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ARTIST SERIES 001

Lucy Sparks

 

“There is often a residual smirk, or a sense of deflated magic, or maybe even anti-climax, in the worlds I create,” exploring cultural parodies, fantasy and reality within her work British photographer Lucy Sparks utilises her shifting locations as the focus of her work from the Las Vegas Strip to the heartland of Essex. Publishing her acclaimed series Essexland out of her photojournalism and documentary photography master’s degree in 2013, the series captured the collision of suburban life, stereotypes and iconography, having existed at the periphery of Sparks’ adolescence, growing up in Essex.

Easily overlooked details act as a stage within her work, creating context for their environments, Sparks is often asking the viewer to accept objects and locations on their own terms. Continuing her work in America, faux opulence and the re-creation of classical grandeur highlight the fine line between fantasy and reality, deflated magic and a fleeting world. Also experimenting with fabrics, soft furnishings and collage, Sparks continues to explore atmosphere, context and arrangement within Washington, working with collected oddities found on Washington Boulevard, loosening her approach to image making, that is both playful and vibrant.


We spoke to Lucy Sparks as the first of the featured artists from our 2017 Artist Series:


 
 

LN-CC: DID YOU DREAM OF BEING A PHOTOGRAPHER GROWING UP? WHEN DID YOU FIRST PICK UP A CAMERA?

 
 

Lucy Sparks: My Dad was a keen photographer, so I remember having an early interest in photography. Growing up our third bedroom was converted into a darkroom, and I was always very intrigued by what he was doing in there.

 
 

HOW HAVE YOUR STUDIES HAD AN EFFECT ON YOUR WORK? WHAT WERE THE MOST IMPORTANT LESSONS THAT YOU LEARNT WHEN CREATING ESSEXLAND?

 
 

L.S: Studying and creating Essexland definitely helped me define my style. While making the series it became apparent that I was interested in working closely with textiles and light. The process taught me the art of editing and selection – it can often be tempting to include too many images, which can dilute the final body of work.

 
 

WHAT ROLE DOES HUMOUR AND NARRATIVE PLAY IN YOUR WORK?

 
 

L.S: Incorporating an element of humour into my pictures is important to my work. There is often a residual smirk, or a sense of deflated magic, or maybe even anti-climax, in the worlds I create. For example with Essexland I was drawn to the oddities of suburbia – there’s something in the fake glamour I find quite funny.

 
 

CAN YOU TELL US ABOUT YOUR TIME IN AMERICA AND THE ‘FAUX OPULENCE’ THAT INSPIRED YOUR WORK?

 
 

L.S: In California I focused on themed hotels; for me they epitomise a kind of faux opulence in their recreation of a classical grandeur, or the idea of it. I think the act of replicating another world is already somehow tacky by nature.

These lavish interiors and faded histories provide the backdrop for my American work, focusing on the easily overlooked items that provide a stage for the imagined magic or tragic, evenings of their guests. My Vegas series, Sand Dollars, explores casino interiors along the Las Vegas strip and their extravagant lobbies. Each location invites the promenading public to sample a little piece of Paris, New York or Venice; I wanted these images to capture some of their idiosyncrasies.



Washington Lucy Sparks

 
 

WHAT ATTRACTS YOU TO DEPICTING A PLACE IN YOUR WORK, HOW DO YOU CHOOSE WHAT YOU FOCUS ON?

 
 

L.S: I focus on seemingly unreal fragments in everyday situations. Omitting the human form entirely from my work allows a fantastical world to come to the foreground, leaving only the traces of their activities behind.

 
 

HOW DO YOU PLAY WITH THE BALANCE OF FANTASY AND REALITY, NATURAL AND SYNTHETIC?

 
 

L.S: The place where fantasy and reality collide is a crux of many of my pictures. I enjoy using easily overlooked objects to provide a stage and create context for their environments.

 
 

WHAT INSPIRED SOLAR LOTTERY?

 
 

L.S: The Solar Lottery is an exploration into the perversity and grandiosity of imagination that’s prevalent in the rugged deserts and nourished coastline of southern California. Amalgamating three sites - The Crystal Cathedral, The Salton Sea and the Giant Rock I took an in-depth look at the formal qualities of each location. Surfaces, light, colour, and texture. I chose the locations due to their curious histories that only seemed possible in California.

 
 

HOW DID WASHINGTON COME ABOUT, HOW DID YOU FIND THE TRANSITION TO A STUDIO?

 
 

L.S: It was fruitful to work in a studio setting, my previous work has almost all been site specific and within a controlled environment. Making Washington gave me the platform to toy with different materials and loosen my approach.

For instance the image of shattered glass was the most serendipitous. I'd been laying/projecting patterns onto other objects using stained glass, when I popped inside to get something I returned and the glass had shattered. I later teamed it with a holiday snap I'd taken in the desert; they were both open on my desktop and seemed to work together.

The series forms a bit of an ode to LA: its light and many quirks and oddities, including the focus on beauty/lifestyle.



Washington Lucy Sparks

 
 

WHAT MATERIALS DO YOU FEEL MOST COMFORTABLE WORKING WITH?

 
 

L.S: At the moment I love working with fabrics like velvet, PVC, mock-crocodile and stained glass.

 
 

WHAT OTHER ARTISTS AND PHOTOGRAPHERS DO YOU RELATE TO AND ADMIRE AT THE MOMENT?

 
 

L.S: I’m a big fan of Roe Ethridge, Lucas Blaclock and John Divola, who have all been around for a number of years, and more recently Juno Calypso. I believe her work has been crucial in pulling the art and photography worlds closer together, which isn’t an easy feat.

 
 

TELL US ABOUT YOUR MORE RECENT COLLAGE WORK, HOW DID THAT COME AROUND?

 
 

L.S: Having spent so much time shooting on location I felt ready to start a studio practice. I wanted to bring in some of the materials and textures that I’d been attracted to in the hotels and bars I’d captured, and see what I could come up with when they were in isolation.

 
 

HOW WOULD YOU DESCIRBE THE BALANCE BETWEEN ART, PHOTOGRAPHY AND FASHION? HOW DO THESE THEMES PLAY IN YOUR WORK?

 
 

L.S: There is often an interplay between art and photography, but recently I have been commissioned to shoot fashion-related projects, which tied in with my love of textiles. I’ve been lucky in that the brands and magazines that got in touch were ones I already admired.

 
 

WHAT IS NEXT FOR YOU?

 
 

L.S: I plan to carry on with more sculptural work – for my next project I’m looking forward to making some oversized cushions!

EXPLORE Lucy Sparks / @LucyaSparks