THE FINE PRINT: Would you say your Polish origins influence your work in any way?
GOSIA WALTON: For many years I rejected my background and never felt particularly patriotic towards or inspired by Poland. I’m not really sure why, perhaps I wasn’t around other artists and didn’t really explore that side of my interest. Now I often look at my work and think: where is this coming from? Why do I stare at machines for hours? Why do I film laser cutter and printer in action? Why do 18 layers of shapes and lines suddenly make sense when I look at it? It must come from somewhere… When I was little I remember drawing pipes, pages and pages of them, connecting weirdly, passing fluids to each other. I wish I had kept that sketchbook! I spent a lot of time with my father, who would work in a small workshop under our flat. Playing with tools and watching him building things has certainly had an impact on how my mind works when I make art.
Now, I often visit Warsaw, where my best friend lives and writes books. We always do an intense cultural catch up and I am often blown away with the standard of Polish art and culture. I definitely pay attention to the Polish art scene and I follow my fellow artists such as Konrad Wyrebek, Radek Szlaga or Natalia Mleczak.
TFP: You’ve studied interior architecture and contemporary art practice at the Edinburgh College of Art. While they are both fascinating subjects, you must have a preference. How have these two fields of study affected your aesthetic?
GW: I think all my interior colleagues would collectively agree that I am a not the best at practical design! I was interested in installation art ,and I convinced myself that I would be a better artists once I developed a sense of spatial awareness and knowledge behind the making.
Studying Architectural Design was really life changing for me. I’m a classic example of someone who was in search of a mentor, someone who could bring all the weirdness out of me, and let me experiment and push the boundaries of design. I think at some point I wanted to create God as my final project! Ed Hollis (Deputy Director of Research at ECA) is really the one who made me realise that I need to make art. During 3 years of studying design I was obsessed with creating spaces in 3D, technical drawings, software that allows you to create and manipulate spaces and objects with such detail. I never cared much about the actual projects we were assigned to, but the visuals I can make for the assignments. People still often say that they can see the architectural influence in my work.
TFP: Could you guide us through your artistic process when creating a new piece? Is there usually a main concept behind a series?
GW: I spend long periods of time in my studio, thinking and looking at old, half-way or nearly finished pieces, running errands, checking social media, etc. and usually, if I get through all this then after about 6 hours I start actually creating something. They say that you don’t choose the work, but that the work chooses you; so when I begin working on a new piece, I am trying to follow my obsessions not the trend at the moment. Laser cutting and printing are very different when it comes to execution, but both processes bounce off each other and I’m always interested in finding new ideas that can be applied to either machine, with hopes that the final visual effect is interesting.
I usually start with a digital file,drawing simple 2D shapes and making quick marks on a touchpad, sometimes using keyboard symbols. I need to keep this process as simple and basic as possible because I get bored the minute my drawings starts to act as a representation. I spend long hours exporting and manipulating those shapes in 3D until I get to the point where to move forward, I need to print or laser cut. Laser cutting for me is particularly exhausting as I make decisions while the machine is on, so I usually have about 2 hours to experiment. During each session I manipulate the file and focus of the laser, depending on what I’m seeing, until I get a satisfying variety of etched or cut marks. I’m only happy when something visually interesting happens.
With the HP printer, it’s the opposite, the printing itself takes such a long time so I spend long hours thinking of ways to trick the machine and make it perform in ways that are not conventional. At the moment I am trying out same colour saturation and overprinting to see what happens.
I wish I had a big concept behind my work, a particular effect that I would be able to imagine and work towards that particular visual idea. It would have been less exhausting to have that point of reference, but I find it quite exciting not having any reference point. Not knowing, or the element of surprise, plays a huge part in my work. I use machines to experiment with hopes to create a painting or a drawing that is timeless and unique to me and my practice. I’m pretty sure I haven’t managed that yet, but I’ll keep trying.
TFP: You currently work a lot with laser cuts on acrylic, which are mostly fluorescent and sometimes bended into forms. Why do you like working with this material? What would you say is the hardest part about using it?
GW: The hardest part is definitely managing the cost of my materials. I feel unhappy and uncomfortable working in small scale, and a large piece costs over £100 per sheet. It’s just so exciting to work with fluorescent acrylic. I can assure you that Picasso or Warhol would be using it, if only they could! I started working with acrylic at the end of my MFA degree and I felt overwhelmed with the possibilities of using the material. I worked on a couple of pieces that I bent with a heat gun, but at the moment it doesn’t feel right to manipulate this material, in that way. The work becomes an organic sculpture and the drawing less important, which is not what I want. My practice is and always will be drawing, regardless of the material.
TFP: You also use printing, which enables you to create layered imageries. Please tell me more about this kind of artwork.
GW: I think it’s fair to say that I am obsessed with my printer. I purchased an HP DesignJet Series C7780B a couple of years ago, and I spend a lot of time just looking at and listening to it working. I often film it printing, feeding paper, trimming edges, recording the sound – it fascinates me how regardless conditions it always takes about 5 -10 minutes to adjust itself and get ready to perform. I only upload a small number of videos on Instagram because I think people would find it boring but believe me, it’s nothing compared to my personal collection. For a long time I haven’t made anything particularly exciting with the printer. I’m not interested in just producing images in high resolution or making digital copies of my work. It took me over 2 years to get familiar with how the printer works, to realise that it has simple but strong pallet (Cyan, Magenta, Yellow and Black) and that pretty exciting things can happen when you learn the mechanism and routine of a particular machine. However well designed, composed and interesting a digital file is, somewhere halfway through printing, the machine will challenge and guide me to use its functions, and make something interesting happen while working on a particular drawing. At the moment I am working on a series of multilayered prints, where it would be impossible to distinguish the start and end point of printing process. I decided to use the same composition and content of drawings that I’m layer cutting on acrylic, to explore possibilities of an experiment.
GW: So many things I want, but can’t afford! I’d love to work more with laser cutters, 3D printers and 3D scanners. For a while I was working with eye tracking software, to see what it looks like to draw directly with eyes. Using this technology was exhilarating in allowing me to explore new drawing methods. I recorded my eye movements while looking at images, and in this way seeing became drawing, opening up a new way of visual mapping and record taking.
At the moment I use more affordable software like Illustrator, AutoCAD and SketchUp. My tutor Torsten Lauschmann introduced me do Max6, a powerful tool for digital art making through simple patching. https://cycling74.com/max7/
TFP: Are you currently working on a new series or special project you’d like to share with us?
GW: I am working towards two exhibitions at the moment. I was invited by Visual Arts Scotland to take part in the next annual show at the Royal Scottish Academy in Edinburgh in early 2016. I am really excited to be a part of CONVERGE as it supports emerging artist whose work exemplifies the fresh and dynamic approach to contemporary, applied and fine arts. I will be showing a couple of large laser cut drawings as well as a new piece, specifically made for this show. I’m working with the staff at VAS, in challenging ways to display my work in a dark space.
Simultaneously, I am working on a series of large scale drawings made with my HP inkjet printer. 2016 will be pretty bloody exciting.
Find me on Instagram @gosiawalton for more news and information.