Artist of the Month March 2018
Drew Fox is our Artist of the Month for March 2018. Drew signed up to Outside In after our exhibition Outside In: Journeys at Sotheby's. He makes very textural pieces, often using wood and nails. We spoke to him to find out a bit more about how he makes his art and the motivations behind it.
When and how did your interest in art develop?
I've always enjoyed drawing and painting but it had remained a background thing until 2012 when I suffered a sudden cardiac arrest whilst on a visit to the beach. Luckily my first responders were RNLI life guards who kept me in CPR until paramedics arrived and were able to restart my heart with defibrillators. I then had another cardiac arrest whilst in a coma 12 hours later and had my heart restarted again with defibrillators. These events were accompanied by a series of experiences in which I left my body and travelled to the land of the dead.
These experiences were so inexplicable and disturbing that I was diagnosed with PTSD on being discharged from hospital. This is when I began drawing on a daily basis, trying to represent on paper the things I had seen whilst I had been clinically dead. Unfortunately, this practice only served to reinforce the anxiety and alienation I felt as a result of these experiences.
This changed in 2015 when I began a series of cognitive behavioural therapy sessions for my PTSD. These sessions gave me the strength to revisit my experiences with a new outlook on their importance in my life and I began to see them as events that were a part of who I had become rather than events that I should try to repress and move on from.
As I made progress through my therapy sessions, so I made progress with my art, which seemed to mirror my return from a really dark place. Then in July 2017 I felt I had a major breakthrough both mentally and artistically and I began to create work that felt like I had discovered a way of expressing myself that was both positive and joyful.
What influences your art?
My main influence at the moment still revolves around my experiences in the land of the dead and the question of our identity, our reality. Who are we really?
What process do you go through when you are creating a piece (starting with the initial idea)?
I really only have the vaguest of ideas when I begin a piece, maybe a colour, shape or even a word. For me the process is as important as the outcome so I see creating every work as a piece of theatre. I've recently started filming the process involved in creating a piece of work and actually enjoy those films as much as the finished piece. I would definitely say that the subconscious plays a big part in my work as the work almost seems to suggest itself during its creation.
Which artists, if any, have you drawn inspiration from?
All the artists I follow on Instagram. Instagram has been a big inspiration for me. It's fantastic to have a connection with like-minded artists from around the world, all encouraging and supporting each other. Also Hannelore Baron has been a big influence on my work, and Lyle Carbajal. I've also noticed a more sculptural approach to my work since seeing the work of Kate Bradbury at the Outside In: Journeys exhibition in January.
Do you have a favourite piece (of your own work)? If so, which one and why?
My two latest sculptures are my current favourites. I had absolutely no idea I was going to make a sculpture until I started hacking away at a piece of wood I found, then once I got going I just couldn't stop until it had run its course. I was really stoked at how it turned out so the next day I started another one thinking it would be great to have a pair of similar looking sculptures but during the process it just suggested itself to look completely different. I never for a moment expected I would be able to make a sculpture that I would be pleased with, but these two have inspired me to try a few more.
What do you hope the viewer gets from your work?
Well, originally the purpose for me creating art was to help me understand myself and my experiences. There was no viewer to consider because no one else got to see it. Now that I'm happy to show my work I really have no idea what people get from it when they view it. If they are able to pick up a bit of the passion and joy for the creative process that I'm feeling when I create it then I would be happy.
Your use of wood and nails in your work is very different. Tell us about where this came from.
When I started painting back in 2015 I was using 3mm plywood because it was cheaper to buy a sheet of plywood that I could cut into pieces than it was to buy a bunch of cheap canvases. Then in 2017 I found a sheet of 9mm plywood in a skip and cut it into 30x30cm pieces and my whole artistic process changed. The thickness of the plywood allowed me to cut and drill into it, score the surface and add depth to it by nailing found objects, bits of carpet and other scraps of wood to it. I then started using nails not just to hold other bits on the board but to represent other features such as tears, raindrops, people and souls. As soon as I started working in this semi-sculptural way I felt a real sense of elation, like I had discovered myself.
What has been the highlight of your artistic career?
The highlight has to be Outside In artist of the month! I mean I've not really been creating work long enough to have had an artistic career. I would consider it to only be eight months really, from the time that I started to work with wood and nails, I think that's when my work really started to happen. So for Outside In to feature me as artist of the month, fantastic, thank you.
How (and when) did you first hear about Outside In?
I first became aware of Outside In in December of last year through Instagram.
Has being a part of Outside In been beneficial for you? If so, how?
I would say that the benefits of being a part of Outside In are first and foremost support and connection. To have an organisation that represents marginalised artists in itself is fantastic, but to support them to the degree to which Outside In does is just incredible. Also the ability to connect with other artists creating work in similar circumstances.
As a recent sign-up to Outside In, what do you hope to get from being a member?
I would like to take advantage of every opportunity that Outside In has to offer. I am very interested in the Step Up professional development program and will be submitting work to be considered for showing at the EOA, I would also like to volunteer for Outside In at some point in the future.
You attended the Outside In: Journeys exhibition - what did you think of it?
I was completely bowled over by the exhibition. The work was stunning, the space was fantastic and the lighting gave it a warmth and feeling of almost other worldliness that I've not experienced at any other exhibition. All the Outside In staff were so helpful and it was through meeting and talking with them that I became a member of Outside In.
What is next for you as an artist?
Exhibiting my work and talking about artistic practice. I think more people should be aware of the importance of art and its ability to facilitate recovery from a variety of illness. Art and artistic practice has completely changed my life and I would very much like to find a way of sharing my experiences with people who would not normally be exposed to the therapeutic possibilities of art.
See more of Drew's work on his online gallery here.