AS PART OF THE EM18 GRADUATE PROJECT, WHERE RECENT GRADUATES ARE OFFERED A RESIDENCY IN OUR PROJECT SPACE FOR THE MONTH, WE’RE INTERVIEWING THE ARTISTS ABOUT THEIR PRACTICE AND THEIR VIEWS ON ART AS A WHOLE. OUR FIFTH INTERVIEW IS WITH ELIZABETH GRAY.
For those who don’t know who you are, can you tell us a little about yourself, and your practice as an artist?
I go by the stage name of Elizabeth Gray and Mrs Art, which sort of fronts the art I create where sometimes I perform as many characters or this exaggerated version of myself. My work, which has been primarily video, examines and combines various familiar imagery from past and present pop culture, usually manipulating it to a point of becoming disconcerting. I like to play with the similarities of horror and comedy. This comes from my love of 1970s/1980s horror films where some of them were so over the top that you knew the visual effects were fake, yet as an audience we still chose to get sucked into the horror.
Pop culture is such a large subject matter within what I create, because it’s so accessible to a wide variety of audiences. People automatically have a connection with something that is familiar to them and this entices them into my artwork.
Having come out of university, have you noticed any differences between working as a student artist, and creating your work for a wider, public market?
Initially, there’s a big difference in the work I produce as I can no longer make my videos due to not having University tech, so now I am focusing on performance. I think, even through University, I have always focused on making work that I love and consequently audiences have loved it, because of this energy I had for my art. My fear is with bringing my drag influenced style of performing to a gallery setting; I want my audience to have fun and laugh at my work and I feel in a gallery enjoyment is almost a taboo subject.
When did you first involve yourself with the art scene? Was this due to your educational experiences, or were you inspired from other parts of your life?
I’ve always loved drama and filming; I was never the arty one. But I studied the subject through all of my education and then eventually got to a point where I could combine everything I love into my practice, which has created what I do now. My Dad is a big inspiration to me as well, as he used to act and do all his own special effects make up. So as a child I was always getting him to do my makeup and he’d get out his theatrical box of greasepaints and all the other children at the fancy dress competition would think I was a weirdo, but then I always won.
During this residency, what are your plans? How are you using this time at Surface?
Having actual space to work has been really beneficial for me, as my room is just filled with all the props and costumes for my practice. I’ve been working a lot with my new sewing machine, as I’d been doing everything by hand and I was like I just can’t go on like this anymore. Even though the costumes aren’t really the art part of what I do, I have to go through this process of making them, because it just wouldn’t be the same if I went out and bought them. Everything I do has a real thrown together, amateur feel. It’s been nice to focus on this element as opposed to a finished piece. However now that I have my costumes, I am starting to piece together two opening and closing performances for the exhibition opening night. I will also be performing past numbers throughout the two weeks, which I have been rehearsing.
Where else have you exhibited, and other than the EM18 Show on 2nd November, do you have any future exhibitions?
For my degree show, I put on my own 40 minute show at The New Theatre Royal in Lincoln. I have also just come from another graduate residency at The Art House in Wakefield, where I worked and lived with two other artists for a month to produce our show Taurus. As for the future, I am going to have a much deserved break, until I find what I want to do next!
As a final question I’ve asked everyone I’ve interviewed, what do you think is the future of the arts? And if you had infinite resources, what kind of work would you make in that future?
I would want the art world to become a lot less serious and more accessible to everyone, where all types of art can be mainstream.
If I had unlimited resources, I’d create my own touring show that encompasses video and a variety of performance styles with different performers. I love those strange underground gigs that you stumble across and the floors are all sticky. That’s where my show would go.
Thank you very much Mrs Art! You can see their work at the opening PENUMBRA!