Liz West portrait, 2015. Image Credit - MDP Photography

Liz West portrait, 2015. Image Credit - MDP Photography

UKYA’s IN CONVERSATION series will feature interviews with artists and creative professionals. These conversations might include top tips and nuggets of wisdom about the creative industries and info about exciting current and upcoming projects from some of the UK’s best artists.

In the first of our IN CONVERSATION series, UKYA Ambassador Liz West talks about her work, and the importance of artist development opportunities like those provided by UK Young Artists.

Tell us about yourself and your work:

I graduated from the Glasgow School of Art in 2007 with a BA (Hons) in FIne Art: Sculpture and Environmental Art. Since I have worked as a full time artist exhibiting nationally and internationally. I currently live and work in Manchester. I grew up in a small South Yorkshire town with both my parents working as visual artists. It seemed inevitable that is what I would end up doing. I always perused what I loved, enjoyed and what I felt I was best at, which was always art. Going to Art School felt like a natural pathway for me. I make vivid environments that mix luminous colour and radiant light. Working across a variety of mediums, my aim is to provoke a heightened sensory awareness in the viewer through my works. I am interested in exploring how sensory phenomena can invoke psychological and physical responses that tap into our own deeply entrenched relationships to colour.     
My investigation into the relationship between colour and light is often realised through an engagement between materiality and a given site. Within physical and architectural space, I use light as a material that radiates outside of its boundaries and containers. I playfully refracts light through using translucent, transparent or reflective materials, directing the flow of artificial and natural light. Our understanding of colour can only be realised through the presence of light. By playing and adjusting colour, I bring out the intensity and composition of my spatial arrangements. 

An Additive Mix by Liz West, 2015, photograph by  Stephen Iles © National Media Museum.SSPL

An Additive Mix by Liz West, 2015, photograph by  Stephen Iles © National Media Museum.SSPL

Tell us about any recent, current or upcoming exhibitions or performances that you have:

I currently have new works in the Royal British Society of Sculptors Bursary Awards exhibition in London until 20th May, and Aesthetica Art Prize at York St. Mary’s until 29th May. For the Aesthetica Art Prize I have made a new site-specific version of a past work, Shifting Luminosity. Shifting Luminosity used minimal everyday materials to direct the flow of artificial light, creating an ambient spatial drawing. 

Are you currently working on any new projects? If so,what are you working on and when can we see it?

I am currently working on a number of exciting projects including a major commission for the Natural History Museum in London, a socially engaged commission in Plymouth and solo exhibitions at 20-21 Visual Arts Centre in Scunthorpe and Penarth Pavilion amoungst others. There is lots more in the pipeline too.

My newly commissioned work for the Natural History Museum's upcoming Summer Colour and Vision exhibition will allow visitors to see themselves in a different light as they step into the exhibition and into my immersive artwork. 'Our Spectral Vision' is inspired by Isaac Newton’s seven-fold colour spectrum; rays of light from every colour of the rainbow will beam through seven prisms made from special colour filter glass, creating an atmospheric illusion that will stimulate visitors visual perception of colour.

For my solo exhibition 'Our Colour Reflection' I will present an ambitious new work using coloured mirrors to transform the interior of the former St John’s Church building housing 20-21 Visual Arts Centre. Viewers will see themselves reflected in the mirrored surfaces as they explore the installation. The work will also reflect the gallery lighting - projecting colour up into the roof-space of the historic building - creating a dialogue between viewer, artwork and architecture.

An Additive Mix by Liz West, 2015, photograph by  Stephen Iles © National Media Museum.SSPL

An Additive Mix by Liz West, 2015, photograph by  Stephen Iles © National Media Museum.SSPL

When did you exhibit with UK Young Artists?

I exhibited my work the Bonington Gallery at Nottingham Trent University and simultaneously took part in the incredible 2012 World Event Young Artists, where 1000 artists from 100 different countries gathered in Nottingham for a wonderful 10 days.

What was the experience like? 

The experience was very intense and overwhelming. I tried to really make the most of the opportunity by going to as many performances, exhibitions, workshops and talks as possible and engaging with the other artists at the event.

WEYA2012 helped me realise that I needed to totally immerse myself in what I do in order to create a path for myself. It luckily came at a really pivotal time for me when I was searching for peer critique, professional connections and ways to move my work forward, these people have gone on to really help me in the last few years.

Why do you think that it’s essential for young artists to have these opportunities?

I think it can be really hard for artists to integrate themselves into a community, especially if they are not part of a studio group. UK Young Artists gave me a platform and an opportunity to make new friends and interact with likeminded artists who where at a similar stage in their career to me. I think the opportunities UK Young Artists provide are an intense burst of activity that artists should thoroughly make the most of as they can provide a crucial platform at vital stage in your practice. 

Why have you chosen to support UK Young Artists by becoming an ambassador?

I think it is really important for young artists to have access to mentors that aren’t that much older than them, but who have been in the arts a few years longer and who can share their good and bad experiences. It’s amazing what you can learn in a couple of years! I have chosen to support UK Young Artists as an ambassador because I think everyone needs support, especially in that difficult transition between graduating from art school and emerging as an artist.


jonathan casciani