“Janet Sainsbury and I were well matched as a correspondence pair. We were interested in similar themes – both of us concerned with the male gaze, particularly the narratives of famous dead male artists such as Alberto Giacometti, Yves Klein and Henry Moore. We discussed the photographs of these artists in their studios and the depictions of women within their works. We corresponded by sending letters, postcards and pieces we had created, as well as regularly chatting on Zoom. I learnt a lot from Janet – I was in awe of the tension in her previous paintings – the viewer is not sure if something is about to happen, or if something has transpired already. What she leaves out is as interesting as what is seen in the paintings. In my drawings, it seems everything has happened right at that moment and nothing has been left out. But curiously we are both quite private individuals, screening ourselves using different techniques to come to quite similar conclusions.
The drawings I made for this project are both a reflection of our conversations about male artists, and the bond we developed through the correspondence. One of the images is filled with clues; conversely the other image is stripped back to just the two of us. This project has generated a whole new body of work and I am delighted I was paired with Janet.”
Letchworth - If you were to straighten out all my curly words in this letter (2021) pastel on paper
Exeter - Henry has been on the fringes of my focus, (2021) pastel on paper
Janet Sainsbury paints imagined situations populated by a cast of characters drawn from art history and popular culture. Turning the spotlight on an eclectic range of artists, writers, smokers and pop stars they become her subjects. She aims to use portraiture as a means to understand and challenge the status quo, creating alternative stories that dig beneath the surface of the familiar.
My artwork for Correspondence 01 consists of a dyptich for each venue; a self-portrait and a portrait of Freya Pocklington, my paired artist. Being paired with an artist was intense and inspiring. I really enjoyed getting to know Freya and her work, it was particularly interesting to hear her talk about the personal stories behind her paintings which enabled me to really connect with her work. We developed a relationship of trust and honesty, which we decided was necessary in order to develop our understanding of each other and allow us to create meaningful portraits. We took risks about what we revealed and shared and through this I learnt what I felt comfortable with. Communicating through letters allowed us to be more considered than on zoom, this resulted in idiosyncratic and funny exchanges. Through letters I felt a connection to the past and was reminded how much I enjoy writing and receiving physical letters in the post. We used randomly selected phrases from our letters to create the titles for our artworks.
The parameters of this project provided me with an opportunity to play around with some subtle shifts in my way of working. I decided to paint Freya’s portrait based on memories of our zoom meetings, this approach also influenced how I painted myself. This resulted in a pared back, unnaturalistic palette combined with decorative and abstract elements that related symbolically to my understanding of Freya and our relationship.
I enjoyed exploring and re-visiting artists and texts that arose from our conversations, such as Kiki Smith. Our approach to making work is similar and we discovered many shared themes and motifs – questioning the female/male gaze; the expressive use of hands and smoking; working with personal narratives and referencing art history. Our discussions generated a lot of ideas around portraiture and representations of the figure, and we plan to continue developing projects together in the future.
Letchworth - I’ve Only Lied Once/Do You Really Have a Ring like this, (2021), acrylic & ink on 2 ply panels
Exeter - I Do Funny Walks/A bad job of it, ha, (2021), acrylic & ink on 2 ply panels