Birdcage, Kate Murdoch 2009
Very occasionally, you see the work of another artist and it makes you go 'Yes! that's what I'm trying to do ...' This is exhilarating and a tiny bit depressing, as (and certainly in this case) they are often doing it with more clarity and effectiveness than you are. Kate Murdoch's work does this for me and I was absolutely delighted when she agreed to be interviewed for this series. I'm desperate to meet Kate in person for a coffee post lockdown to ask her more about her work, but for now this will have to do.
Tell me about your work - what do you make and why? I work primarily with found objects and what I make is more often than not inspired by my personal experience. I'm interested in objects as clear indicators of the passing of time and their permanence in the world, versus the fragility of human existence. Themes of love and remembrance are a constant thread running through, celebrating and preserving the memory of others, particularly family members. My practice includes assemblage, collage, installation, photography and some interactive/performance work.
I've always been fascinated in the narrative associated with objects - their emotional, versus their monetary value and worth. These themes are central to what I make and frequently open up opportunities for personal and political discussion around class, gender and privilege, as well as audience participation. It's these conversations that excite and motivate me to keep going.
How did you come to be an artist? Establishing myself as an artist grew from a decision I made some years back, when my children were small - to stop what I was doing, take stock and make some radical changes to a lifestyle that had become increasingly stressful. Creating things has always helped me switch off from my tendency towards over-thinking. I started some short courses at a local community college with a brilliant inspiring tutor and things just started to grow from there in terms of making work. I started a blog on the a-n Artists Network at the outset and have managed to keep both the art making and the blog writing going ever since.
Can you tell me a bit more about your creative process? The selection and placing of objects is at the core of the work I make and can be a long, drawn out process. I am particular about the material I select and while some work can be made in a matter of seconds with a quick and simple intervention, often a finished piece of work will have been changed and tinkered with numerous times. I frequently write about the creative process behind my work in my blog; what inspired me to make it and the narrative associated with the objects selected. ˜Keeping It Going' provides a pretty comprehensive outline of my journey as an artist over the past few years in terms of this, I think. You can read it here.
My raw material for my art making comes from a vast, lifetime accumulation of personal collections â€“ vintage clothing, books, ornaments and anything else that I'd found appealing and have salvaged over the years. Most of the artwork I've created has come out of the sifting and sorting process, from small assemblages to larger interactive installations.
When are you at your most creative? Normally I work in a studio. I have a half-share of a space which is within walking distance of my home. Undoubtedly, I'm at my most creative when I'm there, making work - away from all distractions - alone, quiet and focused. Otherwise, site-specific work gets made outside of the studio, as and when the opportunity arises.
Do you use a sketchbook or anything else to capture your ideas / thoughts / develop your work? I use photographs to record thoughts and ideas, colour palettes, etc. I've started several sketchbooks over the years but never seem to be able to maintain them, probably because of my regular, consistent use of my blog. I use photography to record thoughts & ideas and my blog as a means of recording & developing them.
What helps you to be productive? To keep going, essentially - keep making and the rest will follow. There's also nothing like being forced to address things to make you productive, something that's happening to me at this particular point in time! I have big life changes ahead of me in terms of needing at some point soon to downsize to a smaller house. Having such a huge collection of stuff and the constant need to review & reduce is what's currently keeping me going; motivating me to keep sifting and sorting and making decisions about what I can/can't get rid of. Storage space is expensive and I realise that holding onto such a huge volume of matter just isn't viable. The positive side of all this is that, it's while being involved in this process, new ideas often come to the surface and new work is made.
If you sell your work how do you sell it? I rarely do, is the simple answer to that, though there have been occasional sales of small scale work. But I do get paid to present my work, particularly if it is performance-based and involves audience participation.
Is there anything that you do to support your practice that you consider to be an important factor in your success? I use social media a lot for networking - Twitter and Instagram, particularly. I've become increasingly deaf over the past 2/3 years and while networking in noisy venues was never easy for me, it's recently reached a point where it almost feels like a waste of time. I've always enjoyed writing and never underestimate the value of maintaining my blog on the a-n (The Artists Network) site. I've met many artists and curators over the years through it and some of the connections have resulted in being offered to exhibit my work in group shows.
Where do you get your inspiration from? I'm inspired by the work of a lot of artists such as Sophie Calle, Susan Hiller and Annette Messager. To name but a few. But my main inspiration I would say, comes from my own life experiences and all that it involves - the things that keep me curious, essentially and what I'm interested in exploring further - themes around motherhood, family, love and loss, remembrance, female identity, class, politics and so on.
You can see more of Kate's work on her website and follow her on instagram and twitter