Olivia Bax lives and works in London. She studied BA Fine Art at Byam Shaw School of Art, London (2007-2010) and MFA Sculpture at Slade School of Fine Art, London (2014-2016). Recent solo exhibitions include: Roost, Lily Brooke Gallery, London (2018); at large, VO Curations, 93 Baker Street, London (2018) and Zest, Fold Gallery, London (2016/17). Recent group exhibitions include: Olivia Bax | Milly Peck | Rafal Zajko, Three Works, Scarborough (2018); The Ground is Good, Modern Painters, New Decorators, Loughborough (2018) and A Motley Crew, Christian Larsen Gallery, Stockholm (2017). Recent residencies include: Artist in residence at Academy of Visual Arts, HKBU, Hong Kong (2016/17); British Council INSPIRE exchange, Dhaka, Bangladesh (2015) and Presidents Fellow, Vermont Studio Centre, USA (2013). Prizes include: Kenneth Armitage Young Sculptor Prize (2016), Additional Award, Exeter Contemporary Open, Exeter Phoenix (2017) and Public Choice Winner, UK/Raine, Saatchi Gallery, London (2015).
Hello Olivia, can you tell us a bit about your background and how it influences your practice?
I was born in Singapore, moved to Scotland when I was 7 and then to London in 2006 in order to go to Art School. I've been in London ever since. I was set on a career in art from a young age as I always liked drawing and making things. Fortunately, I was always encouraged which helps!
Like most artists, I am influenced by the world I inhabit. A few specific examples are: balconies, public transport, handles, pockets, human interactions, plants, construction, museums, flat-pack furniture, vessels, sculpture, architectural features and inexplicable feelings.
What are the main ideas and concepts behind your work?
It is impossible to think of one main idea and concept. The work is changing all the time. Like life, situations and circumstances change. We react, change, develop and adapt. Making sculpture is the same.
I've just finished 2 large scale works for 2 different exhibitions. The first new work, 'Monkey Cups', was shown in Three Works Gallery in Scarborough (30 August – 7 October 2018) on the east coast of England. The work comprised 3 'cups' to match the key number concept of the show. I wanted the work to be about inside versus outside; linear drawing versus mass; a sculpture which was about being simultaneously supported, trapped and liberated. The sculpture has a giant hook which points into the middle of the largest cup. I like directing the viewer to take a closer look.
The other sculpture, 'Roost', made for exhibition at Lily Brooke Gallery, London (26 September - 4 November) also directs the viewer in a deliberate way. The gallery is in a house, so I wanted the work to acknowledge the domestic environment. On entering the space, the sculpture is confrontational. However, more can be discovered by walking around the sculpture and into the space. There are curious windows, cavities and hanging components. Unlike 'Monkey Cups' the work is more private and closed off. The floor in the gallery is yellow. I made a ceiling piece too, which looks a little like a dysfunctional light. It was a good opportunity to create a whole environment - something slightly familiar to a domestic setting but with a curious twist. I wanted it to be about our relationship with people and with spaces - and with 'home' in particular.
What is your process of creating/selecting form, color and texture like? Do you sketch out a plan before you start a new piece?
I make a lot of sketches or doodles. Then I make an armature in steel. I don't refer to my sketches when I start on the metal work. Instead I treat it as a new drawing in space rather than on paper. When the metal work is finished I often take pictures of it on my phone and try different possibilities by filling in areas with a drawing app. Then back in the studio I cover sections in chicken wire and finally add paper pulp: a mixture of recycled newspapers, glue, household paint and plaster.
Have you read any books recently that you find fascinating or inspiring?
I was recently interviewed by Jillian Knipe for the Wall Street International Magazine and she asked me to discuss my show at Lily Brooke Gallery in relation to a book. I chose 'The Third Policemen' written by Brian O’Nolan under his pseudonym Flann O’Brien. When I suggested it I wasn't sure how it related but then the more we discussed it I realised that it wasn't just the handlebar references (people turning into bikes) but also the descriptions of the inside cavities of walls and the different dimensions which resonate with my work. Perhaps I was already interested in those visuals or maybe the book fed the work unconsciously?
Do you have any bad habits, do they effect your studio practice?
I bite my nails! My hands are in a terrible state - dried out from the materials I use in the studio with bitten off fingernails from years of chewing. I don't think it affects my studio practice but I have been told I have 'sculptor hands' which isn't a compliment!
Are you working on any new projects these days?
Yes I have some exciting exhibition opportunities in the pipeline for next year. At the moment I am making a limited edition publication / artist book for the exhibition at Lily Brooke. The cover is the same yellow lino as the floor in the gallery and the book will have fold out risograph prints documenting some of the references for the show, drawings and work in progress. My friend and fellow sculptor, Hywel Livingstone, wrote an essay to accompany the visuals. It's the longest text that has been written about my work. It's great to have someone else try and make sense of my practice! I am looking forward to seeing it come together.
Anything else we should know about you and your work?
So much art today is viewed online and in particular on Instagram. While these are great tools to get artwork out to the world, it's also important to keep visiting galleries and museums to see work in the flesh. So much of my work gets lost in images. I hope people don't lose interest in art-viewing in reality. The screen can't replace the real experience. I suppose my work is trying to prove that point.
For more of Olivia Bax: www.oliviabax.co.uk