Ciara Phillips was born in Ottawa, Canada
She studied at Glasgow School of Art
Ciara currently lives and works in Glasgow
A conversation between Ciara Phillips and Amy Budd
Amy Budd: You said, when we were first unpacking the work, that a small piece of Liberty print fabric was the starting point for this series. Could you explain what was interesting about the print or material, and how this has played out across the prints in the exhibition?
Ciara Phillips: It’s one of the things that you have, as part of a collection of things, that you keep in your studio for whatever reason. It was part of my mother’s skirt that she had in the 80s when we lived in London, and I didn’t like it at that point, I always thought it was ugly. But when she was getting rid of it I kept it, because it spoke of a very particular time for me personally. In terms of the patterning, I’ve always really liked it so I thought I would do something with it this time. I suppose I’ve also used textile prints in previous exhibitions. I’ve used Liberty silk before in a show, and it makes a connection to a history of textile that I’m interested in.
AB: How has this scrap of fabric affected what resulted here, from one print to the next? Would you describe it as a catalyst?
CP: Yes, I tried to make something that replicated that to begin with. To think about making just one print that replicated the print of the skirt. Through the process of trying to do that, other things happen, I make different choices based on what I have, in terms of method. The way that I work is I’ll start with a lot of prints at the beginning, so bits of that original print show up in other pieces, but completely separated. So for example, that print (last image) is the closest to the original print of the silk, but the dots recur in other prints. It starts a process of working and then it moves out and becomes about the decisions that I make as I’m working.
AB: So there’s not a specific point of reference. I mean with the Liberty print, it’s not important what it is, it’s what changes or happens over the process.
CP: Yes, it’s not crucial to understanding the exhibition, but I think it’s not irrelevant either, because it points towards a certain area of interest in my practice.
AB: How would you describe the relationship between the printed sheets of paper, and the newsprint brush strokes, and the way they’re displayed? Particularly the works deliberately intended to look like rock formations, but are just paint that’s been manipulated in a certain way. How does the installation and the actual prints that you’ve made in your studio come together?
CP: They come from the same process, through the making. I think what they do, for me anyway, is to unlock different kinds of potential in the more finished works, they open that out a bit, the one that drips down the wall, is more organic, or material, or it has a liquid feel to it, which might say something about how you see that mark when it is repeated in other finished pieces that are more static. The other marks, (the brush marks or fingers running through ink) are more like a language, pointing towards punctuation, or some kind of notation. In an abstract way it’s thinking about the language in different parts of the prints. In a more practical sense, the marks direct a certain kind of viewing, and makes you look at the space. There’s a constraint with the rectangle of the print, and they push that outside it, so it opens up that limitation.
AB: You made more work than you’ve shown here, you said you had enough for a whole other show. What was your decision making in arriving at this final selection of prints, considering there were many more combinations that there could have been?
CP: I had a very different idea when I came, because I hadn’t been to the space before. I thought I would show all of the prints that I had made to demonstrate a development of sequence, the same things repeated over and over and over again. You do see that a bit here, but not to the extent if I had shown them all. When I came to space, I felt that actually looking at them up on the wall, they needed a bit more space than that. They worked better individually. Sometimes I think that depends on my mood. I thought the marks on the walls would be absolutely everywhere, but I didn’t really want them to become decorative elements that the prints sat on top of. I wanted there to be more tension.
AB: Finally, I wondered how much the title Slippery Under Pressure came out of your recent ceramic course. I wondered whether it was inspired by playing with the material, pushing things around and the funny way that clay can work, which you can also see in the hand-smeared blobs on some prints.
CP: Yes, it comes out of that experience. I like the fact that it probably reads as a state of mind, or as a person being under pressure. And I like that with titling the show, that you present something for a visitor to wrap their head around in lots of different ways.
AB: It’s also colloquial as well. There’s a humour to it, really.
CP: Yes there’s a humour to it. A lot of my recent titles have lacked humour. Actually they’ve all been quite didactic,and have been taken from other sources. The Only Rule Is Work, that’s not that funny, although I meant it as something polemic, as a question? Or Pull Everything Out, they’re all quite sincere, and this one really came from thinking about being out of control with a material.
AB: Ceramics are quite interesting to think about in relation to your printmaking. Why did you decide to experiment with this material, and learn it as a skill?
CP: I just always wanted to do it, and never have.
AB: Since you’ve been here you’ve been talking about different glazings and the design of ceramics, has that always been an interest?
CP: I think that’s always been there, I’ve always loved ceramic sections of museums, and my iphoto is full of photos of ceramics from all over the place. I love messy ceramic work, brutal ceramic work with expressive application of paint. Not perfect, Perfect things are beautiful as well, but I like the ones that have slipped off centre.
AB: But your prints, though they kind of have a messiness, they’re really technically precise. It’s as much about getting it technically right as a process. There’s no slapdash approach.
CP: Not really, no. I always struggle with that, the level of control that I apply to my work, I try to not do it.
AB: Try to not try so hard?
CP: Just try to be OK with things that aren’t perfect. The way that I’ve approached this body of work is much different from others work. I’ve applied the same way of working where I start with a whole bunch of prints, but then I usually choose one and edition it.
AB: Whereas the edition here is completely separate.
CP: Yes, I took every single one of these as an individual work that I kept working on. At the end of the day they are still technically tight, even if they look expressive.