PREVIEW: The Catlin Guide New Artists : ALICE MAY WILLIAMS

Alice May Williams, We Can Do It! (v.3), installation shot, 2014
Alice May Williams, We Can Do It! (v.3), installation shot, 2014

Over the next few week FAD will be showcasing some of the Artist Featured in the New Edition of The Catlin Guide New Artists 2015
Up first we have ALICE MAY WILLIAMS

What made you want to be an artist?
That’s quite a hard question to answer…. I guess I’ve always been driven to be creative in some form, be that making music, or drawing, or trying to express something visually. I think I would continue to pursue creative forms regardless of whether or not it was my main occupation. I guess that commitment has always stopped me from seriously pursuing any other form of serious employment!

How has your practice changed over the course?
My time at Goldsmiths definitely changed me indefinitely, not only as an artist but as a person: it changed the way I think about my place in the world, how I negotiate it. It really made me think about what’s going on in the world, and how that impacts on the contemporary art world. The MFA definitely gave me a more confident voice, both within my work and outside of it, which I think comes from being ripped to pieces in crits and seminars! It taught me how to pull my practice apart in order to put it back together stronger, taking on board (some!) of what people said to me, but also retaining a strong sense of the thing that made me want to make work in the first place.

How does it feel to be in the Catlin Guide?
It was great to realise that when you put so much work into something like your MFA Degree Show, people do actually come and see it! So yes, it’s cool to be asked off the back of the show, and to be in good company too.

What is your studio routine?
I wouldn’t really say I have a routine, I work in a very phasic fashion, fits and bursts of intense activity. Recently I have been doing a lot of research for an upcoming project so have been spending most of my time in archive rooms and libraries, museums and on boats! I work in stages, at the moment I am gathering immense amounts of material of every kind: written, visual, literary, historical. When I feel ready I will throw it all into a pot (or a word document) and gradually edit it down to something like a script of outline of a more concise idea. I will then get onto editing during which time I will be staring intently at a screen for months! Also during the gathering stage, I am drawing, and making music, all of which hopefully will become components of the finished work in some way. Whichever stage I am at, I always need to break it up with something physical, running or swimming or building something with my hands; this is the thinking time, when things become clearer, obvious. I only really realise what I am doing or trying to do when I step away from it, do something else entirely.

Where do you see yourself in five years time?
I can’t imagine leaving London, but if the ridiculous rent prices get any higher then I may well be forced out along with everybody else.

Alice May Williams, That Summer We All Sang (PLU 2), installation shot, 2013

What artists inspire you?
I really like the work of Lindsay Seers, which is the main reason I applied for the MFA at Goldsmiths. I had a chance encounter with her piece ‘Nowhere Less Now’ in Denmark, whilst cycling across Europe, and it really had a strong effect on me in terms of how a narrative can stay with you, and change over time. Elizabeth Price was also a tutor in our first year, which I think had quite an impact on a lot of us, she is a really passionate educator, very generous with sharing her working methods. I also really like the humour of artists like Laure Provost, she’s really sharp and visually eloquent.

How does it feel to be leaving University?
I was on an MFA for three, pretty intense years, so I was definitely ready to go! It feels good to be armed with everything I learned, and ready to work on something new. Since finishing I’ve shown ‘We Can Do It!’ at the ICA as part of the Tenderpixel 2014 shortlist, and at The Old Police Cells Museum in Brighton as part of ‘Sub-Cell: A View from Below’ – it’s been great to show that work again in contexts other than the final show. I’m currently really excited about the research for a new project, exploring different tangents pulled from an audio recording of my great great grandmother, towards a show I will be having at Jerwood Project Space next year.

What are the best shows you’ve seen in the past year?
Mirror City at the Hayward was a really excellent overview of what is happening in contemporary art right now, in terms of its scope and quality of work. It reminded me of the Tate Triennial show in 2009, which really stuck with me. I also got a second look at John Akomfrah’s brilliant video installation about Stuart Hall “The Unfinished Conversation” when it was at Tate Britain.

What makes a great artist?
Er, persistence?!

How do you negotiate the pressure to be a commercially viable artist?
I can’t say I’ve ever felt that pressure. I have felt the pressure of not earning enough money, but I now feel I have the confidence to ask for a budget and I try not to work for free! I’m also happy to support myself through other means of making money, and don’t mind telling people that – many people juggle different forms of work and I see no point in pretending not to. I fix bikes for money, I enjoy the work and the opportunity to be out in another world, being a different person, having different conversations.

If you were given a big commission what work would you want to realise?
I would probably want to make similar kinds of videos to those I am making now, but I would be as ambitious as I wanted with the install, the ideal built environment for my work would probably be how I spent the money. I would love to put as much time into the physical elements of a show as the audiovisual. To have the money and space to build big would be a dream for me. In terms of the content I don’t really have any burning ideas waiting to be realised, I tend to get obsessed with one thing at a time and follow all the leads that come from it until I have exhausted the subject, then move onto something else! So I can’t say what that idea would be, I haven’t found it yet.

Who do you think should have won the Turner Prize?
I haven’t yet seen the show so wouldn’t be able to answer that.

What are the best galleries in the UK?
I really like the Bluecoat in Liverpool, and the Liverpool Biennial is generally always worth a trip. In London I always enjoy popping along to the Whitechapel, Chisenhale and Matt’s where the standard of work is consistently pretty strong. Growing up in the West Country I didn’t have a great deal of access to contemporary art, so I would also say that places like Newlyn Art Gallery are really important and bravely committed to showing challenging work which may not always have such a captive appreciative audience as it would in London. Special mention also to Tate St Ives for the view from the cafe!

Alice May Williams, The Dialectic, from Critical Hand Gestures in collaboration with Jasmine Johnson, still from GIF, 2013
Alice May Williams, The Dialectic, from Critical Hand Gestures in collaboration with Jasmine Johnson, still from GIF, 2013

The sixth edition of The Catlin Guide 2015 New Artists in the UK will be unveiled at The London Art Fair 2015, 21st – 25th January. The Catlin Guide will be presented on stand P25 alongside a selection of work by featured artists from the book. This fully-illustrated limited edition publication introduces 40 of the most exciting new graduate and postgraduate artists from UK art schools.

Read the second Q&A with DOMINIC HAWGOOD

Read the third Q&A with HELEN WILSON

About Mark Westall

Mark Westall is the Founder and Editor of FAD magazine, ' A curation of the world’s most interesting culture' [PLUS] Art of Conversation: A tri-annual 'no news paper'