Diane Gerrard talks to Fiona Masterton
Fiona: On your website, you explain how you are interested in ‘how an image can be fixed at a point in time, but real life is subject to decay and ruin over time? Can you tell us a bit more about this and why this is something that interests you
Diane: This falls out of my interest in memory and its role in the creative imagination. I think many artists are prompted to plough the field of their memory. The saying that “memory makes us what we are as well as what we see” seems to me to have truth and I am keen to unravel this through my work. Memories can be dynamic, they may fade quickly, reoccur, be vivid, fragmented, may change with time, but they can also persist because of some unresolved issue. So this is where for me time interacts with memory. A created image may fix an aspect of memory or an object at a point in time - then the historical object stays in the present, but in the real Now the destructive processes of time will have continued its effect; (also eventually the art work itself!)
So memories provide me with a source of images that my imagination can work with. Memory links the Now to the past and I am attracted by the visual effects and results of the past on the Now - attracted by time’s impact, and in this way for me time and memory are fused.
Fiona: Looking at your art, you very often seem to focus on people; individuals, groups and ordinary everyday scenes. Why is this subject matter important to you?
Diane : It is the everyday from which our memories are formed, from our interactions with sentient creatures, events, things in our life; we can be engaged or repulsed by them and our emotional responses may transfer into memories.
Fiona :Your paintings comes across as nostalgic and dream-like? It is figurative but often it also borders on abstraction. Can you explain a little about the processes you use to achieve this and why?
Diane: As I have said I find memories can fade and change over time. In my work I try to explore the visual results of the impact of time. The effect of the elements on frescos are an obvious illustration of this process, and sometimes I use a process in my work that I hope can be read similarly. I do not want to simply work with the concept and may be physically time age or destroy the actual work, I want to make something that transposes the idea into new work.
Sometimes I make a detailed and “finished” drawing or painting and then photograph and print it. I then use the printed image to make a “digital” mono print. I may scrape away the surface of a work, sometimes alter my work digitally, and may rework the altered image. The result in all cases can be a broken, or fractured, or stripped down image that I hope leaves a sense of what could have been effaced over time. Recently I have been working with watercolours and seeing how far the flow of the medium can liberate the image.
Fiona: Who are some of your art influences in terms of other artists and what do you like about their work?
Diane: As a start, in answer to this, it has to be one of my tutors at art school but I like in particular the works of the inter and post war British artists such as Sutherland, Paul Nash, John Piper, Prunella Clough and then a number of early and later German painters and print makers. From an earlier period there is George Grosz, Otto Dix. I am off to Edinburgh to see the Emil Nolde exhibition as that will not be coming to England and I do like his watercolours. Then coming more contemporary, those German artists who studied in East Germany (as was) and came over to the West; Gerhard Richter, George Baselitz, Anselm Kiefer. I am attracted to a dystopian view and I can relate in part to what Baselitz says below about how his approach was formed, but I see only on television and the internet the actual destruction of a society by war, so I come to that sense of the “apocalyptic” through empathy and the effects of time.
"I was born into a destroyed order, a destroyed landscape, a destroyed people, a destroyed society. And I didn't want to reestablish an order: I had seen enough of so-called order. I was forced to question everything, to be 'naive', to start again,” (Baselitz – interview from 1995)
Fiona: What exhibitions have you been to recently that have inspired you?
Diane: I am rather eclectic with my influence and references. I am interested in history, so many of the exhibitions I go to see have an historical context. I like the British Museum and the exhibitions there that have stayed with me are ‘Scythians – warriors of ancient Siberia’, which was in 2017, and ‘Rodin and the art of ancient Greece’ which was earlier this year. Both were so comprehensive and interesting and at the Rodin exhibition his work was juxtaposed with the Greek sculptures that influenced him; that one was so beautiful.
Fiona: How would you like to see your work and art practice develop in the future?
Diane: I am interested in the way that brain science seems to be progressing and developing, in improving our understanding of the brain and its role in storing and making memory. I do not have any science background but how the short term memory transfers into the long term is one of the processes I am interested in. I want to see how this growing interest may feed, intuitively, through into my work - perhaps deepening the concepts with which I am engaged but changing, liberating the images in my work. I have read that “art is a balance between breaking new ground and recalling the past” so I want my work to reflect that balance.