6 Questions with Clare Phelan
Q1: Why art?
Art was the only subject that excited me at school and I don’t remember being much interested in anything else! I’ve always believed that art is for everyone, offering people the chance to experience themselves and the world around them in different ways. I was privileged to work as an Art Psychotherapist in the NHS for many years before becoming a fully time Fine Art Printmaker.
Q2: Where do you work?
I live and also work in a Victorian stone built house in Holmfirth, a village on the the edge of the Pennines in West Yorkshire. I’m lucky to have an etching press in my studio, and recently upgraded to a beautiful old Hunter Penrose Little John press, which is a thrilling development!
Printmakers often work alongside each other in Community Print Workshops, as printmaking equipment is often large, heavy and industrial in nature. I am a member of Hot Bed Press in Salford where I make some of my work, its great to share ideas, build relationships and see other printmakers work on a regular basis.
This October I also began a residency as part of the AA2A scheme (Artists Access to Art Colleges) at the University of Central Lancashire (UCLAN) The opportunity will give me access to a much larger etching press, enabling me to make a series bigger prints during 2019/20 academic year.
Q3: What motivates and drives your work?
My work centres around found/recycled materials, and I am motivated by not knowing exactly how something will evolve using these non-traditional materials. The desire to create art from discarded historical ephemera that often tell stories about our relationship to technology has become an essential part of my practice.
Q4: Where does you inspiration come from?
I moved to West Yorkshire in the mid 80’s and have been preoccupied with the industrial revolution and its impact on the lives of those caught up in it ever since. My interest began with a love of Victorian stone buildings, from back to back terraces to the mighty derelict mills that dominate parts of the West Yorkshire landscape. From this initial love more specific areas of research developed, associated with narrative of ‘man and machine’
Current work stems from my preoccupation with the beginnings of mass production. Coding technologies used in the textile industries of lace, silk, cotton and wool have become a central focus. I have worked with the lace archive at Nottingham Trent University, and the archive at Sunnybank Mill in Farsley, Leeds.
The principles of the punch hole coded card technology were also used in the mechanical music industry in the form of pianola rolls and music box discs. The discovery of these artefacts, along with IBM punch cards have extended my visual language and area of interest.
Q5: What direction is your work heading?
I’ve been working on increasingly larger prints over the last couple of years, and the AA2A residency will give my work the chance to grow larger still. I am also working on an installation idea which will incorporate a number of large prints. I still have a lot to explore within my current area of interest and will be working with other textile archives in the North of England.
Q6: What do you hope people see when they look at your prints?
I don’t have fixed ideas about how people receive my work, I’m always fascinated with what others see. I like the idea that it resonates in different ways, to me this is one of the joys of abstract art.