We have twelve Suffolk based artists , makers and designers on display in our gallery in Finchingfield, Essex. Alife is one of our twelve whom I have known for a number of years. Alfie is an artist and musician that works with paint, paper, voices sounds and words to create songs and scenes.
This weeks 'In conversation' with Alife was quite moving for me and I hope you enjoy this conversation …
Can you tell me a little about yourself and how you got started?
I am a freelance artist and musician based in Suffolk. I do a variety of things including creating original mixed media landscape paintings, putting on exhibitions, community workshops, education, performances and songwriting. I always enjoyed art and music at school but I chose to go on to study music at university, specialising in composing and performing. During my time as a student I fell very ill and had to take a year out of studies. In the moments when I was well enough, I would play around with paint and different media - it was a means of escape and a chance to be creative at a time when everything else had stopped. I recovered from my illness, completed my studies, and headed back home to Suffolk with a large body of artwork which I’d done in my time off. I decided to hold an exhibition at my house and I haven’t really stopped since then!
You come from a very talented creative family do you think that influenced your artwork in anyway?
I remember always being encouraged to be creative as a child. My mum studied art and was an art teacher at a special needs school. She always urged us to sketch, observe our surroundings and be playful and curious with art, which are all things I still love about being an artist. My Dad is a jeweller and all my life I can remember him hammering and soldering away in his workshop. He taught me to work hard, love your craft and enjoy the process of making something original that you can share with others and give them joy - which is such a precious gift.
Your work is mixed media using paper and acrylic. What is it about the medium that particularly attracts you?
I particularly enjoy using mixed media collage as every artwork I work on is completely different and unique, just by the very nature of the materials that I’m using. I like how experimental and playful it is to discover how such a variety of different surfaces can come together to form something new. The environment and recycling is also important to me and this process lends itself well to giving a new life to old scrap papers.
Can you tell me about your process? How do you go from your initial idea (and how does that come to you) through to the end result?
I take inspiration from a number of things. Sometimes it is very literal - a specific view of a landscape that I can see - or it can be something based on a dream or my imagination. Sometimes it’s a mixture of the two! I work using a combination of plein air and in the studio working from photographs or sketches I have made. I always start with a quick sketch of the horizon, that’s what draws me in to an idea. I am fascinated by depth and perspective so I always strive towards accentuating this in my work. My process involves layers of papers, materials, surfaces, paints and pencils to achieve the textures and distinctive flat terrain of East Anglia. I work in stages, building up the layers until the work arrives at a place where it feels complete.
I know you go out on location to start of some of your artwork, but what’s your favourite part of the process?
I love the beginning stages a new piece. There is an excitement and a thrill about its potential and how it will evolve. Usually at the beginning is where I am feeling really loose, which is also a liberating feeling.
Nature seems to be a big inspiration behind your work. Do you find you work according to the season?
My work is always in the hands of the seasons, and I feel lucky that my work can reflect that. Nature is a constant and unending source of inspiration for me. I am from rural Suffolk so I’ve always felt in close proximity to nature and have always enjoyed being in it. Every season brings life to new ideas, fresh inspiration and a shift in the landscapes around us, which makes it a never-ending subject to try and capture.
Are there any little tips or tricks you’ve learned over the years, that would help or inspire budding artists?
If you’re a budding artist then I would always recommend to nurture your curiosity - don’t be afraid to play around, explore new ideas and let go of how it’s ‘meant to look’. I would also not hold back on presentation - a professional looking frame or finish can make all the difference!
I know you write music as well as been an artist, but do you list to music when you are painting if so, what are you currently listen to?
I listen to lots of things when I’m working - music, radio, podcasts or sometimes just silence. Right now I’m listening to a lot of nostalgic 90’s and 00’s pop music for a good sing and dance along while I work and it reminds me of my youth. I also enjoy listening to ambient music while I work as I love the atmosphere it can imbue into my work - and it also keeps me mindful and relaxed.
What is the highlight of your career so far, or your proudest moment?
For me, a definite highlight of my career so far is the ‘Land Song’ exhibition I did in 2017. It took place at Salthouse Church in North Norfolk which is a beautiful medieval building and it has incredible acoustics. For this exhibition I created a large body of artworks and also wrote and performed music inspired by the landscapes. It was magical experience and it felt really fulfilling to be able to bring together my music and art. I am also proud of then producing ‘Land Song’ the album.
Who is your favourite artist, and why?
There are lots of artist that I admire but once of my favourite is Grayson Perry, because of their uncompromising approach to creativity, their vivacity, and fearlessness - all of which are the best qualities of an artist.
What is your favourite piece in your collection that is arriving into Wonky Wheel Gallery, and why?
I am particularly fond of ‘Misty morning’. For me, it captures such a clear and distinct moment of my day - cycling home through the hazy cold air, the sun desperate to burst through. I often pass this place and think of this painting. For me, landscapes can hold memories, and this piece holds one for me.
I would like you to write a short note to your younger self and give them one piece of advice about been an artist (something you have learned along the way or even something they should do, if so why)?
I would say that the light that you give out is beautiful so don’t ever dim it. Go forward without fear, with plenty of fun, and keep hold of what it is you love about creating art and never let that go.