Made in Arts London (MiAL) is a not-for-profit enterprise that sells and promotes art and design from University of the Arts London current students and recent graduates. Each year since 2015, Cass Art has awarded a materials bursary to one MiAL artist. Ahead of her exciting degree show, we caught up with Katy Sayers Green, winner of the 2023 bursary to find out more about her work…
Hi Katy, firstly congratulations on winning the Made in Arts London Cass Art Bursary Award! Tell us a little about your creative journey so far.
Thank you to Made in Arts and to Cass Art for awarding me The Cass Art Prize. It was a lovely surprise, and I am thrilled to have won it. I am a London-based fine artist, primarily a painter and I work in the genre of figurative abstraction. I originally trained at the Ruskin School of Drawing and Fine Art, Oxford University. Since then, my creative journey has been a long and winding road. Now that my adult daughter is ‘fledging’, I am once again able to focus exclusively on my artwork. I feel that raising a child is underestimated as a creative endeavour in its own right! I got involved in MiAL because my life experience has taught me that it is important to consider the practical aspect of making a living as an artist and MiAL offers professional opportunities to show artwork and find customers.
What has your experience been like on the MA Art & Science at Central Saint Martins? How has your work developed during your time there?
I came on to this programme to make a body of work about climate change and biodiversity collapse and that is precisely what I have done. This is the burning issue of the day, and we must leave behind us a planet that is habitable for future generations. I work primarily on my own in my studio at home and it has helped to have resources to draw on at CSM. My most recent paintings are large 185 x 130cm (very large)! and they are a pair; like an open book – with a small gap between them. They are part of a series called ‘Trust and Betrayal’ about the fluctuating relationship between humanity and nature. This specific pair is called ‘Where is Joseph’s Coat Now?’
What inspired you to make work about these subjects and how do you communicate these themes in your abstract paintings?
My new artwork is specifically about trust and betrayal, between humans and nature. The aim is to create compelling work that speaks to what I have witnessed in my lifetime about loss of biodiversity and heating of the Earth, and I try to get a fix on where we are now as a species. The aim is to create work about what I have witnessed – witness testimony through painting. I use painting to map where we are now.
This also points to the future by creating images of power and redemption that aim to move. I want to do something for the future, and I think of this endeavour as legacy paintings, witness to history, having a dialogue with contemporary and future generations and shifting the kaleidoscope. A kaleidoscope shows one pattern and move it a millimetre, and it changes completely, and I want to change the way we think about human relationship with nature as much as I can.
To address these contemporary concerns, one of the strands in my work asks us to look again at wisdoms as found in ancient mythology and in the Bible. This can shed light on subjects that are otherwise too opaque, complex, and vast to look at directly. My paintings cast a sideways look at the uncertain and the unknowable. They seek to give form to elusive chimeras.
You use mixed media to create your works, from acrylic paint and digital elements to foils and even stardust. Can you tell us how you experiment with these materials and talk us through your process?
These paintings have been experimental; combining tradition and innovation. I have used Illustrator to put together an imaginary constructed vision of the British landscape from my own photographs; that was based around the area of Constable’s Suffolk. I used this as a starting point because Constable has come to represent all that is perfection in an ideal English landscape, and yet he lived in a time of great upheaval and depicted only an imaginary composite image, as I do. The size of my large paintings is identical to The Hay Wain (1821).
If we were to rummage around in your studio, what art supplies would we find and what key colours would we see on your palette?
I juxtapose imagery culled from many different sources with new materials, such as holographic paint, to transport the process out of the everyday and into a different world of magic and metaphor, where all is shifting and elusive and where human presence is no more than a whisper that could so easily disappear. I love Golden paints because they produce ‘shape shifting’ interference and iridescent colours. I also sculpt figures from wax in a life studio, and these form the visual source material for the human protagonists in my compositional dramas.
And finally, what’s next for you?
My next exhibition will be as part of CSM degree show; I am currently completing the MA in Art and Science at CSM. If you want to find me during this show, my paintings will be on show in the Windows Gallery; located in The Crossing and just before the barriers, as you go into the building – in the public space. The degree show is open 28 June until 2 July; 12 noon until 8pm. All work is for sale. You can contact me directly for sales enquiries, find me on Instagram @katy_sayers_green or visit my website www.katysayersgreen.com.
Thanks Katy, best of luck with the show!
Visit the CSM Degree Show at Granary Building, 1 Granary Square, London N1C 4AA from 28th June - 2nd July from 12pm - 8pm. Visit the Made in Arts London website to find out more about how they support student and graduate artists.
Read more interviews with students and graduates on the Cass Art blog.