Tracey's work reminds me of Alice Through the Looking Glass; it seems to be one thing until you look a little closer and notice a skewed perspective, something a little off about a table and a delicate lace print you can only see if you're really looking. Tracey's work resonates on a variety of levels, having returned to the East Midlands from years living in Cornwall, she's trying to find that pulse here again. Many of us in Nottingham find that from the other side, waking up to realise Nottingham is home and the pulse isn't quite as strong where we grew up. We're just on different sides of the mirror.
Have you felt much of a difference creating for a ‘graduate show’ as opposed to creating as a student?
It’s less prescribed in a way, it’s a real mixture for me because obviously there’s new people in a group which is nice and it’s a bit like university because you’re bouncing off each other. It’s very familiar as well because I’m working next to Dave [Dent], we actually sat next to each other at uni, our spaces were adjacent!
So it’s almost like you’ve bought a bit of university with you?
Yeah, (laughs) I think the main difference is that you don’t have the workshop facilities at your fingertips because in the past I could go hmm, I’d like to do that in the porcelain slip and fire it. I perhaps would have done that with some of this work and although you could probably source that I’m kind of challenging myself to do what I can with the equipment available.
How do you think that’s impacted your work?
I’ve had this battle with myself in a way, some of it looks cruder maybe than I would normally do; just because of the different material I’m working in. I might have done something, like say, rather than soaking it in plaster I might have done it in porcelain, fired it and it looks finer and differently made. After the tutorial with Christine though, I’ve come to think actually this does say what I’m trying to say more. I’m trying to let go of the fact it’s crafted nicely. I’m seeing something different in the work. I’m quite excited about it now.
With the group name Pulse - how are you connecting to it?
It’s this pulsating city center. It’s busy, there’s life and yet, with my work there’s a lot of severed hands, without wrists; that’s the strongest part, where you feel your pulse, and it’s all cut off. It’s that sort of feeling I’m trying to get across, an unsettled feeling. This is my hometown, I used to live in the city center and be a part of everything but I feel a bit disconnected. I’m at a different part of my life and I’m doing something completely different. Because of body parts and wrists and almost a pulse that’s not there.
It’s that feeling that nowhere quite feels like home because I’ve lived away for a long time. I lived in Cornwall for quite a few years and had my children there and we’ve got very close friends there and we do go back. I feel as though that’s my home too but here still has family there and I’m kind of, at the minute, at that stage in my life where I’m trying to decide whether to stay.
When did you get into sculpting?
When I started uni, I’d never done sculpting. When I went to an open day and we were shown all the equipment… We were shown the welding bay and it excited me. I think that’s what it was, the welding bay and then when you first start you have little inductions to say woodworking, metal working and showing us all around the workshops and I don’t know, it quite excited me, casting was the thing. One of the first pieces I did was with a carnation and I cast it into bronze. I like that, it’s magical and that got me into sculpting. You can make something that looks real, or is a normal everyday thing, but you can completely change it into something else. Present it in a different way.
This sense of feeling unsettled and a bit out of place, is that what you want your audience to experience on Opening Night?
I’d like them to see it and question it. I want them to look a bit closer to see the lace print you can’t see at first, see how the pieces react to each other. Hopefully they'll get this unsettled feeling. No one’s going to know how you feel, your history and why you’ve made it like this but there might be something… I try to use recognisable things, familiar objects and forms that anyone would know, you know, a hand, an egg or a glove but why’s it like this? Why does it make me feel like that? An emotive reaction I think, that’s what I always want to get.
What do you want to get out of this residency?
It’s that confidence really, because it’s quite hard working on your own without any feedback when you’re new, isn’t it? To suddenly not have any critique or feedback. It was that side that appealed to me because I like the idea of working in a smaller group, You get to know each other quite well and there’s the group critique [with Diana Ali] and the one to one tutorial with Christine [Stevens], whose work I absolutely love, so that was a bonus.
Did you find the one to one helpful?
Really helpful, that made me move on from ‘I’ll do the casts again, see if I can get it more precise’. I was actually in this real indecision about it and she gave me her take on it, I think you need those bits of reassurance. We were looking through the old catalogues and I was thinking I really love this piece, because she did EM13, and then Jez said ‘oh that’s Christine, she’s doing your critique!’ That was amazing.
How are you finding sharing a space?
Really good and positive. I do really like it, like I said, Jane I knew and Dave I’ve worked alongside him for the last two or three years… We work really, really different. It’s nice to have someone who knows your work and what you’ve done.
Do you find he works reacts to your work differently to the rest of the group who aren’t familiar?
I think he understands what I mean more because he’s seen what I’ve created before but it’s nice to have fresh eyes on your work too. Especially when it’s something a bit newer that you’re trying to do so you’ve not necessarily had any feedback on that type of work. You get some really different ideas from other people.
Written by Lucinda Martin for Surface Gallery
Image by Gavin 'Urban Shutterbug' Conwill