Alice Freeman, Corrosive series 11, 2013. Etching on paper.
A graduate of Camberwell College of Arts, Alice Freeman’s practice incorporates sculpture and etching in its drive to re-create the organic degradation of substances found in nature. Currently undertaking a residency in Siena, Italy, she takes a break to speak to Traction about the challenges and rewards of working between the boundaries of the two- and three-dimensional.
How did you become interested in the process of etching?
For me, etching is a meticulous and controlled process yet the outcome varies considerably depending on the conditions, and the role of the accidental becomes a part of the purposeful. There is an element of the chemical yet uncontrollable; a form of alchemy that I find potent and at times addictive.
In allowing your works to undergo ‘accidental’ chemical transformations, you mimic to some extent the process of natural evolution, yet in constructing these situations to allow for this process, you maintain a degree of control. How do you balance the need to regulate the process whilst allowing for the unexpected to occur?
Because the accidental plays such a vital role in this process it means that it becomes increasingly important when I start a new series of etchings to plan in detail the direction I want the work to take. I begin usually with a walk into the countryside; there I photograph anomalies within nature which don’t necessarily stand out immediately. I then set to work on creating a drawing roughly the same size as the metal plate I am going to work on. This process encompasses the photographs alongside drawings from life and also my imagination.
On completion of this stage, I run the image through the computer and print it to the exact scale of the plate. I am then ready to start the scrupulous process of copying the image to the plate and begin etching. This is when the work really starts to develop and grow of its own accord. I allow the accidents in etching to take over my own hand. I still keep an element of control: I decide which process to use and I decide which areas of the plate are to stay intact and which are to erode. However, the outcome is still a surprise to me. Each stage of the plate, when printed, is a new experience and there is always a hint of the unexpected.
Alice Freeman, Malodorous, 2013. Mixed media, latex, nylon, asphalt, expanding foam.
Your practice exists on two trajectories: that of the two-dimensional and that of the sculptural. In your opinion, where do these two bodies meet?
Due to the nature of the etching process and how I work with metal, I no longer think of these prints as two-dimensional forms. They have become sculptural in their own right. From straying away from the regulated straight lines of the etching plate and eroding the metal down to its core these images take on a three-dimensional quality. As my work is about materiality, texture, and process the combination of etching with sculpture is an interesting way of exploring how an etching can take on sculptural qualities and how a sculpture can become almost linear: a drawing in a space.
Whilst your two-dimensional works are fairly modest in scale, your sculptures at times take on gargantuan proportions. What is it about sculpture that allows this transition?
I always begin small in planning and creating, however as my ideas grow so does the work. I find it very difficult to work in a small scale. Even with the etchings, they are small perhaps in comparison to my sculptural work but they are the largest scale I could work with on the press at the time. I have just managed to get hold of a bigger press and so a new series of much larger etchings is underway as we speak.
However, I do feel that the etchings should always be smaller than the sculptures. The sculptural, for me, is about weight, impact and this friction between the beautiful and grotesque. The etchings hold elements of these ideas as well, however, they are also about the detail and the processes. In creating something a little smaller alongside the big and bold it encourages the viewer to really participate in the work. I have found the etchings can hold their own next to the sculptural and it creates an exciting dynamic between the two mediums.
Where can we see your work in the coming months?
I am currently showing in a group exhibition in the Herbert Smith Freehills & Works in Print Art Prize of 2013 at the Exchange House in Primrose Street, London. Also in December my work will be touring in a group exhibition with Mark Dion and Amy Yoes.
Visit http://www.alicefreeman.com for more on Alice Freeman’s work.