Lily Hawkes interview with Traction Magazine
24 July 2016

Lily Hawkes is an emerging artist working in London. Through her sculptural practice she explores the boundaries and tensions between the body and architecture found within a cityscape. Here she talks with Charlotte Barnard for Traction Magazine about her recent work ‘Flex’, currently showing at Castor Projects, London. 

Traction Magazine - Initially, I was wondering if you would mind discussing your relationship to the materials you use? 

Lily Hawkes - I have a really physical, hands-on approach to making. I’m not really a planner when it comes to making, so problems that arise get worked out physically in the studio through an editing process. I normally have an idea of the two material aspects that it will be comprised of, nearly always metal combined with some kind of softer, tactile element, and the piece grows from there.

TM - What is it about the dichotomous materials you use, the organic and bodily vs the slick industrial, that attracts you? 

LH - I’m drawn to the visual relationship between hard and soft, their juxtaposing material qualities can create something that is simultaneously confronting and seductive. I’m interested in the day-to-day moments when we make contact with architecture, when the edges of our cities push against our bodies. The works are a kind of re-creation of those moments, so those opposing elements are necessary for me to explore those interactions.

TM - You consistently return to the same colour palette, could you discuss what drives this?

LH - Really, it’s a return to the same concept. The works centre around exploring how we interact with architectural structures, so the pink fabric represents bodies or flesh, and the metal components reference the cityscape. In the past, I’ve used a more muted pink but it has evolved into a more cartoon-saturated version of (my) skin. The textures are equally important to me; I like a dry, powdery texture, not the moist rubberiness you might associate with flesh. The representations of flesh are not at all gory in that way.

TM - In your most recent work ‘Flex’ at Castor Projects, we see you turn away from the clean presentation of the inorganic material, as previously found in your work, instead seeing a perhaps irreverential and passive-aggressive treatment of them. What do you think to this reading of it and could you discuss this change in tack

LH - I think that’s mainly to do with how energetically the piece was made. I knew i wanted the sculpture to brace the room, which is quite irregular in shape, so lots of the structural building was done in the install period. The manner in which something is made is often visible in the finished product, and that’s something I embrace, but it also wasn’t a conscious decision. it’s just the way the materials behaved in that scenario.

I do think the piece feels more fetishised than my other work, especially down in the basement, and there is definitely an aggression associated with that. There’s also more implied movement, I wanted the work to feel performative, to seem more functional and less representational than some of my other pieces. 

The spaces I’m referencing in this piece are more active too; I was influenced by structures I saw in playgrounds and gyms whereas previously they have often been shapes found in the home. Perhaps referencing these active spaces, rather than passive domestic ones, contributed to the slightly different reading of the work.

TM - Your consistent use of the same materials in your work brings to mind Deleuze’s idea of the ‘ritournelle’ or ‘refrain’. Is this something that you feel is present in your practice as an active force?

LH  - It’s not a term that I’m familiar with, but it is sort of formulaic in a sense; there’s a repetition that runs through my body of work and also within the individual works. There is definitely something cathartic about the repetition that exists within the work, a sort of ordered chaos.

To make art has always been a kind of purging for me, it’s a decision to deal with something internal externally, in a physical way. Louise Bourgeois said ‘I am a collector of spaces and memories’. I relate to this, our memories are heavily tied to architectural spaces, particularly domestic spaces. The work is born out of autobiographical experiences and memories, which act as a starting point; remembering is also quite a repetitive process. I create an enactment of a moment from my own experience for people to re-experience and relate to their own experiences and memories.

TM - I’m really interested in how you come to title your work. They all seem to have a sense of adolescent playfulness and quite often tongue-in-cheek sexuality

LH - The playful titles are a way to undermine the seriousness of the work. I think when people see labor in something they tend to over conceptualise it. Honestly, it’s a very instinctual material based process, exploring quite simple observations, and I want it to be experienced in that way. Titling is an opportunity to set the tone of the work, which is quite often playful and cheeky. I’m sure it’s also a reflection of my personality, a reflection on the way I feel about my practice. It’s slightly absurd but also incredibly important to me.