Residency : Simon McAuley - September, 2011



The last artist in residence for this year is Simon McAuley. Discreet and hard working, Simon was the first artist to participate in the residency last year, and his intricate drawings and paintings have been exhibited in our gallery several times.

‘I was wondering if the experience would be different... The first time around, I was the first artist in residence, and this time I am last. And yes, it is different. I could look at the other artists in residence throughout the year, and see what they were doing. It was good because it meant I kind of bounced off them, I drew inspiration from them and their work. I could imagine how my work would be exhibited alongside the others.’

During his first residency, Simon had a specific idea of what he wanted to do: a list of twelve works, which he applied himself to do, and completed. “This time I had a mental list of what I wanted to do, but I was fine with it taking a different direction. I started with the first thing on my list, then modified it as I went along. I was more relaxed about it, yet I didn’t want to be too relaxed about it - the work requires intensity. ”

His work, extremely detailed and delicate, did change as the month progressed. “I started using new materials, I seemed to have more opportunities to produce work I hadn’t done before. This time it was more about settling into it rather than charging through it! It was great to take part in the printmaking workshop as well, it allowed me to step away from what I had been doing, and it gave me more perspective when I came back.”

Has there been any unexpected developments? “In a way yes... The way I was making marks before, I was wrestling with the medium, the pencil, trying to get the exact mark I wanted. This time I was more open to what the materials could do themselves. I’ve really enjoyed the marks that I’ve been making, and it was really important for me. They were less about control, and more about enjoying it. The small paintings were unexpected as well! They’re not finished work, but I think it was necessary for me to do them and just enjoy exploring colours, mixing paints. I could sit all day mixing paint!”

As well as using new materials, like oil pastels, Simon started putting paint on the canvas first, as a background colour. He would then choose a pastel to work on top of it. “That gave me a degree of control about the contrast, the richness or flatness of the colour. What I’ve done this time feels a bit more traditional, like I am engaging with some sort of drawing tradition. I used very soft pastels, which was almost effortless, they have such a softness. It’s so different from the black pencil!”

Simon’s work is very unique, yet each piece seems linked to the next, visually and conceptually. “When I started the work, I wanted it to have depth, I had a notion of landscape space, in a very abstract way. The theme does have a connection with landscape, but they are also my interior space. It really is very different from what I have done before. The scale, the material, everything.”

This residency was a great opportunity for Simon to explore new ideas and push his work further. Would he ever try to apply for a third one? “Of course I would!” he says in a laugh. And on those words, Simon stands up and goes back to his pastels.

Simon McAuley’s work will be exhibited in our gallery in January 2012, alongside the other artists who took part in the Residency Programme 2011.