Interviews with Artists

Lotti V Closs

Interview by Yasmine Rix

Published May 2015


Lotti V Closs utilises tactile materials to create context specific conversations around the subject of sculpture. Her distinctive style incorporates a mixture of traditional and less common sculptural materials to present well balanced and fluid works.


I was wondering if you wanted to elaborate on the term “partial environments” that you intend to create and whether it makes any reference to the origin of the objects and its transition to the gallery space?

I use the term partial environments to describe the structure of display I use in groupings of objects.. It is a kind of climate, which reiterates key elements (gesture, form, material, colour..) to create a kind of rhythm between works that can flow into one another but also highlight independence in character. I am really interested in the idea of animation and myth making through repetition, and experimenting with subtleties and exaggerations of qualities. I use the word partial to try describe the proposition of a space, not fully formed, more fragmented and less prescriptive...

After the first stage of making, I end up with a collection of objects and odd remaining experiments that have come through the first round of sorting, altering and editing. Once I get to a certain point with these objects, I assess the collection and identify a kind of rationality that has presented itself throughout. The alteration and composition process of these first objects can range from fairly instantaneous to a try and try again affair, but functions to ground myself and the objects to this identified ‘rationality’ and to move into developing proposed identities or narratives. 

You could definitely say the transition from the studio to the gallery space is represented through this idea of partial environments, with the creation of elements on site as an elongation of the studio, arrangements usually stemming from thinking about the function of display of disparate pieces. This could be a painted wall in an accent colour or shape, using existing architectural features as props, or the arrangement of custom plinths to orchestrate movement around a space. As well as the more practical function of display methods, I use these more site-specific parts to ground the objects to a space, in turn emphasising current synchronicities or visual reactions between objects. The unpredictability of the final composition creates space for a playful attitude in installation, which is important for me and the works final feel.

Abundance I, plaster, faux fur, soapstone, leather, marble, faux suede, sand, (exhibited as a photographic print), 2014

Would you say your approach is also quite playful through the way you select and create objects, and would you say this is also quite curatorial?

Definitely. I like to approach the installation of work in a space in a similar manner as i do in the making process. I have an idea of the feel i want to create, and how the work may prospectively function, but the qualities of the space interacting with existing works are able to influence how it evolves. I like the idea of my work being flexible and adaptable, both in a practical sense, where i can reconfigure and make prototypes for new work with pieces of existing work, and in the way that this may be readable through a kind of animation of still objects and things. Some pieces that are more stoic or simple can have the ability to function alone but also in the wider context of other works in the same space.. This does affect what i feel 'works' in a group show environment, when a singular piece is separated from it's 'family', which either means my submissions into such shows often are either small groups of works, or made with the exhibition space and context in mind. I always like to have the possibility of editing how a work is shown in relation to it's surroundings, maybe it's a weird balance of playful and controlling..

But also testing and having fun with playing with multiple possibilities makes me feel i can make many seemingly disparate things but with a fluidity, where different parts that may not make it through to ever being exhibited, can influence other pieces that do. I also like to collect oddities that i find pleasing in some way (both in my studio and at home), with a oddness or ridiculousness inherent in them that i like to try and re-create an essence of. 

Stoop, reconstituted rubber, copper wire, alabaster, 2015

What can we expect at your upcoming exhibition at SYSON gallery?

At the moment I am at the stage where i have surrounded myself with parts that now need to be rigorously edited and assembled to create the final objects. As my process is quite fluid, with a lot of trial and error, it can be fairly tricky to predict what will come out the other end! I can be slightly evasive at concluding some pieces without a deadline; as i work on many things at once, so it is always great to have a certain time and space to bring together a body of work.

So far, i have been continuing to work on collection which could be seen as an extension of the Composites series. As these are fairly small, i have been working on the balance to keep them from becoming too ornamental, but remain characterised and with the attitude of something larger than themselves, with the possibility of projecting an architectural or landscape scale. I have continued to work with lots of types of wood, brass and other 'scraps' that i have collected over the past few years, using their inherent shapes and quality of domestic and utilitarian context as a starting point to alter and extend from. I have chosen a few different types of stone to work with, which can be seen throughout a lot of the works. I have been using the weight and solidity to play against with subtle/soft forms composed to interact with the other less traditional materials - i have been raiding the local model train shop for faux grass and chip rubber sheets, which i love! I have also been using my experience as a ceramicist’s assistant to introduce built ceramic forms, at the moment with black clay, which is great - a really groggy texture like sandpaper and a depth of purple-black which can echo the other natural materials, but embody a fabric like movement. 

The new SYSON gallery has such great light and is a fairly long space to work with, so i want to take advantage of these qualities in the display, forming a sort of path for the congregation of evolving of objects, that people can navigate in a linear type of circuit. I also plan to include some 2D works that i have produced alongside, and am playing with the idea of creating a wall piece/s, as an extension of the “sitting” objects… it will be a case of bringing everything to the gallery and working with the space for a week or so to edit and compose the show until everything sits naturally with each other and the space.. I am excited! and nervous! but can’t wait to get to play with the staging of everything.. i love the theatrical nature a certain type of curation can add to or bring forward in my work. I have found in preparation it is really easy to get swept away with the possibilities of taking over a space, so it is also an exercise of balancing a lot of different elements to harmonise as well as animate. 

I was wondering whether you know what you want the audience to take away from the show. You also mention the scale of your Composite series being quite small originally, do you feel as though larger pieces are more difficult to handle or sculpt or as you say is it just about achieving that balance?

I suppose I'd just like people to find something to enjoy about it. I like to make work that is accessible, in the sense that you don't need to have studied art or an academic subject to feel able to engage with it. Work that can both be read as silly or serious, depending on your mood. From enjoying interactions between material or shapely qualities, to prompting intrigue and imagining attached character or narrative. Most works end up being slightly attached to me personally, but i think that is more of a bi-product of making work rather than conscious, or readable. I like my work to reflect my curiosity and enjoyment in materials and gestures.

I would love to make larger pieces, but i also tend to work in series, or evolutions. I never really end up working on one piece for a prolonged amount of time, as in the process i have more ideas that are related, and i start them alongside. Doing this on a larger scale would either - take a very long time (time and funding wise!) Which would be possible if i did not have a closer deadline - but also it can take away from the immediacy of an idea. I think my smaller pieces are able to function as kind of maquettes, but also inhabit their own quality which is connected to a smaller scale. For this particular exhibition coming up, i have preferred to work on smaller to  'medium' sized works (what i would deem as movable by myself alone!), as for the reasons above, as well as practicalities of space. I will be in an exhibition coming up in September in one of the old Spode Factory warehouses, in which I'm looking forward to extending my sculptural language to a larger scale. 

Composites VI - IX, mixed hardwoods, plywood, MDF, polystyrene, jesmonite, plaster, soapstone, alabaster, mother of pearl, faux ivory, 2014

The flexibility in using existing pieces means they are given new meaning often when combined with newer works, do you still see them in the 'old' light after giving them a new context or does that meaning become replaced? 

I don't often use existing pieces that have already been finished or shown with a certain context; more so existing 'elements' or parts that have not yet found their settling place, but have been saved as there is something to them that i hope to come back around to. In this instance they can conclude a certain meaning that has been started a while ago, becoming the 'glue' to a new sculpture. Also these parts and pieces that sit around in the studio tend to influence other pieces along the way,(like something saved that you know you'll find a use for) and become an kind of stepping stone to create new work and eventually get to the place where the original part maybe used. Some never get used but become like little mascots to production, reminding me of certain qualities or thoughts that i want to highlight.


Lotti V Closs lives and works in Nottingham. Recent exhibitions include Mass, Syson Gallery, Nottingham, Sunscreen, EM15 Pavilion, Venice Bienalle,Nottingham Castle Open 2014, Nottingham Castle, East Midlands, Collective, The Jerwood Gridshell, Weald and Downland Museum, Sussex, THIRTEEN : West Dean Visual Arts Summer Show, Embassy Tea Gallery, Southwark, London & West Dean College, Nr Chichester and Object Abuse, Spinach, London.


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