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Newcastle upon Tyne

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In the Studio // Olivia Turner

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This autumn we welcome a new solo show from the winner of our 2018 Open Contemporary Young Artist Award, Olivia Turner.

Currently based in Edinburgh, Olivia explores perspective, composition and structure in her distinctive and highly engaging body of work. Here, The Biscuit Factory catches up with the emerging artist to find out more about her new collection, inspiration and practise.

What did winning the 2018 Open Contemporary Young Artist mean to you?

Winning the award allowed me to develop and sustain my practise. It provided me with an opportunity to expand my skills and knowledge by carrying out a print course, which was partially funded by the award. It also offered me support and motivation to carry on developing my work.

How does it feel to have your solo show finally on display and for sale in the gallery?

It feels great to have my solo show at The Biscuit Factory. After working on exhibitions for the last couple of months, it was thrilling to finally see it all together in one space. This is my largest solo exhibition to date and it’s such a brilliant opportunity to exhibit it in such a contemporary, commercial gallery.

"I really began to recognise my ability at high school and have been extremely fortunate to have the support to carry on doing what I love"

How did you first discover your artistic talent?

I discovered my artistic talent at a young age; I was always creative and wanted to make things. I really began to recognise my ability at high school and have been extremely fortunate to have the support to carry on doing what I love.

How did you find your 'niche'?

I would say I found my niche at art school, a period where I was left to explore my real interests and develop my painting techniques. It was there I discovered my true love for architecture, particularly brutalist and modernist.

What is the story behind your new artwork?

My new body of work is mainly based on my studies of St Peter’s Seminary in Cardross, Scotland - a site which has been neglected and fallen into disrepair, with now an undetermined future.

After briefly visiting it five years ago, I recently had another opportunity to revisit the site and study it more extensively. What became apparent was how important it would be for me to delve deeper inside and discover the inner structure of the building, opposed to merely the facades alone.

I really enjoy the playful nature of my work and how some compositions could potentially be physically built. However, I recently found myself producing drawings which were almost too representative of its original structure. With this new body of work, I wanted to change how I processed my research, hoping to lead to slightly different outcomes. The new compositions I started to create became more inviting with areas of breathing space, which gave the viewer slightly more freedom to move in and around them. I have also continued to abstract elements further, removing pieces of information, so as to continually make the viewer question what is being seen.

St Peter’s Seminary is one of many structures which I have drawn my inspiration from for this body of work. I am continually building on my research and I am constantly adding appropriate elements where I see fit. The structures which I draw my inspiration from are often modernist or brutalist buildings. My aim is to highlight the real and true beauty of these structures and draw people’s attention to the loss of them in society. Brutalist architecture was a very important movement, which changed the way we lived and I believe is one that should not be demolished or forgotten.

"I continuously explore the different ways in which I can portray a site that I have visited"

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Can you describe your artistic thought processes and techniques?

My process is often very methodical. Each painting is developed from a series of drawings, which have all been made from multiple viewpoints. I continuously explore the different ways in which I can portray a site that I have visited. Layering up composition on tracing paper, I refine spaces until I am happy to develop them into paintings.

Each set of paintings I produce have their own colour palette which changes slightly each time. This palette reflects the original structure and often has small elements of emphasised colour to highlight specific areas.

Tell us about your studio space.

My studio is in Leith, Edinburgh and I have been there for just under a year. My space is quite structured - similar to my way of working - and people are often shocked by how tidy it is!

Which artists inspire you?

I would say I am more inspired by architects rather than artists. Isi Israel Metzstein, Zaha Hadid, Sir Basil Spence and Le Corbusier to name but a few.

What role do prizes like the Young Artist Award play in creating opportunities for up and coming talent?

I think prizes like the Young Artist Award are invaluable to emerging artists. It provides a new platform for them to exhibit their work, along with the opportunity to develop new connections and support, and sustain their practise.

What are your long-term ambitions as an artist?

My long-term ambitions are to exhibit my work worldwide and to continue using structures of significance as inspiration. I want to carry on developing three dimensional aspects of my work where opportunities allow. I also want to keep supporting the artistic community where possible, particularly emerging artists.

Olivia Turner's collection is currently on show at The Biscuit Factory until 3 November.

All of Olivia's work is available to purchase online and in the gallery.

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