Do not call her an abstract painter, for the label does not do her justice. Born in Manchester in 1975, a graduate in Fine Art Painting from the Royal College of Art, London, Katy Moran is in fact more of a figurative painter in disguise than an abstractionist tout court.
Renouncing to any blindly imitative narration, her work aims to “compose a sensation”, relying on a process that by definition defies what we may traditionally call “a proper naturalistic representation”; where this latter appeals to the intellect, the former speaks to the viewer’s imagination and opens to multiple interpretations.
By surrendering to the sensation that springs before us through a series of expressionist brushstrokes, a rich colour palette, and an array of found objects and elements of collage, we enter a different world – the artist’s world – and partake of her very own vision. If only for a fleeting moment, we are allowed to see through Moran’s eyes and therefore glimpse – and perhaps discern – “the figures” that hide beneath an appearance of abstraction.
Accompanied by a full colour publication, printed in a limited edition of 500 copies, a limited edition print, and an educational events programme of related talks and workshops, the exhibition – curated by Ziba Ardalan, Founder/Director of Parasol unit – brings together a large selection of work from Moran’s early career onwards.
I would like to start the interview asking about yourself; when was your first encounter with art? And when did you realise you wanted to be an artist?
I loved drawing Romans and religious pictures at infant school. One of my earliest memories was being admonished at school for drawing a face on the sun in a big picture of Jesus and his disciples which was to be a backdrop for our first Holy Communion.
My two passions in life were middle-distance running and art. In the end, art took over. The John Moores painting prize in 1997 and the Sensation exhibition which I saw in my early 20s had a lasting effect on me. Artists were at the forefront of this exciting moment in the history of popular culture.
What artists are you feeling at the moment?
I was very impressed by the late Conrad Marca-Relli’s, ’The Battle’. Also Jasper John’s ’White Flag’ painting which I saw at the Met on a recent trip to New York. I also saw great work by Lee Krasner and Egon Schiele.
What does painting mean to you? And what do you think its intrinsic potential is?
I think the most important property of paint is to do with the way it affects us at a deeper level. These ways of seeing and feeling are very hard to know or to articulate but I think the important thing is that we keep feeling them. I don’t have to justify its existence.
The press release that accompanies the show underlines your interest for the figurative; yet figuration is not the first term to pop into my mind when looking at your work. Can you tell us more about this concern of yours?
I’ve always been concerned with the representational. In recent years I have gone about a different way of achieving that. I work in the tradition of the surrealists and abstract expressionists in terms of utilising accident and chance. I am open to accessing imagery from the unconscious.
The imagery that can potentially come from these places may be harder to recognise or feel an affinity to. Perhaps that is why the viewer has trouble. A lot of the imagery I settle on comes through by accident and change, and also skill and technique.
When the figurative referent becomes too intrusive, so to speak, you turn the canvas upside down and start working from a different perspective. Can you briefly talk us through your creative process?
Earlier in my career as an artist, I made a finished piece of work in one sitting and was very concerned with the work having a spontaneous energy. Once this sitting was complete and I could see a representational image, I couldn’t go back and consciously work into this image. The image had been configured, often by accident, and in a different moment. To go back to it would mean the energy would be different and the marks too conscious.
Speaking of the canvas, may I ask about your predilection for working on a “modest scale”?
The illusional reality that I aim to create seems to work more effectively on this small scale. By that I mean, its size in relation to the viewer and the distance which the viewer views the work from.
Your most recent paintings include found elements and collage materials; what made you want to introduce such elements into your work? And how is this related to your interest for the figurative?
Collage allowed me to get around this problem. I didn’t have to worry about the energy of the painted mark because the material was separate. The collage allowed me to complete the painting and also push the representational element.
I often use my own painted material – like fragments of previous, rejected paintings – and re-appropriating parts of this work allows me to build a new canvas. It allows me to get the work to a place of interest more quickly.
As a last question, what’s next for you? What do you have lined up for 2015?
Beside showing at Parasol unit, in London, I am currently exhibiting at Andrea Rosen in New York. I have forthcoming group shows in the United States, in Aspen, Colorado and in Korea. Otherwise, I will be in the studio making new work.
Katy Moran will be running until 8th March at Parasol unit, 14 Wharf Road, London N1 7RW
Words by Jacopo Nuvolari