Image courtesy the artist
Interview with Sue Webster
I had been pursuing an interview with Sue Webster, and to some degree Tim Noble for some months. After a number of attempts to set something up via their studio manager, and given their status, lifestyle and demand I wasn’t sure I was going to get one. Not to mention the fact that I was feeling a little ‘I’m not worthy’ considering Sue Webster is not only up their with the big names in the contemporary art world but she hangs out with the likes of PJ Harvey – still a regular staple in my audio dietary regime – so who wouldn’t feel a little star struck?
I had all but left the idea of getting the interview when the BBC broadcast a fairly intimate portrait of Sue as part of a series of ‘What do artists do all day?’ – I recommend you watch it – at which point I felt I should think laterally about this process. On the assumption that time, incentive and many other calls for interviews were hampering my chances I decided to ask if Sue would be willing answer just three questions. They agreed, I wrote down the questions…she replied…had I made the most of this opportunity…?
Q. There was a pivotal point early in your career when Charles Saatchi came to your studio exhibition and bought your work. Can you tell me a bit about that moment and the transition for you as artists from that point? Was there a sudden tangible shift and what did it mean to you?
Charles Saatchi is a risk taker and a career changer – when he bought artwork in the late eighties early nineties it literally opened up the floodgates for the Saatchi clones to follow.
But you don’t need me to answer that question for the millionth time.
I don’t know how crucial Saatchi is now, does he still buy work? I think he’s more interested in writing books so I’ve heard, and good for him. Everything’s shifted within the London art scene I feel and the biggest ambition young artists seem to have right now is to get a Coutts bank account, a tab at Mark Hix’s restaurant and free membership at Shoreditch House. Nobody can be bothered to go to Australia to catch a Killer shark and put in a tank – thank god some things are beyond reach, and it shows.
When Saatchi bought the first pieces by Tim and I – it was the first time we’d seen money and it enabled us to fly to Las Vegas and see flashing neon in the flesh and to be inspired first hand by the bigness of it all instead of watching the lights of Vegas on TV. We put it all on black and didn’t look back.
“Their punk aesthetic – creating modern sculpture from recycled rubbish – and the art they made out of their personal relationship made them a notorious artistic double act.” BBC ‘What Do Artists Do All Day?’
Q. Has longer term success changed your drive as an artist? – how have you been able to avoid the trappings of what success might bring and stay focused and on the boil (so to speak) producing new work?
Like a stick of Rock I am an artist through and through – whether it’s fashionable or not and often success and all it’s distractions lead to your downfall. I fantasise sometimes of being sent to prison and building a matchstick Cathedral. You can’t take away a natural instinct to create.
Q. What is your next move as an artist, collaborations, solo work, are you excited by the future?
The success of The Folly Acres Cook Book- a self confused journey of my life through food – has only encouraged me to write more, using sentences creatively. I’m finding it totally refreshing to experiment in unfamiliar territory, I sketch them out and draw them up in the same way that one would paint only using words instead of shapes. I refuse to be a slave to a kind of art that the world expects from me. Always remain a moving target.
I have a studio inside my head and I can take it away with me, it’s mine.
For a more intimate view on Sue Webster’s life:
BBC documentary ‘What do artists do all day?’ – Sue Webster