The Often Unseen: An Artist Interview with Fiona Masterton

by Cass Art

In early April, the third Made in Arts London exhibition graced the Embassy Tea Gallery, showcasing a range of talent from the students and graduates from the University of the Arts London.

One exhibitor, Fiona Masterton, was the winner of the Cass Art materials bursary, and we wanted to delve a little deeper into her mixed media artwork. Toeing the line between reality and the imaginative, and exploring art materials alongside the blurred practices of collage and painting, her work combines digital and handmade imagery.

Here at Cass Art we can't resist the chance to talk about art materials, so we asked Fiona about her themes, process, inspiration - and of course her favourite paints.

Image Above: Dispossessed

Blue Chapel painting 
Blue Chapel 

Can you describe the themes and processes of your work?

My work primarily combines photographic digital montage and paint. I am interested in the relationship between painting and photography, the authorial and the mechanical, reality and the imagination. I see patterns and rhythms in the processes that I use and in the marks that I make digitally. I emulate and embellish these digital marks in paint to create numerous points of departure, trying to convey a sense of flux, a perpetual ebb and flow between the abstract and the figurative, the digital and the painterly.

I have recently begun to include texture and surface as part of my exploration. In the series of works for MiAL, the art materials I used to make them and the actual process of making become just as important as the digital collage and oil paints. The images are deliberately fragmented and disjointed to allow the surface of the base to show through. The cracks, holes and abrasions and process of making are clearly evident. I have tried to capture a visceral sense of moment and place, something the viewer can perhaps recognise and relate to. ‘Dog by the Sea’ combines a collaged holiday snap which has been finger-painted with oil paint. I used a cardboard pizza base as the surface, accessible and transient as the moment itself. ‘Wild Weather’ and ‘Blue Chapel’ are photographic digital collages transferred onto thick oak blocks. The primed surface deliberately drips down the sides as part of the final work reminiscent of something primeval or of the walls of an old city.

Dog by the Sea oil painting 
Dog by the Sea 

How do you negotiate the complex worlds of painting and collage together?

This crossover is such an integral part of my work, I think the negotiation is a familiar angst. I don’t want to become too comfortable with it – hence one of the reasons I am currently exploring surface and material in conjunction with my practice. It sometimes works, and sometimes doesn’t, but of course that’s an important part of the process. It’s also great fun to try using new products within my work and to experiment with different kinds of mark making – creating a kind of back and forth between the torn and fragmented imagery and the marks upon the surface.

It’s an absorbing and intuitive way of working. Things do not stand still either, as I am working on one piece, other ideas and thoughts are mulling around in my head as to what I might try next. I am sure this is typical for most artists. The redundant piece is the one you have just finished.
Wild Weather painting: Photographic artwork 
Wild Weather 

Your work is so materialised based...but do you have a favourite paint?

I tend to mainly use oil paint although I have to be honest and admit to not trying many ranges. I tend to stick to Winsor and Newton Artists' Oil Paint as it works for me; there is a good range to pick from and it is affordable while still being great quality.

Which other art materials couldn’t you live without?

In reality this is a very long list, but to be brief…my paintbrushes, particularly my fan brushes, clear gesso, white gesso, matt varnish, linseed and stand oil, liquin, plextol, ink, turps, white spirits and not forgetting my camera and computer.

Birds Eye 
Birds Eye

What was your time at Wimbledon like? How did your practice progress whilst being at art school?

I graduated in June 2014 from Wimbledon College of Arts. I was on the part time mode so it’s taken me quite some time to complete my Fine Arts degree, but it has been a great journey. If I think about where I was when I first started and where I am now, I like to think I have been liberated in how I approach making art in terms of knowledge and practice. The environment at Wimbledon is friendly and positive and I found the tutorials always to be encouraging, yet constructive. Even though I was in the Painting pathway, my work often focuses on the digital image and the digital mark in conjunction with the painted mark. I liked the fact that this was naturally embraced as painting in the wider sense.

What inspires you to make art?

The everyday, the little moments, the things barely noticed, the understated, the forgotten and the often unseen. Those small things that creep into our consciousness and have some sort of resonance. These can offer a quiet magic and solace of some kind - or provide a kind of teleport in which my imagination can be spring-boarded into a new place. 

Feeling inspired?

Want to know more about Fiona Masterton and her art? Visit her artist website here.

Visit the Made in Arts London website, and read more about Fiona on her MiAL page here, and her interview with them about winning the Cass Art Materials Bursary here.

Shop for your own Winsor & Newton paints and other art materials online.

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