It is clear to see that Lauren Bevan’s work has a distinct, thought out process. Having trained at Brighton and the RCA, she has been able to experiment with myriad forms of art, from printmaking to sculpture. In fact, these experiments are visible in her work, from the sculptural element that is found within her paper works, to the almost mechanical silkscreen prints. The artist has always been fascinated by questioning human perception, and challenging what they are looking at, which commands the viewer to inspect the works and each of their minute details. Lauren makes her own dyes for her work, which are made using dehydrated berries, charcoal and soil, which is then added to the Fabiano paper, creating intricate details and textures to the pieces. In doing so, Lauren gives credit to the materiality of the paper itself, and questions the process of manipulating raw materials, with the human hand, into a mechanical, geometric design.
SuperGlue: Could you just tell us how you fell into art, how you wanted to do or your kind of journey?
Lauren Bevan: I did a foundation in Bristol and from there I went to Brighton. My BA at Brighton was in fine art and I specialised in printmaking before etching in my second year. That is when I got really into tone and depth, as well as ink and pigment, and from there the staining of the work and Japanese papers. I then went to the Royal College of Art and I’m just graduating this year. I started with a systematic, quite rigid approach, being very precise and mathematical based, in which the geometry was a huge part of it. Then it started to become a little bit more organic, a bit more handmade, and that’s when the juxtaposition between the natural hand making a straight line came in. I always had a language of geometry that I felt that was a good dialogue with work.
When it came to working with inks and it was either black or white. So, I started to think of making my own inks. I was working with paper and folding the paper was really interesting to me, seeing how the grain of the paper directed the fold and how that created a sculptural element to the work. It was fascinating because you could either fight with the paper or work with it, which then led me to experimenting and working with the material. What I found was that the paper, as with metal, has a natural way of working, it either wants to work with you, makes you force it, or work with the way that it wants to be held.
SG: Do you have a preference as to which way to work the material or is it just kind of like in the moment? Would you prefer to work with it and force the material? Or would you prefer to let it do the work?
LB: I found that whilst experimenting. There’s a few different types of paper; such as plant fiber paper, which is usually Japanese paper; paper made with wood pulp, which is a lot more rigid, and when you actually do the folds, there’s a clear tear in the paper. But my favorite paper to work with is cotton paper, which has got a softer approach. It’s got a much higher absorbency level, and once you’ve folded and folded it, after period of time, it acquires a textural feel to it, which is a lot more malleable, and you can then fold, bend, and it’s up to you how you position it.
SG: I see. As you say your pieces are almost sculptural, gaining a textural depth through the folds in the paper, or marks on metal. Where and when did that sculptural element become a feature of your work?
LB: I think that when I was doing etching, I noticed it. When you print with the plate, the embossed edge and the plate itself became just as much as the work as the print. I think that printmaking itself is an extension; it’s got to play between a 2D canvas and three dimensional plate, which I think creates this nice playful nature between the two. I was doing a blind embossing originally with the plates, so that’s also where the paper became sculpture within itself. When it came to exhibiting the work, I was playing with not framing it, having it slightly away from a wall to show the front and the back of the work. I think that’s when I fully started to look at the paper as not just two dimensional, and that it’s got a front and a back and the edges are just as important as the content of the piece. That’s why I use a very like monochromatic palette as well, because to me it’s all about the subtlety of the surface and does not detract from the materiality of the paper and the techniques.
SG: You mentioned earlier about the dying process within your work, could you expand on this?
LB: It’s really intricate. The exploration of materiality that is in the paper is built upon by digging into the hues is quite an interesting little. Shop brought inks are usually plastic based or they’ve got some sort of synthetic quality to them. So, I decided to make my own pigments and it transpired that the process almost mirrors the natural element of the paper itself. I pick blueberries, raspberries and gooseberries, whatever is around really; crush them, dehydrate them, crush them into pigment and mix them with coal, chalk, graphite. If I want more of a textural, grainy feel I’ll just pick up dirt from the ground and mix it in. I then use oils and water based liquids to then stain the piece, which takes about two to three days, depending on how dark you want the actual pigment, and depending if you even you want it. It’s quite laborious, but enjoyable!
I wanted to give credit to the paper itself. I wanted it all to flow and I wanted it to have a clear conversation of raw natural materials that are then brought back to the human hand and then manipulated and put back into a gallery space.
SG: You have drawn inspiration from a trip to Iceland, much like Maddie. Could you speak about your Icelandic experience maybe about the work that followed?
LB: The whole island is volcanic and there’s an abstract, geometric pattern that flows through the whole place; from the Cliff sides to the beaches there’s this repetition and this sort of angular, organic characteristic to the actual landscape itself. I used a camera to document my experience, which was a quick way of recording and almost like a drawing. But once those frames were taken out of Iceland itself, they were quite like abstracted. I then to transcribe these images of the rocks into screen printing.
SG: The finished prints follow with your ideas of testing the materiality, they almost acquire a wood like aesthetic, despite being rock. In fact, quite often your pieces look like concrete when it’s paper, acquiring an illusionary quality that tests the material.
LB: I like questioning the human perception, challenging what they’re originally looking at. I think that’s super important to my work and I enjoy inviting the viewer to inspect the work more.
SG: Could you explain your work for the exhibition, such as the book you are exhibiting?
LB: The book is called Submerged and is made from A5 steel sheets that I’ve exposed to acid during the etching process. For the process, I let the let oxidation happen afterwards after the resting. So, as the book gets older and time goes on, external factors are exposed to it, such as humidity in the air or heat. Whether it’s kept in a box or out on a surface, it’ll change. It’s got kind of a life of its own and it’ll take on its own aesthetic due to. After this I engraved a romanticized, sort of poetic dialogue into the book, which I extracted from a chemistry textbook. For something so rigid I have been able to give it a human spin, through the inclusion of these words. I think it’s relatable to the way that I work anyway. It’s also quite different for me to have something that’s so portable, compared to my usual large scale works. There is a duality in the work, from the rigidity of the steel and the formality of a chemistry textbook to the fragility of the work and the poetic nature of the words.
SG: We are working with the charity Shape Arts, which is an art therapy charity, an I know that you are soon to be art therapist. Could you talk about your experience of art therapy?
LB: Yeah, I trained at the British Academy and I’ve done my first lot of training to be an art therapist. I’ve chosen to specialize working with children and I’m working with a private practice starting the end of this summer. I just love it, I think it’s great. It’s a really nice way of offering a new language for people and to be able to communicate in therapeutic manner. I find that with my work there’s a like a meditative process to it, it all comes together and allows people to have space to have a communication pathway that.
SG: Given that SuperGlue21 is part of the SuperGlue Collective, which is founded upon collaboration. What do you think about collaboration?
LB: I think collaboration is great. It’s really exciting and I think, especially if you work privately in your practice, it’s really nice to have other inspirations, opinions, people around you. It’s great to have a community and it’s really nice to see your work against other people’s work, creating a new dialogue through different like juxtapositions of paintings against each other
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