Can you tell us about yourself (introduce yourself, who you are, what you do)
I’m Abi Freckleton. I studied BA Fine Art at Chelsea College of Art and have exhibited across London. I now live in Hitchin and my studio is in Letchworth - at the Digswell Arts Trust Fenners building.
I guess you could call me a sculptor - though I do performative works, use photos, video, printing, painting and all sorts of other things too. I work in a wide range of materials but I use clay a lot - I love it - it has an almost infinite malleability, but also the ability to permanently fix it. The space these two states is much wider and more controllable than with other sculptural materials like wax, cement or plaster - this suits how I work, I use that space to think. Also the ceramic surface is really beautiful - glazes are essentially a layer of glass - and they are way more complex and interesting visually than paint (the way they hold colour is, chemically, very different to paint and that affects how we experience it) - the ability to create different types of reflective and textured surfaces is something I use a lot as I explore ideas around light and vision.
What can we expect from you in MK Calling 2020? Tell us more about your piece Index for Instruments of Seeing
I used the term ‘index’ in the title of this work for a few reasons. Firstly there is an element of the archive, a collection of objects or a record that resonates with the form of the work. But there is also the meaning of the term ‘Index’ as defined by Rosalind Krauss in her essay ‘Notes on Index’ - here the ‘index’ is a mark or copy of a thing that has resulted from direct physical contact with it. This idea of a physically-contingent mark is something I explore often in my explorations of the physical nature of visual perception.
The works all relate to some kind of tool, format or process that we use every day to take and look at Image. From the little camera lens on the back of a mobile phone, to the grid format that google photos uses, to the subtle texture of a laptop keyboard, to the form and surface of a mobile phone itself.
A lot of the works result from a quite visceral interaction between these objects and the material. To make APERTURES I pushed clay through the little camera hole in a mobile phone case, or for IN HAND I wrapped and squeezed clay around my hand holding a phone. Some are more gestural - marks determined by the movement not just the form - like the monoprints SCROLL, SWIPE, BACK or the plaster & raw clay CLEAN SCREEN.
Whilst many of the works use clay merely as a malleable squeezable material to take on a certain form, there are works where the ceramic surface too (and how it was applied) has more significance – the glaze on SHIFT is made with a rare earth element called Neodynium, which changes colour in different light conditions, the dark opaque coating on RGB resulted from overlaying red, blue and green glazes.
How do you want viewers to approach your work?
The first thing I actually want people to do is to look - really look. My entire practice is about vision - so I want these objects to be things people want to look closer at. And then maybe to think about them - specifically how they were made, what object or interaction they are referencing - but not necessarily overtly or consciously. Sometimes it’s really clear how the work was made, what object each form is a copy or cast or print of (like SOFT KEY ) - but sometimes less so (like EIFLES KISS - which is loosely derived from a selfie stick). I like it when things teeter in-between representation and abstraction. It allows a level of recognition bypasses the conscious mind - a more direct more visceral relation with things. It’s via the visual, but it’s not purely a visual experience - it’s more whole than that.
What is your favourite thing about being an artist?
This is a super hard question to answer. For me making art is just part of who I am, something I need to do. There are things I can’t access in the experience of life, of being in the world, without making art. If I didn’t make art I wouldn’t be fully thinking, or fully existing. This sounds a bit over the top but it’s true – I guess it’s a bit like some people who are addicted to running and get depressed when they can’t do it.
When I’ve been through periods in my life when I haven’t been making and thinking about art it’s affected me and my mental health - I look back at those times and feel like I was a shell of my full self. Art is part of who I am, part of my personality, my identity.
On a more day to day level though I really enjoy moments of reveal in the studio - like that moment of opening a kiln to see what the fire has done to the objects, or when you dip photo paper into developer and see the image emerge. I like it when I make something accidentally too - when I’m trying to make one thing or just instinctively working materials and something just appears in front of me that is totally unexpected but really interesting and relevant to what I’m doing.
What impact do you want your work to have?
I think impact is a problematic word to use in the context of contemporary art - it implies politics and societal change and some kind of intellectual view point on the world. Whilst I do care about lots of these things my work isn’t about them. I am interested in contemporary digital culture - particularly in the context of images - how we take and look at images, how we see the world via screens, but only in the context of a wider interest in the process and experience of the visual in general. I am as interested in shadows and reflections and the way colours from sunlight change across the day. I am not using my work to make a statement on the nature of digital looking - on whether it is good or bad. I am not trying to make people think or do something different in their lives. I simply find certain phenomena in the world fascinating and use making work to explore that fascination in more depth.
In fact for me making art is less about having something to say to other people, or making an impact on the world and more a way of exploring and understanding and investigating my own questions about the world. Maybe sometimes other people will recognise those questions through the work - of course I’d like other people to do that, but that’s never my brief to myself at the outset.
Of course there are some works that are a bit more pre-conceived than others (SCREEN SAVOUR and SWIPE, SCROLL, HOME for example), but they sit next to - and have equal value to - studio remnants, work in progress, experiments and accidents (like JANUARY 2014-2019 which was originally intended as merely prep work for a painting, or the APERTURES series which started as an accidental form that emerged as I was removing clay from a mould).
What is next for you and your work?
I am starting to explore video more in the studio. I am interested in video almost as a material - a process, an image capturing and viewing system. I have begun to investigate the processes of video making and editing software - the digital ‘ants’ that scurry along a line when you use the ‘select’ tool, the way a video camera changes its exposure automatically in different light environments, the shake and bounce of a video made on a phone… I am also interested in the idea of the sculptural video - so a moving image work that has no narrative or edit-cuts but is merely a moving photograph of an object - a self-sustaining looping entity. Hopefully all these things will come together soon into something exhibitable.
See more from Abi Freckleton on her website here