North West artist Vanessa Cuthbert has created a series of artworks in response to a brief we circulated recently asking for images to use in time for National Libraries Day for our social media as well as to print onto a range of library book bags that you will be able to buy from your local library soon.
We asked Vanessa to answer some questions about her practice as an artist as well as her thoughts on libraries:
TTR: What made you apply to the artists brief to design the new TTR artwork?
VC: When I saw the TTR brief on the Arts Council’s bulletin, it caught my attention instantly – a lovely brief, connecting art and reading, both of which have always been really important to me. While the brief itself was interesting – in being so open to interpretation, leaving the direction down to me as an artist – that it was for a library project, encouraging people to read, really struck a chord with me.
TTR: Do you use your local library?
VC: I’ve always used my local library, since being a child, and I still do. Even in the age of the internet, I think libraries have a hugely important role in any community – encouraging people to browse, not just search.
TTR: Do you think libraries are important to our communities and why?
VC: Libraries are one of the most important resources in any community. For children, they open up a whole world of opportunities – especially for families where books aren’t available in the home - getting children into the habit of reading, and browsing. For community groups, the social aspects for a range of age groups, local history, libraries should be at the centre of a community – and open to all. For children, a library can offer an environment to study after school if that’s not available at home – again, fostering a love of reading and of learning, regardless of parents’ or carers’ economic status etc.
TTR: Tell us a little bit about yourself and your work?
VC: My work is often reflective of my own personal experiences whether it is inspired by direct engagement with the subject in the present moment, or drawn from memory. I use a broad range of media including drawing, printmaking, painting, film, and take an experimental approach to my practice. My work can be expressive and abstract, and also figurative. I am inspired by all forms of culture; the visual arts, theatre, and literature.
I am also interested exploring new links between printmaking and the film making process in the artist book format, and recently produced a book called “When My Opera Bird Sings,” which experiments with traditional printmaking techniques such as litho printing and screen printing, and combines them with digital technologies.
Since graduating from the Royal College of Art (with Distinction) I have had a career as a senior lecturer in art for many years, and have now left this to concentrate full-time on my own practice. I exhibit work in galleries and festivals worldwide including Slovenia, Germany, Belgium, France, Italy, Portugal, India, Mexico, Costa Rica, USA, China and Japan, as well as the Royal Academy Summer Exhibition in London.
TTR: Have you got a go-to book that you recommend to friends?
VC: My favourite book is "The Waves" by Virginia Woolf. It was hugely experimental at the time and opened the door for many writers to take creative risks in their work. I can identify with the need to push boundaries and venture into new creative territory. It's so poetic and visual. It's possible to trace some of the character influences to her circle of friends from the Bloomsbury group. Woolf referred to it as a play poem as opposed to a novel. The first edition cover was designed by her sister, the artist Vanessa Bell. Such a clever book!
TTR: What are you plans for 2016?
VC: 2016 has begun very well for me – with a number of interesting and slightly unusual projects on the go already. For example, next week I’ll be painting a Herdwick Sheep for a Boutique hotel in the Lakes – as part of a charity project, ‘Go Herdwick’. And I've just delivered ten pieces of work to Millyard Gallery in Upper Mill. I also have a large-scale print from one of my ‘Skater’ series being used in a boutique hotel development in central London, project- managed by a Parisian interior design agency.
For this year, my main plans are two-fold: developing my print-making practice, and painting, and increasing the work I show in galleries across the UK and internationally, while also extending my commercial work where appropriate. I’ll be building on the very successful Open Studio events I held last year, with additional dates and projects throughout 2016, and I’ll be developing new projects with Mary Taylor, co-founder of our commercial brand, Red-Shed Press. We've just finished a storyboard for a design company and are now producing some new limited edition prints which we'll be launching soon through Red-Shed Press Facebook page. For more information about this please like our page, where we have many contemporary prints available, and where we’ll have a number of updates on a couple of exciting forthcoming projects…..