Freya Pocklington is an artist who presents us with curious stories; she shows us human expressions within her menagerie of animals and surreal objects, living in questionable, exotic paradises.
Working with ink, collage, pencil and conte, she uses the materials to depict dark scenes with an edge of sardonic humour.
Pocklington is one of the Artists in Residence of the National Open Art Competition exhibition, which will be opening at Somerset House on the 18th September. She will be working live inside the exhibition, making work for all to see, on 27th September, and the 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 16th, 17th and 24th October.
We caught up with Freya to ask about her artwork, and what to expect from her art-making at the National Open Art show.
Your work contains eccentric characters and curious animals – where do they come from?
When I was growing up, my dad was an antiques dealer and our house was full of strange old tribal, medical and crafted objects so I used these to create stories. When I studied painting and drawing at Edinburgh, I continued doing this by using the objects in all the wonderful museums there. Recently, I have begun to collect news stories from trashy magazines, newspapers and the internet to create narratives by putting the characters together in unusual scenarios. I like collecting and archiving material in new and innovative ways, taking them out of context and the museum environment. Archiving internet stories has been a recent fascination, as I like to make them into something solid and real, on paper.
Your conte work possesses something of a childlike quality, whereas your pencil drawings are highly intricate and detailed. Can you tell us a little about your process?
Caricature has always fascinated me. I collect images of Martinware bird pots and I am interested in illustrators such as William Steig, which influence that childlike quality. All the images have a dark undertone to them however, they aren’t meant for children specifically, even though children do tend to like them! Ink and pastel are very bright which gives them that glow and depth, and using this method means I cannot control the materials as well as when I use a pencil. I don’t use graphite as much these days as it takes too long and I like painting with the ink as it's more fluid. I layer up the pastel and ink like you do with oil, giving the work a sense of transparency. Most images consist of about 8 layers and the drawings are very dark until the final layer, when I put on the Sennelier pastels to make them quite vivid.
There is such a sense of immediacy to your work – how is this achieved?
I collect hundreds of images and stories for months before making the piece, which takes up a lot of time, but I only use a few of these images within the final work. I don’t draw it first; it just evolves quite quickly. I admire artists such as Rose Wylie and Armen Eloyan, as they have that sense of immediacy, where they aren't over planning or controlling the image. I enjoy making work like this, as before when I used pencil, it would become overworked and thought out, stifling the narrative.
Tell us about being selected for Art on the Tube.
I was selected from an open call. During Frieze Art Fair, I really wanted as many people as possible to see my work and it was a great opportunity to do so. I got thousands more hits on my website and it generated widespread interest in my work. I like the graphic/illustrative nature of the image with the text, and I don’t normally show my collages. It made me see that having your name in print really does help expand your audience and since then I have had many articles on the BBC news and in Printmaking Today, Elephant magazine, Wall Street International Magazine and featured on blogs such as London Loves.
What kind of work will you be making at the National Open Art exhibition?
I don’t want to plan it too much, but I will be making a piece in response to London in some way, and of course there will be an animal or two in there! There will also be some audience participation as I will be using some of the conversations I have with the general public within the work.
How do you feel about being an AIR at Somerset House?
Excited - I love residencies, my work always changes direction when I do one. I have completed residencies with The Royal Scottish Academy, Scottish Arts Council, Chichester Cathedral, The Florence Trust and West Dean College and find them a great way of meeting new artists and talking to the public about my work. Working in front of an audience is a new challenge as I am used to dancing around my studio and singing very loudly and badly to the radio! You won’t be seeing any of that!
You can read more about the National Open Art Competition exhibition here.
Visit Freya Pocklington's website here.
1 - A Gift For Gertica, 2013, Conté, ink, pastel, crayon and charcoal on paper, 133 x 152 cm
2 - After Frida, 2013, Conté, pastel & ink on paper, 140 x 145 cm
3 - An Average Sized Rabbit and Some Exceptionally Small Animals, 2012, Conté, ink, crayon and charcoal on paper, 140 x 160 cm
4 - Sausage Drummer, 2011, Conté, pencil and ink on paper, 80 x 60 cm