of images to work with. I don’t often set out with a specific aesthetic objective in mind, a lot of what I do happens organically through the painting process. I have a number of desired outcomes, in terms of what I want the painting to do or how I want the original image to be re-read and I try to tackle this during painting.
B.E. Your use of paint as an editing tool for mediating collaged images is particularly interesting. Could you tell me more?
M.W. I am interested in working with found imagery for the links it establishes with reality and its implied authenticity. By combining paint and collage I have sought to undermine these ideas—investigating their capacity to alter and enhance reality. I am drawn to paint for its ability to achieve a range of subtleties; capable of creating convincing illusions on the one hand, whilst simultaneously highlighting its very materiality through obvious mark making.
B.E. The dissemination of domestic imagery is crucial to your work. How does being a female artist relate to that imagery?
M.W. To be honest, people have read into this in the past and it is not something that was really of consideration when making the work. I guess being a woman one accepts that images of the home are predominantly targeted at me, as the predicted ‘home maker’; many of the images being pulled from interior design magazines from the 50’s. However, I would not say that my manipulation of them is a reaction against the history or stereotyping of women and the home.
I would say that I am occupied with rather different concerns. The artifice of these very polished images interests me for example. Images of the home environment are routinely presented to us within the context of advertising, their depictions tend to be contrived and highly aestheticized. I am interested in what happens when one deconstructs and reimagines these environments. Specifically, the way household objects or details can become charged when their surroundings are altered.
Mary Wintour, A reasonable person, collage, 2016.
B.E. Where do you create your works? Do you have your own studio practice?
M.W. I am currently in my first year of a two-year MA at the Slade School of Art. We are given studio space and access to an array of workshops/facilities/ lectures, so I spend most of my time there. Between graduating from my BA in 2010 and starting at Slade I had a number of different studios in Glasgow and London.
B.E. How does London’s environment influence your work?
M.W. I have found it a struggle in the past; being in such a big city can be quite isolating, and it can feel difficult to connect with other practicing artists and maintain a conversation about one’s work. A studio is something of a luxury for most artists due to the expense of the city and that can stall things as well. I think people in London have to work very hard to overcome these challenges, but that can make for very determined artists!
The city provides such rich and varied channels of information and there is so much to inform one’s work and thinking. Having access to all of this is such a privilege and I do feel at the centre of something exciting and inspiring while in London.
B.E. How do ideas of space, whether physical, psychological or metaphorical, play a role in your work?
M.W. My handling of space has slightly shifted in my more recent work. Rather than manufacturing imagined spaces I have become more interested in exploring the spatial interplay that results from fusing images together. There is no longer ‘a space’ as such, but many; areas that retreat or approach, objects that fade out or actively interrupt the picture plane. I think on a metaphorical level my treatment of space and its shifting nature in my work is an active reflection of the multi-layered associations of my source material.
Mary Wintour at work in her studio, image courtesy of the artist.
B.E. What’s a typical day in your life?
M.W. Eggs, cycle, studio, cycle, feed the cat, bed (something fun/tiresome in between….)
B.E. What’s next for you?
M.W. Finish my MA and keep my fingers crossed.
Mary Wintour is a visual artist based in London. She is currently pursuing a MFA at The Slade School of Fine Art. Mary holds a BA in Painting and Printmaking from the Glasgow School of Art, Glasgow (2010). She was shortlisted for the SOLO Award in (2015 & 2014); Premio-Combat Prize (2014); Griffin Art Prize (2013); and Title Art Prize (2013). She was also a runner up for the Gilchrist-Fisher Award (2014). She has exhibited in shows, including 'Either Those Curtains' at FOLD Gallery, (London, 2016); 'I Thought You Knew', Intermedia Gallery, CCA, (Glasgow, 2016); 'The Other Side', Chelsea Art’s Club (London, 2015); 'Looking at The Reflection of Reality', Federation House (Manchester, 2015); 'Curated by Paul Smith & friends', Paul Smith - Albemarle Street (London, 2014).