Steven Ingman's paintings show an ominous future for our urban spaces - decay, derelict buildings, nature overtaking crumbling ruins. With his stunning new exhibition open now in the Art Fund Prize Gallery, we had a chat with the winner of The Ingram Collection's 2016 Young Contemporary Talent Prize to find out more about the inspiration behind the paintings.

Where has your interest in painting derelict and degraded spaces originated from?

I have always been interested in contemporary spaces and buildings that are unused, forgotten or in a process of transition and our relationship to them as environments. To me they always invoke a sense of uncertainty, hint at an interesting narrative and imbue an air of mystery, especially if there is a sense of ruin aesthetics. Within these settings I delve into the layers of human history, change and narrative. I find it intriguing when untouched nature is allowed to run wild, creating a sense of wilderness.

My initial line of questioning is to consider the change and how a space falls out of, or into, use. I question what is the catalyst for its demise; was it economical, technological, sociological or through some event like such as tragedy or conflict. I consider the structures past initial appearance and purpose in relation to its current state.

Steven Ingman in his studio © the artist

What has been your most memorable art piece to work on?

While on my MA at Wimbledon College of Art I produced a series of works entitled Temple of Industrial Devotion, two of which are now part of the Ingram’s Young Contemporary Talent collection. Rather than an individual piece I found this body of work to be my most memorable to date. I feel that these works really helped to define the direction I wanted to take with my practice. It was during this period I built up a strong body of supporting research in the form of both practical experimentation and in written essays and statements.

I was also able to expand on my interests in creating paintings that combine both elements of abstraction and representation. The written sections of the research formulated new ideas and challenged my views, providing me with a platform from which to expand future projects. The conceptual ideas gave clarity and I felt so energized. The period of making the work enabled me to process, reflect, experiment and justify what I was doing. These paintings answered a lot of questions I had as an artist and the experience is something that I will continually reflect on in the future.

Ingman's MA show © the artist

Can you tell us a bit about your work process? Do you have any routines?

My work has always started with a photograph. I work from my own source material and I feel it is important to have physically attended and documented a location or subject, in order to have a physical connection and a greater understanding.

My studio is often very messy and there is a constant smell of oil paint and solvent fumes. Dashes of paint swatches fill the walls and the floor is awash with dry patches (once puddles) of paint.  I like to have a couple of canvases on the go at once, rotating between drying time.

My work is built up in a multitude of layers which allows the viewer the opportunity to see the process behind the painting. I use a high standard of oil paint and often mix it with pure turpentine, allowing it to bleed into the canvas and create washes and drips. This is quite an organic process and it allows the paint to flow, only dictated by gravity. In contrast, areas of my paintings are ordered, controlled and precise with a keen eye on structural details.

Through combining elements of abstraction and representation, by combining aspects of structural order with uncontrolled washes and drips, I aim to site my subjects in a state of change between destruction and construction.

Full House © Steven Ingman

As a Young Contemporary Talent winner, what advice would you have for future YCT artists?

I was once informed that being an artist is a very much a life commitment and that nothing is ever going to be easy. In my MA graduation ceremony this message was reinforced through the analogy that trying to establish your practice is like running a marathon. I suppose what I am trying to say is that you need to remain dedicated, push through the hard times, stay focused and true to yourself and your practice. Opportunities do come along and you need to take them when they are offered. Keep up to date with the competitions and be prepared to go that extra mile.

To Let exhibition at The Lightbox © Steven Ingman

You have collected a range of awards – do you have any goals on the horizon that you’re aiming for?

To continue to make paintings! Like any artist, seeking the opportunities to create, make and display work is a constant drive. I’m an artist no matter where I find myself at any given time but having a platform, receiving validation, is obviously helpful in getting your work out there and seen. I would relish the possibility to complete a residency, as the time and space to create is always a valuable step in driving your ideas and practice. I would also love to be selected for all competitions that allow me to exhibit with some of the best and brightest and see if my work stands its own in such great company.

Steven Ingman's exhibition 'To Let' is open now at The Lightbox, free entry until 31 December 2017.  

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