Tuesday 19th May, London's avant-garde Soho Revue opened the doors to its latest aesthetic delight, the Rubber Soul exhibition. Displaying the tantalisingly tactile creations of London-based artists Georgina Hodgson and Scarlett Bowman, Rubber Soul invites its viewers into an undiscovered world of materiality.
Intuitive and innate, Hodgson and Bowman use innovative process-based techniques to explore fresh expressions of physicality in the form of surfaces, skins and perception-bending reliefs. Although both artists’ reference Georges Perec's Species of Spaces as an inspiration, their diverging explorations take their work worlds apart.
Site-based and personal, Bowman's work retells stories of old spaces in new ways. Here, Features Associate, Elizabeth Neep, talks to Bowman about her life, art and Rubber Soul.
Elizabeth Neep: Scarlett, please tell our readers a little about your background - where were you born? Where did you receive your education in art?
Scarlett Bowman: I was born in Windsor and completed my Art Foundation at City & Guilds of London Art School. I actually did Classics for my BA and I'm doing my Master's as we speak at the Chelsea School of Art.
EN: Does the kind of work you have done up to this point lead seamlessly to your pieces showcased in the Rubber Soul exhibition?
SB: I guess it has been developing over the past four years or so. If I look back at what I was doing on my foundation, the work was totally different, but you can see certain themes taking over. For A-Level even - way back when - I did textiles and photography and in the show you can see how the work has been influenced from these two polar areas of interest. I have a series of composite reliefs, plus a big soft piece made out of recycled plastic, which looks almost like wool. I think it's interesting that almost a decade or so later, you can see my two different strands of interests coming forward. I'd say the reliefs are one body and the soft pieces are a different sort of work coming off that.
EN: Which are your favourites?
SB: I think there is something about the soft work; they are weaved onto this wire, I was exploring the digital phase and taking it back to history and craft. The material looks really soft like wool, but it's actually recycled plastic fibres. I guess initially [the two bodies of work] look quite different, but the marks [on the hard reliefs] are made using recycled plastic bags, so I guess there is a strong connection between the two in that sense.
EN: Can you expand on the inspiration behind your work?
SB: I was always really interested in the post-Internet movement, new forms of representation that contributed to very different ways of seeing. In the twenty-first century, with electronic advancements and accelerated image production, the individual engages with the external world on such a vast scale and I was particularly interested in how this can create these hyper, highly-exaggerated virtual environments. Even television and gaming culture can create these false realities and I responded to that in material terms, playing around with anticipated notions of materiality.
EN: And what about processes? Did you know how you were going to achieve the final aesthetic of each piece?
SB: No, it's funny because the reliefs are all done blindly and upside-down, so you can't see the surface until they are done. You don't know how they are going to come out. I made seven or eight pieces before the show but I only put four in.
EN: In terms of colour, how did you select your palette?
SB: I've always used quite an artificial colour palette. I guess I was looking at images going through post-production, exaggerating certain aspects so much so [that] they create false images within themselves… things get distorted in that sense - so I've always loved using those artificial, bright hints of pigment.
EN: Rubber Soul is not the first time your work has gained recognition, how did you begin to establish your reputation as a young artist?
SB: I guess I'm still in the process of doing so. I got approached to do a commission for a Christie's exhibition, raising money for The Old Vic theatre [in 2014], which was cool. Tracy Emin was involved in that, so that was great. I guess that's another thing about the Internet and social media… you don't realise that people are actually seeing your work develop as time goes on.
EN: How is that work developing today? Can you tell us a bit about the work you are doing on your MA?
SB: At the moment I am trying to explore this hybrid between the online, digital aesthetic and the actual handmade craft aspects. I'm looking at technology and the screen-based experience and I guess the tactile, tangible pleasures of working with soft material is quite a nice antidote to that, so that's what I am developing.
EN: Which do you enjoy more, the practical or theory side of your work?
SB: I'm such a maker, that it is definitely the practical. But there is something about the theory side - it's not like you're learning theory just because… you are learning it to apply it to your work. I have this journal that I take everywhere and it's full of stuff that is constantly relevant. I'm interested in so much and just trying to find the most appropriate expression of that.
EN: What are your hopes for the future? To continue to be an artist by trade, going from exhibition to exhibition?
SB: Definitely, but it's such a hard game. I think if people want to do it, they do it regardless and just make it work, like have a part-time job. I still work in a shop on the side, it's just one of the sacrifices you have to make because once you get a proper job, before you know it, six months has gone. High risk, high reward - I think you dedicate as much time as you can to what you want to do. I'd be in the studio now if I could, I'm so passionate about it that I couldn't not follow it.
The Rubber Soul Exhibition runs until Monday 22 June, at Soho Revue Gallery, W1D 4DP.
Interview with Georgina Hodgson: Under The Surface (Part one) -->
Words: Elizabeth Neep
Artwork: Scarlett Bowman
Image Source: Soho Revue Exhibition Catalogue