Beauty goes hand in hand with balance in the work of young British artist Gabriele Beveridge. She has a unique approach to make sculptural work, combining sun-faded, found magazine images with blown glass, marble with cosmetics, steel bars with pastel transparency. The Slade alumnus, who is represented by Seventeen Gallery and has shown at the Zabludowicz collection and Cell Project Space, makes the frame itself part of the work – often glueing imagery directly into the way it is shown. All together the results are beautiful, unexpected and poetically play with the boundaries of stability.
Interview FRANCESCA GAVIN
Francesca Gavin: What first made you decide to be an artist?
Gabriele Beveridge: I developed an interest in collecting things that had been discarded at an early age but I can’t remember there being a specific moment where I decided to be an artist. I’m not sure I knew what it meant to be an artist, either. I grew up in Hong Kong where, unlike now, there wasn’t much of an art scene at the time. So it wasn’t a specific show or artist’s work I saw that made me think being an artist was possible, but rather a process of making, that became a way to lose myself, to escape from the norm or to dream for a minute. I suppose some kind of decision sprang from there.
FG: What first attracted you to magazine imagery?
GB: I think most of all studying photography brought me into the exploration of found images and the relation between time and composition. Between a material and it’s positioning. Photography is always an appropriation so I think the gap between producing your own photos and found images is very small, mostly held up by legal ways of thinking. I think photographers of subjects are often closer to journalists or theatre directors – in the sense they can direct life to appear in front of the lens in a certain way. But the technical aspect, the ‘light drawing’ as it is literally from the Greek, is something very different. And for me, working with this material photograph can come either before or after the shutter opens and closes. For a while now, my starting point has been in the after, but this is mainly motivated by the interest in the time characteristics that accrue in the photographic materials I source, which are now larger format found posters. The way their indexical qualities fade into generic drifts turned cyan.
FG: What in particular appealed about glamorous images of women?
GB: I’ve always been interested in this tension between the idealised image and the experience one has. That psychological charge of the street with all the ideologies and expectations broadcast at you to take on as your subject, your self. In particular these anonymous, and as you say glamorous, head shots that stand still in hair salon windows. There is something talismanic and incredibly secretive about them. They’re all about expectation; how one both casts and returns a gaze at once – as in the window they stand in for the ‘new you’ you’re meant to imagine after a haircut or beauty treatment. They’re a promise of transformation. And yet they are the most banal thing, as if they also anticipate this sceptical reception. They’re never famous models I use – I’m drawn to these depersonalised advertising faces because they act like a kind of mask or mirror of the other. This unknowable other that’s everywhere around you. It’s always on the edge of familiarity, which conversely creates the uncanny reminder of the distance: “…don’t I know you?”. I also find these stylised images to have a certain outside-of-time feeling, which draws on an internalised image world of the capitalist imaginary. These forms which are on their way to becoming solid. Pre-iconic. This near-dream state is always imbricating with the contemporary experience.
FG: What do you like about using this imagery in assemblages or kind of collage?
GB: I work with these pre-iconic images of women by taking them out of their context to create something entirely new, to alienate them even further into a dream state, as if to emphasise their facelessness. For instance a face might turn into a hole with a rock placed in front of it. In general, I think of collage as a way of looking just as much as a technique. In that sense you can see it in the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel. A little scene here, a bit of architectural suggestion there. It’s a modern way of thinking that expresses a feeling of a lot of things happening in parallel, of time being less straightforward than we can grasp. In the sense that the imagery and materials I use carry very specific connotations intended in their original context, I think the lineage of collage is very much something I feel engaged with. Existential intrigues come from both chance and disassociation techniques and that’s a productive logic that’s very deep in the human psyche.
FG: What interests you about glass?
GB: Initially I was interested in glass because it flows, because it’s liquid at one point. I was drawn to the material because of this specific characteristic and wanted to explore it’s behaviour. I think the borderline of things fading in and out between symbolic and material experience is where this dream state occurs again. I’m drawn to elemental things. Glass is made from liquid sand. I’m interested in how the feeling that’s in glass – of geological time and its purely physical hardness – relates to the frailty of the photograph and the effects of just a few decades that are already discolouring the paper. When I’m working on something that’s how I’m making connections, and I’m also looking for how these material differences come together and hold each other in tension. The formal result very much comes out of these intuitions and sensitivities. I’m interested in how the fluidity of glass becomes frozen, almost communicating a duped sense of time. The material just stuck, it made sense to me, materially and symbolically.