When did you realise you wanted to pursue art?
I loved maths initially. But as a child, I loved to make. When we had some spare money, my parents would ask me what I wanted as a toy. I would say, 'Don't worry I will make it myself'. I would make fully illustrated books. I made a conscious choice when I was in my final year at school to drop higher level maths, since it was intruding on the time I could spend doing art.
How do you think you think differently?
I think more laterally. I try to consider everything from multiple viewpoints. I think this comes back to how I was brought up as I moved around a lot and had to adapt and reconsider things that are thought of as status-quo. The UK has all this amazing heritage and history, but sometimes it is so steeped in it, it can become a bit narrow.
What does different mean, when describing an artist?
Unique is almost a worse word. I think what makes people different is their understanding of it. I was really bad at Chemistry because I didn't like to measure, I just wanted to chuck things in. I think everyone is different, not just artists. We are strongly conditioned by education, society and culture and it is all these many influences which go into our personal conical flask that make us different. For me, here in London, it's definitely the exposure from different cultures, there is a lot of that.
Looking back on your childhood, what were the main lessons you learned?
My dad at one point said '...stick true to your ideas no matter what. There are lots of other things out there that are great, but he said do your thing. Don't try to adapt or mimic.'
How did you approach art school?
At the Royal College, the mentality I went in with was to really change my practice. Much of what I did there was to try to work through my ideas which haven't changed much to date. It was always about building environments and learning how to communicate through the language of my practice. The bulk of the initial critique addressed the highly experimental nature of my work as I was changing my practice, however, I was also told not to worry about it as there was a visible coherence throughout my at times disparate projects.
Talk to me about your day-to-day
It really depends. I have a number of part time jobs working in education, doing workshops at the Camden Arts Centre and the British Library. Outside of these commitments, over the last couple of years, my time is split into studio time and research time. Then I do a fair bit of travelling to Vienna and Estonia.
I tend to do emails first thing in the morning, just the basic things that nag. That way I know they are done. Then I ignore my phone completely unless I'm taking breaks. I'm conscious of not losing an hour replying to someones lengthy email.
If it's a research day, I'll dip in and out of things. On making days I come in with an agenda. Things are interchangeable, that is a strength I think I am quite good with scheduling. I am good with deadlines too, I will always be finished in time for a show.
Talk to me about ideas and skill in the making of art.
Some of my work is strongly research focussed - there is only so much output that can be generated. A former tutor once said to me it was about recognising your own ebbs and flows, and not pushing yourself when you have given everything you can, as well as recognising that there's time to stop and go see some shows or not think about art at all.
It is about knowing your own cycles. I think it is important because artists often get down after a big show or after doing intense research.
How would you approach training me if you had four weeks?
First, I would have to find out who you really are as a person, your interests and where you come from. This would establish what drives you and what kind of artist you could be. I would do that by taking you out of your comfort zone, as well as observing you for a day or two.
I would probably search for online character tests to aid me, for example, a test for spatial awareness could be a good one to use. Another week would be skills training, then maybe 5 or 6 days of content developing. I think the reason I try to assess who the person is first, is because I think that the most important thing is to know what drives a person.
What is your definition of success?
I guess to remain true to yourself and be comfortable with where you are at in the present moment. I had a conversation a while ago with a friend of the family who is a children's psychologist, a university lecturer and also works with actors. Her job does not come with a high salary, however, all the actors she works with make sure to reserve her front seats for all their performances as they know how much she will appreciate it. For me that constitutes success – being appreciated for your work and not commercial success as such.
What is the function of art in society?
To get people to think within a broader scope and context. To isolate and observe specific areas.
What exhibition have you been to in the last year that surprised you?
There have been a few. One of the blockbuster ones in Vienna was by Olafur Eliasson. It was amazing. A site-specific, kinetic series of work created for the Baroque Winterpalais in the city centre. It was beautifully engineered and numerous works were made out of just cardboard. Also when I entered, there were a lot of people like me who were dumbfounded by it due to the play on light and space. I went with my mum the second time, it was a very special moment. She said, wow I've seen a lot of contemporary art which hasn't resonated - but she loved it and took all her friends back. It was the first time in years my mother who is an economist had seen a contemporary art exhibition that really sparked her interest. The light, the simplicity, and the beauty.