Fiona White Takes Nothing for Granted
Fiona works from her studio in the Art Hub at Woolwich. A space that she loves and is enjoying even more now that she has more time to focus on her printmaking. After 10 years working as a commercial illustrator, followed by 13 years of teaching, she has decided to pursue her own creative practice full-time. “I still find it difficult to call myself an artist,” she tells us, “but I can just about call myself a printmaker now.”
Her winning piece Un \ Familiar - Pebble 1 is from a project called Things We Take For Granted. “I’ve always been interested in ideas and values around shared experiences. Things that link us as a community, not those that separate and divide us. It feels, politically, right now, that that is a very relevant thing. If you spotlight the smallest detail, it often tells a much bigger picture.
“I started to pick up and notice things that were very beautiful in a very ordinary way. I started with a pebble, then it became about moss that I saw on the rooftops of South London houses, and then pieces of discarded plywood. Out of context, these ‘scraps’ have taken on the language of a precious jewel.
“I’ve now moved on to picking up scraps of material, and I want to turn them into something more significant and permanent in a series I’m calling Monuments. I want to say something about the women in my family that could make and mend anything, but were never recognised for this domestic skill. All these things we take for granted.”
Not only is Fiona’s Pebble print a master study in form, texture and colour, but the frame is – very intentionally – a thing of great beauty too. “I wanted it to be like a cabinet; a display box in a museum. So it looked like the thing inside it was really precious, because that’s the point. The framer I work with – Jamie Hawkins of Hawkins Framing – is so patient and thoughtful with his craft. I would love to work with him and the frames be as much a part of the work as the prints inside.
Fiona uses photoshop to compose her images, before transferring them to screens for printing. “I love screenprinting. It’s a natural extension of how I see the world, in layers! As a designer, I have always worked in layers, and my illustrator’s brain is always telling a story. I can’t just make a picture. I need to make a picture that’s got a story. All of my objects have a story around them and a reason for being there.”
Now she has made the decision to pursue her printmaking full time, her work is changing. “I’m having to park my insecurity and imposter syndrome and focus on my work. I told myself ‘if I’m going to do it. I’ve got to do it now!’ I hadn’t realised how satisfying the actual making was going to be. The act of printing gives me the important space to stop thinking!
“I loved my students, but I’m quite shy, so it took me a long time to learn how to be in front of a large group of people. When I’m in the print room, it’s the first time I feel completely comfortable with myself. As a result, my work is changing. It is becoming more focused. I’m not rushing things. I’m becoming more skillful and really enjoying that aspect of it. The more I edit my work, the better it gets. The more I reduce the colours I use, the more I simplify the shapes, it seems to be getting more relevant.”
We are very pleased but not at all surprised that Fiona’s piece won the Cass Art Prize at the Atelier Open, and look forward to following the evolution of her work. “I’m not in this for prizes”, she tells me. “I’m new to this, and I’m doing it because it is what I love to do. But you do spend an awful lot of time in your own head, and it’s very reassuring to know that what you are doing is relevant beyond that.”
Un \ Familiar - Pebble 1, and two screenprints from Fiona’s Monuments series are on show as part of Atelier Open. The exhibition continues until 3rd September.
If you wish to buy any of Fiona's work in Open or have any other enquiries, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.