Fine artist Laura Lancaster is a long-time client and friend of John Jones, using anonymous photographs obtained from thrift stores as the basis for her delicate paintings and sculpture. These forgotten and discarded snapshots of strangers are transformed into abstract figurative images with no specific context and time. This allows viewers to project their own life experiences onto the works and recognise personal significance within each image. We caught up with Laura to discuss her studio practice and inspirations ...
Q) Your work is often based upon found photographs. What draws you particular images and where do you find them?
A) Sometimes it's formal aspects of the photograph, such as colours / composition that I would like to take on in paint, and sometimes i will be working within a specific thematic framework which draws me towards particular images. Lots of the time i have photographs lying around the studio which for one reason or another have a psychological charge which i cant “let go” of. Quite often it only becomes apparent in time what has drawn me to particular images, as i start to see the trajectory of where the work is going / how it develops conceptually and formally.
Q) Your paintings are not set within an obvious time, location or context. Is your intention to encourage viewers to project their own memories and experiences onto the work?
A) I think that everyone will inevitably bring their own memories and experiences to the work and reflect on it in their own way, and painting these photographs allows for an openness and ambiguity. I would say that my work sets up a conversation between the specifics of the photograph painted, which is ultimately unknowable, and the personal memories of the viewer. I think this also links with the psychology of snapshots, why we take them and how they feel.
Q) Your works often have a melancholic quality, suggesting a dark narrative. How do you use the medium of paint to create this atmosphere?
A) I like to think that my paintings somehow open up the subject matter. I like to experiment with my level of control over the paint through manipulating its consistency / brush size etc so the end result hangs in the balance between the source image and the paints plasticity - i think this sense of limbo adds to the atmosphere. I have been reading about Raoul De Keysers painting, and its been described that his work is concerned with how paint “longs”. I think this sense of longing in paint is also at play in my work.
Q) How do you think your artistic practice has changed since you began painting?
A) Yes - I have changed scale considerably since i first began, from tiny paintings to canvasses on a much larger scale.
Q) Do you utilise any unusual equipment or painting techniques in your creative process?
A) I use wallpaper tools sometimes, and scrapers, and sometimes car sponges. I have also experimented with mops and brushes taped to the end of broom shanks.
Q) Which contemporary artists do you admire / find inspiring and why?
A) I love Dana Schutz’s painitings, for their irreverence, use of colour and sense of humour. Luc Tuymans and Auerbach are also inspiring to me.
Q) Have you produced any artworks which you really didn’t want to sell?
A) I have one or two paintings that are significant to me but overall I'm always interested in the next thing im going to do so I'd say I find it relatively easy to let the work go.
Q) Can you tell us about your studio environment - where do you like to work and what helps you to focus?
A) I have a studio on the top floor of some workshops / studios so it's great to go there and get lost in what I'm doing. I usually have music on which also sets the tone for the day and this helps me to tune into what I'm doing. There are canvasses stacked everywhere, I keep lots of materials (paint etc) in stock, and it's quite messy in there so I can feel free to be spontaneous as and when I have ideas etc. I tend to be most productive later on in the day.
Q) What exciting new projects do you have on the horizon?
A) I am showing work with Workplace gallery at LA Contemporary later this month, and I have a solo show at Workplace Gallery which opens 1st February, which will be all new work.
Q) How important is choosing the right canvas surface when completing your work?
A) I think that the canvas / ground really sets the scene for each work so yes it is important.