Claire Baily interview with Traction Magazine
21 October 2016

Claire Baily’s solo exhibition, ‘Dream On’, was on show at Castor Projects, London from 16 September - 8 October 2016. Straddling somewhere between sculpture and painting, it saw Baily using a finely honed material language to navigate and explore power dynamics found in interior architectures. Here she discusses her work in the show and the inspiration that drives it with Charlotte Barnard for Traction.

Traction Magazine - There is a constant reference to architectural interiors throughout your body of work. I read this as an assignation and exploration of the socio-affective qualities that these spaces create. Is this something that you feel is an active part of your working concerns? And if so, please could you discuss this?

Claire Baily - Interiors of various sorts have preoccupied my work for some time.  Whether they are domestic, commercial or other, I find there is an exhaustive list of material to work with. 

For me, the internal spaces that architecture creates sees the fusion of art and design and it is the curation of these internal spaces that I find interesting.  The role of the curator in this context, the interior designer or the architect seems inextricably linked to a social responsibility and power.  Empowered with communicating an atmosphere through an arrangement of details, decisions and forms, and the implications of these decisions, would seem very important. 

In recent years I have become particularly sensitive to the modern over sensualising of space and form, and the marketing of that desire into a commercial realm.  

TM - Your work in ‘Dream On’ at Castor Projects carries a slick nod to early 20th Century design; the press release mentions a 'resonance’ with the Art Deco period and goes on to discuss the period’s combining of traditional craft with burgeoning machine technologies and materials. What is it about that era of design that so engages you and what is it about that era’s relationship to our own that prompts you to engage with its motifs?

CB - Art deco was a period of totality.  Some may say it evoked an aesthetic belief system of sorts and it’s this concept that underlies my interest in this period. The intense detailing of Art Deco architecture and interiors can create a wildly materially charged situation, where you almost wonder how somebody might navigate everyday life around that. It almost becomes theatrical. 

For the show at Castor Projects, it was this level of detail that I wanted to explore, alongside quite reductive but committed material pairings.  I wanted the repeated and specific manipulation of my chosen materials to start to create their own internal belief system and identity, which I hoped created a somewhat immersive experience. 

The combination of traditional craft and technology has been happening in my work for a while. Combining traditional techniques, such as plaster sledging with silicone moulds and laser cutting, are all part of my working process and my commitment to making objects.  

TM - The forms you have used throughout 'Dream On’, particularly present in work such as ‘Majorette’, bring to mind images of circuitry and power boards; things that connect and create. Is this something that resonates and if so could you expand on this?

CB - Yes, that is something that resonates.

I’ve been looking a lot at the specifics of manufacture and the underlying craft within that. I like the idea that the work may abstractly allude to an industry of some kind, and that pieces within the work may look like something could be generated from them. I am interested in transforming quite arbitrary everyday motifs that we are surrounded by into abstract ornaments or decoration.  

TM - Could you possibly elaborate on your interest in the transforming of the quotidian that you touched upon in your answer to my last question?

CB - Only slightly, I hope to keep these motifs abstract and loose, some you may recognise, others will have been mutated so that you don’t.  

 

TM - I’m also interested in hearing more about your position on what you called the: “…modern over sensualising of space and form, and the marketing of that desire into a commercial realm.” As an artist, where do you place your position within that?

CB - I think I take more of a position of intrigue and interest than pure criticality, but of course, there is a critical nature formed in the work towards these themes too.  

Trends, and the movement and transformation of trends, provide a lot of material for me to work with. The transformation of once avant-garde ideas into the more mainstream realm is a swift and all-encompassing process in Todays’ world. I feel like trends are almost taken to the point of saturation by the media very quickly, and then we are forced to retract and re-group. The cycle is always spinning and the ‘new’ is always emerging. 

The particular trends I have been interested in are those based around interior design, domestic and commercial interiors, and everything related with that: the seductive selling of a modern identity through decor and objects. I’ve noticed a lot recently how the advertising of design products is blurring into a much more abstract realm more akin to art. Function seems to be taking a slight back seat in the rise of the more multi-disciplinary object and a more abstract display.

TM - You mentioned that you’ve been: “…looking a lot at the specifics of manufacture and the underlying craft within that.” This led me to think of the classic, oppositional relationship between craft and art that so spurred on Modernism. Is this rhetoric something present in your work and, if so, in what way do you feel this exploration is important to contemporary times? 

CB - My exploration definitely seeks to question this relationship further. I think the way to put it for me, would be that in my work craft and art have a friendship where one scratches the others back. I think in truth this reflects a lot of the ways in which craft and art interact in the wider world too. Of course, there is a choice at some point about how far down which branch you want to go, but I don’t think they are completely divided disciplines. Both can be possible in the making of interesting work, whether it be shown in a more art or craft context.|

Sometimes there is snobbery towards craft in the art world, but craft is everywhere we look, and I don’t think art world inhabitants should so readily undermine it.

TM - Carrying on from my last question, I’m interested in the idea of labour, both affective and physically which, to me, your work appears to discuss. I come to this from your discussion of 'crafted interiors’ and your meticulous interrogation of materials. Is this something that you feel is an active concern in your work and if so, could you elaborate on this?

CB - I think the physical labour is more of a pre-requisite of my work than a concern. I’m very much concerned with making, and with that there comes an undeniable physicality that the work emits and carries with it.


TM - Where do you see this avenue of investigation taking you from here?

CB - I feel like there is a lot to digest from ‘Dream On’, so it’s hard to say at present. Certainly further development into the language between metal and specific cast forms, structure, detail and stripped back material pairings.

TM - Finally, what have you got coming up?

CB - A brief pause before getting back into the workshop.

Interview by Charlotte Barnard.