Holly Hendry joins the Young Creatives to talk about colour schemes based on Bexhill brick works, making it up as you go along, the excitement of sharing your work with others and how enthusiasm will carry you further than you might expect.

Young Creatives: Holly Hendry welcome to the Young Creatives, thank you so much for being here. One of the many reasons we invited you to join us was that you make some brilliant work that we really like and the other reason is that you have been to Bexhill and visited the De La Warr Pavilion.

Holly Hendry: Thank you, yes, many a time, I’ve been quite a lot of times.

YC: Always great when an artist has been here!

HH: It’s been on my mind a lot recently because I was supposed to be having a show there that was supposed to of opened last week but –

YC: oh cool

HH: yeah yeah, very exciting, I’ve been visiting a lot and spending time there, thinking about the spaces in and around the gallery and then suddenly everything changes and you have to rethink everything – a bit like how you guys have changed how you’re working on this New Rituals project.

The works I make are usually really specific to a location, so now I have all these things that I’ve made that are supposed to be in the De La Warr but now they’re not, it’s quite strange to have them not in the place they were intended to be in.

YC: I’ve got a question, have you got any colours or colour palette that you like to use or find yourself using over again when you make your work?

HH: Good question, a few times this question has come up and people maybe get the wrong impression that I enjoy working only with pastel-like colours. For one show I did, I used lots of greens, pinks and purples because I was really thinking about candied, cartoon ideas which had come out of other bits of work I’d made where I’d been mixing household paints and anything that makes a colour to plaster.

When plaster dries all the water leaves it so the colours get lighter. From there I seemed to make a sort of language that seemed to be all chalky and related to the content – I think it’s weird and I love it when that happens when your thinking merges with your making and things happen that you weren’t planning. 

It ends up saying more than what you would end up saying with your mouth.

This was when I was making work for a show in Newcastle, where I’ve spent some time living and I was thinking a lot about flatness, fullness, underneath and up-above and I was thinking about what is underneath you whilst you’re on the third floor of a big gallery, the Baltic in Newcastle.

 I try and use colour to create an idea of an environment or place that might take you somewhere else. I was watching a lot of cartoons, like ‘Who Framed Roger Rabbit’, the film where you have humans bodies in real life with cartoons and animated creatures and how that ‘cartoonified’ existence makes us as humans more fleshy and vulnerable which is something that’s explored in the film anyway. So the colours became a language of the cartoon world, and then I was shoving bits of rock and wood in my sculptures to make them of this world and bring it back down to the earth.

 I was a bit wary of only using a particular colour palette as I didn’t want to become an artist that only uses these certain colours, I’m always looking for ways to expand the colours I’m using.

 Spending time in Bexhill, on the coastline and at the Pavilion helped me do that, I was spending time at the Brickworks on Turkey Road, I don’t know if anyone knows it?

YC: I do! I live right near there.

HH: Thats great, so you know it really well, great maybe I can get some inside information on it! hahahah. Well you probably know all this better than me, but the fault line there on the cliffs has all these amazing greens and reds of the clays that you can see along with all the different colours of the aggregates that they put into the bricks. So I was basing the works I’ve been making for the De La Warr Pavilion on these colours and the colour palette I’ve been using is informed by the colours of the brick works and the surrounding area.

YC; Hey that’s really cool! I’m just finishing off my final major project at college and have been thinking a lot about different colours and colour palettes for the different characters I’ve been creating.

HH: so what were you using the colours for?

YC: For clothes for the characters I’ve been designing, they’re not all human so I had to think about how I was communicating their personality and stories through their clothing and colours. They replaced expressions in a way I suppose.

HH: Thats really cool and totally related to what I was just talking about with the cartoons and how colours really effect what people get from something as well. Can I see the work?

YC: Of course, I’ll send you one across.

HH: Wow, how did you paint it? By hand? On a computer? They’re really great.

YC: I drew and painted in on the computer, thanks.

HH: Thanks for sharing, it’s really important to get used to sharing your work. The first few times it feels really strange and a bit freaky to show it to people but then you’ll find there’s a lot of enjoyment of people seeing your work. It ends up meaning a lot more than you’d expect and it gives you a lot back to hear peoples opinions and thoughts about your work.

YC:  Holly, your work is often large and in a public space, so you must get all and everyones opinions all the time, what’s that like?

HH: Yeah I do, I find it very intimidating at first and then I get used to it. It’s really important especially to have that engagement from other people when you put it out there. I spend a lot of time in my own head, in my studio, not really talking to other people about it. When I do get to put it out there that’s when I get to hear about what other people think and have conversations with people about it. It’s really important to know where your work sits in the world and not just how it sits in your head.

YC; That’s part of what we’ve been trying to do here, meeting every week online, either in video chat or in the chat bar just checking in, seeing what people have been up to, what we’ve been doing.

HH: That’s great to have a group like that.

YC; You said before about working with things in the house, like household paint and objects that you have to hand. David Blandy said a very similar thing when we spoke to him, we asked him when and why did you decide to start making art on video games? And he said he looked around him and used what was there.

HH: I think artists are really good at that, at using what’s around you in a different way than you’d expect and manipulating them to create. I’m really amazed and jealous at your abilities to create on the computer! I’d come to a masterclass on that!

YC: Thanks, maybe I will.

HH: I think it’s so great that you have a space to share your work with each other. I think it’s important to be able to talk about it amongst yourselves but also to be able to talk about your art to non art audiences. I teach at a university and you can end up bogged down in the language of it all and you might find this at your schools and colleges too, that you end up just learning that. Then when you try and share it with others you can only explain it in this strange language and that you need to be able to explain it how it actually comes across to everyone.

I have a priority that I hope my work is accessible. Accessible for them either to love it or hate it, to have an opinion on it, that’s very important.

 I haven’t actually talked to many people about the De La Warr project much so that’s why I might sound a bit garbled with it all but thanks for letting me get it out my head!

YC; Sometimes we all end up using specialist language that we forget that others don’t know or have even heard of before.

HH; I was just thinking, the characters that you’ve drawn on the computer, have you ever animated them?

YC; I have a bit, not much, I messed around with Rotoscoping once, that was pretty cool. I’d like to do more

HH: Ermm sorry, I have a dumb question what’s Rotoscoping??  hahah

YC: Oh yeah, of course I should have explained, (hahah) it’s where you take a video and you play it frame by frame and you draw over each frame so that it looks like this mix of stop motion and live action.

YC: I’ve got a question, you mentioned that you use lots of different materials, how do you decide to use a particular material for a particular project?

HH: In my earlier work it would come from what I’ve been thinking about related to a specific project but recently a really big part of my work starts with me not knowing what I’m going to be using.

It’s a continual battle with me, the not knowing. People often mistake that being an artist or sculptor is having a mastery over a particular material and i think it’s almost the opposite. I’ve found that things work out best when I’m not sure and I’m figuring it out as I go along.

 Recently for example I made a work that was moving, based on certain printing presses, it looked a bit like a newspaper printing press and this was my first time making a sculpture that moved.

 It was at Yorkshire Sculpture Park which is well known for having Henry Moore sculptures and lots of ‘serious sculptures’ whatever that means!? And I was feeling really nervous about making something where sculpture is made to last forever, so I went there and spent a lot of time there, thinking and looking at the works already there and the spaces they sit in. I was thinking about lying down, how long materials last and how Henry Moore made his sculptures out of stone and bronze and what I wanted to work with were leftover materials and waste from my studio.

I’ve been more aware recently of using materials to make work and how I bring more stuff into the world and what does that mean, is that ok to do now? Is it ok?

 I was playing around with some silicone, rolling it out onto some fabric I had making a sort of tapestry. Silicone is this weird thing as it’s the stuff that you make moulds with to make other sculptures but it’s also this malleable stuff that looks like you could eat it. I was speaking to and researching with a professor at the university of Huddersfield who does all this research into synthetic skins by blasting polyurethane onto surfaces. It became this massive research project that started with the Yorkshire Sculpture Park project and since then I’ve been trying to push these ideas with silicone and rubbish to it’s extreme. I was crushing down scraps of plastic and things in my studio into a fine sand and adding that to the silicone to make the silicone go further so a few buckets of silicone made most of that sculpture for Yorkshire Sculpture Park because it was mixed with other materials.

 It was working with ideas around flatness, image and object and how that relates to our bodies. Silicone feels really similar to our own skin, you can get it to look really look like skin but you can also get it to look really sticky and artificial as well.

 The work rolled round some rollers and it makes a sticky sound to, which is actually static. I wasn’t expecting this to happen, so it became this wild experiment and for me that’s when I feel the most excited about my work! When it starts in one place and then ends up going somewhere else totally unexpected.

There’s always a lot of stress and tears involved in a process like that, because of all the unknowns.

 For example with the static there was lots of hazards and Health and Safety as the sculpture was giving me electric shocks when I first made it, you forget that materials generate electricity, which is very basic science but I’d not thought about it.

YC: Whoah, yeah working with the unknown must be a bit stressful and how your ideas change. In our New Rituals project which was supposed to happen in De La Warr like a takeover of all the spaces, we thought of really ambitious ideas and then had to adjust them so they were actually physically possible, feasible and be signed off by Health and Safety.

HH; I think that’s really interesting, it’s really important that you dream big and have ambitious ideas but also allowing some scepticism and then coming back to the facts and reality of the ideas. Without that initial push of ‘what do I want to do?’ ’whats important?’ ‘how do i make that happen?’ you always second guess yourself but I’m always surprised with the outcome anyway, regardless of budget and boring stuff like that.

Enthusiasm gets you further than you think.

YC: You obviously put a lot of thought into your sculptures, do you draw them out before you make them? If so, do you stick to the drawing or just let things happen?

HH; This is another of my ongoing internal battles I have with myself. I’ve talked a lot about not knowing and the not planning but then the reality of the situation is that people need to know plans, they need to know what’s going on to a certain extent.

There’s two types of drawings that I do, there’s the drawings to think. Where I have sketch books everywhere where I’m just drawing all these ideas and thoughts from my mind and then there’s plan drawings. Plan drawings are more to show other people how things will work and those are the drawings give me a bit of fear as they are important to demonstrate what you want to do.

 At the De La Warr I’m planning on having something inside and outside the building and so I’m having to do a lot of Health and Safety risk assessment around my ideas for public safety. So it’s quite hard to know where my hand ends and someone else’s begins in taking charge of those aspects of it. I usually try and involve an aspect of it that’s totally mine, one that doesn’t involve a structural engineer or anything like that.

 That’s why I spend a lot of time in a space, I’ll measure it all up so that I can have that on my computer and then I can really imagine myself in the space when I’m in the studio. I use a computer to draw, not like your great character drawings no where near as polished and as technical as that but they allow me to be able to have the space on the desktop instead of around me.

 I definitely make sure I do this after I’ve come up with ideas.

I trust the maths and geometry when it comes to the scale that I should make sculptures as something that feels big in my studio won’t always feel big and the same when it’s in a different space.

 I make these cardboard mocks of the digital drawings, which takes the making back into my hand and these act like strange blue prints for what i intend to make. They’re never the same as the actual thing I end up making but they’re more real and physical than the computer drawings.

YC; like a 3D sketch but in real life?

HH: yeah, so you can pick it up and think about it.

YC: Thank you so much for joining us and for explaining and expanding upon the questions we asked. We’re looking forward to seeing your work at the De La Warr Pavilion sometime soon.

HH: Yeah me too, lovely to meet you all and thanks for inviting me.

2 June 2020

Holly Hendry will be showing her exhibition Indifferent Deep in our galleries sometime next year.  She will also create an outdoor work in collaboration with Englands’ Creative Coast, which will thread through the De La Warr Pavilion’s lawns and on to the roof.

Posted by sally on Tuesday 30 June 2020