Thursday, 9 May 2013

An interview with forthcoming exhibitor Mary Dalton

Mary Dalton will be exhibiting at Nancy Victor from Friday 14 - Friday 28 June. We caught up with Mary to ask her a couple of questions about her upcoming debut solo show, The Stories of Food.

NV: Hi Mary. What can we expect from this exhibition?

MD: I hope that you will find it fun, engaging and poignant. I also hope that it will make you think more about the food you consume, about the issues it holds and also about the stories it can tell. An afternoon of free tea and cake on the opening reception is a perfect way to encapsulate the engaging attitude of the show, being a welcoming space for all to partake and enjoy. There will be lots of elements to the exhibition in varying media, but this is highly reflective of my artistic practice, and I hope that you will feel part of my energy whilst experiencing the space.

NV: Have any of the pieces of work or show changed direction since or during the planning of the exhibition?

MD: Yes. The show has evolved from its conception into something that will be more organic and reflective of me as an artist. With help from the gallery and some friends we managed to slightly alter the stance of the show to one which is more fun, exciting and certainly something I feel very alive about. I think putting together your first show can be an exciting, but also daunting experience. I found the key was to allow others, and those that know me well to help, and to express how they feel it should reflect my practice. This was extremely positive and allowed the direction of the show to be aligned with my own thoughts as an artist. Although the theme of the show has stayed solid, the inclusion on textile works and mixed media pieces were certainly a later, and exciting, inclusion. They are key to my practice and so vital to include.

NV: Since you were a child, have you always been concerned and inspired by food and human consumption?

MD: Yes, I have always had food at the heart for a lot of my life. From childhood I hold very nostalgic, and probably romantic, visions of all the allotments my parents worked on to provide our daily food. Naturally, learning how to cook followed from this. However, as I got older food became somewhat more difficult for me, and when I left home cooking became more of a hassle than a love, and food was something that I struggled to have an easy relationship with. In many instances it caused more pain than joy. My relationship with food has now fallen back to its natural love for sharing and giving, and my work as a cook has helped this. I am also drawn to the politics and the wider issues that food involves.

My previous work with vulnerably housed people has given me an insight into how even in our supposed civilised country; there are people for whom food is a real struggle to find. Yet it was from these very people that I discovered the most intriguing and wonderful stories about food from happier times in their lives. The contradiction of food is one I find fascinating. We waste so much good food in this country, it goes straight into bins of which the amount could literally feed a family. I remember when in India and visiting families who had what we may see as so little, yet I have never felt more welcome and they would share some of the best food I have ever had. I find it such a fascination and conundrum. I am not sure if I have any answers, but I like to be aware of the situation and at least make sure I do not contribute to the more irresponsible side of food.

NV: Has your work always been focused around the subject of food?

MD: I think with hindsight yes, food has always crept into my work in some form or another - be it in a political sense, a literal sense or even if it is inspiration from shape and colour. But I think it is probably too far to say it has been focused around it. That has come in the last year or so.

NV: The term Greed and Hunger come up in several of your works. Do you see these as your own characters?

MD: Greed and Hunger came about after two large mono prints I made. These were drawn in my response to the contradiction of food, and other issues, around the world. On the outset they represent the idea of how Greed, a character focused on consumption and desire, only survives because of the outcome. His counterpart Hunger, a character based upon self-deprivation and lack of nutrients, both emotional and food based. Greed and Hunger both exist because of each other, the characters both existed as one. The characters began to turn up in more artworks and their final appearance will be at this show, signalling the end of their period of life. One will outlast the other, and they and the viewer will decide that, not me. In that sense they have become characters I created to bring life to an idea, but I also feel they represent issues in the world, thus they are not my characters, but belong to and represent society.

NV: There will be some textile based works within the show. What is it about composing tapestries that you don’t get from making your paper works?

MD: Composing tapestries allows me to work at a slower and more considered approach then the works on paper. What I relish in printmaking is the spontaneous element, the slicing, carving, scratching, acid-dunking - the elements that make it direct and energised. What I find with the textile work is that by the very nature of the sewing element, I have to take more time to compose and create the works. This means that the tapestries often end up as narratives as they end up being created over a rather long period of time. They also offer a completely different mind space to printmaking, which allows me to disconnect from the printed work when tapestry making, and vice versa. I endeavour not to loose energy in the tapestry works, as I feel that sewing and working with fabric, although slower by nature, is also a highly energised and tactile medium. The tapestries also offer a direct approach to work. As a printmaker I often don't see the 'finished' article until I have pulled many layers off the press. In tapestry, the directness of layering and building up fabric is a very immediate action, with no in-between tool/assistant such as a press. This offers me a fresh and intuitive insight into my ideas and composition themes.

Greed, Mary Dalton

There will be an opening reception with tea and cake served on Saturday 15th June from 12-3pm.

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