Making people not have a care with Suzy Babington

Suzy Babington

Lives and works in Leeds, West Yorkshire, UK.


2011-2014  BFA Slade School Of Fine Art, London

What inspired you to be an artist? When did you begin expressing yourself through creative avenues?

I have always been making things and painting since I was little and it’s very much been a natural progression, it’s a very immersive rewarding experience. As well I think art is a way of figuring things out and getting your head around something that is totally self-motivated which has always been my kind of thinking. I’ve always enjoyed finding ideas and ways to go about things, even if it was in play and that’s a bit like art.

Growing up I was always trying to find different cultures be it through music or art so it’s been very organic with few notable striking moments. My family home is caked in paintings so I think that’s shown me the initial handling of the material and curiosity. Perhaps seeing some painters works at 18 turned me into a painter, though at the time it was works that were new to me, like Phoebe Unwin, Neal Tate and the wild drawings of Dieter Roth. My college was big on painting, so I made some big paintings and applied to art school.

Tell us about your artistic journey: where did you receive an art education, or are you are self-taught or currently studying? Where are you from and where do you currently live and practice art?

I studied at The Slade School of Fine Art where I did my BFA in painting graduating in 2014. I went straight to London at 18 years old from A level so skipping foundation so I was very lucky to be in London and experienced a big art ‘shake and shock’. I am from Huddersfield, West Yorkshire, a very working class town in the Pennines, I feel very torn between these two places, the connectedness of London and the head space in Yorkshire. I’ve come back this way to the nearby city of Leeds recently, where I have a studio and artistic practice but now I’m ready to get away again and often fantasize and plan for overseas studying or flippantly moving to New York, somewhere where the intensity of art is simply incomparable to Leeds.

What ideas are you currently exploring in your work?

I think colour is a very pure experience for me, so that’s an on going tendency to use a lot of it, especially vivid yellow as the colour of over the top optimism. The application is about the attitude of the work, or the stance of a joke. The aim is to be making people not have a care. This is now coming more clearly into the imagery I use as I find myself recently trying to capture imagery clearly so the works are becoming more pictorial, depicting self made fantasies like the one I’m working on of the inside scene of a spaceship as though it is a scene. I like mind bending, conflicting imagery that slips between being one thing and another as though it is transformative to an imaginary place, depicting fictional figures and objects as though they are a parallel possibility or a manifestation of my mind. There is a lot of confusion in the dual imagery but that might be a telling metaphor for human endeavour. I really get an ecstacy from working and making so I’m very much working with just having faith and producing whatever spark I have in that moment, perhaps the works exhume that energy.

Which mediums do you use in your work, and what appeals to you about them?

I use oil, both very cheap Pebeo tubes and more expensive finer pigmented ones. Pebeo is great for squeezing straight on, and also applying extremely thickly with a brush as it’s so far removed from traditional oil, it moulds like Plasticene with a brush so I can sculpt the paint as well as apply it as an image, utilizing both flat and thick areas. Wet on wet paint application becomes a convenience if I want to change something but the underlayer is already so thick, the only answer is to add the next layer on even thicker- they can be as deep as 5 cm in parts. I scrape paint off, and put it back on as large blobs or button like things. The excessive ridiculousness seen in the paint becomes part of its humour, the notion of taking it as far as you can. I don’t use any mediums, the block colour is intense enough and I don’t find the appeal of slowing down and considering colour enough so have the time to mix them generally, I think something like colour is a spontaneous enjoyment thing. I do however like the idea of cleaning up my act- so I’m considering mediums a bit more and might go there. The squeezing straight from the tube creates a vulgar, excessive both ugly but very clean untouched line and I put these up against murky screwed up areas where the paint has picked up other colours.

What’s next for you? Feel free to share any of your future plans such as exhibitions, travels, residencies, collaborations or any other interesting information relating to your art career.

A big highlight this year has been showing with Chris Shaw at 3 X Three Works, where I showed 9 large paintings in three gallery spaces at the new gallery location in Scarborough, UK… even better was the privilege of making the works. La Dia Blesse and 28th December 1980 have been two recent group exhibitions with extremely talented artists as well as my own curated group exhibitions; Dik Piks and My Head is Round so my Thoughts can Change Direction which gave me a great pride to host.
My upcoming art plans are to help see ‘Painting Programme’ through, a programme (about painting) hosted by myself and other studio holders at our space Assembly House, where we have invited painters/artists to curate as well as having involvement from YNGSPC on the final curated show… these shows are based here in Leeds. Residencies are on my tick list, as well as looking into alternative educations in Europe, or perhaps an MA. I’m tied down at the moment with day job stuff so I’ve got to be sensible and wait a while. I live and work with my boyfriend and fellow artist Jack Towndrow, we are a little unit very supportive of each other, my venture wherever will likely be with him- we have already lived in three cities together and we’re 26.

Are you inspired by the work of your peers or anyone else in particular?

I was very fortunate at art school to meet and work with amazing talented people who were extremely bold and convicted in what they do as well as having the skills and clear perceptions to really just cut through the shit and do some honest making, I will always be very impressed by these people I am lucky enough to call friends.

Can you share any fun facts about you or something that you like to do apart from making art?

I often escape to the countryside for fresh air and views, or take a very cold dip in some wild water.


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