In Depth: Alison Carlier

Roman Dodecahedron

Last month, the Jerwood Drawing Prize marked it’s 20th anniversary in intriguing fashion. In an unprecedented step, one of contemporary art’s most prestigious accolades was awarded to an audio piece.

Alison Carlier’s ‘Adjectives, lines and marks’ (2013) was described by the artist as an “open-ended audio drawing”, a “spoken description of an unknown object”. Much in the same way that audio work has steadily become an accepted form of visual art, the recognition by the Jerwood Foundation heralds an opening up of the hitherto narrower definition of ‘drawing’.

‘Adjectives, lines and marks’ is sonically robust, working equally well played on it’s own or as a repeating circular piece. Mellifluous and sibilant in even measures,  the spoken word piece voiced by Carlier herself is a description of a pot in the Museum of London Archive. The repetition of “muscovite”, “minute” and “mica” lend it a poetic quality.

We had a quick chat with Alison to find out her thoughts on winning the Jerwood Prize, her creative spark and opportunities for emerging artists.

First of all, congratulations! How does it feel to win the Jerwood Prize?

It feels fantastic to win the prize, particularly as I feel so encouraged by the three judges who fully appreciate the breadth of contemporary drawing practice.

Being nominated for an audio piece is unusual in itself – did you have any inkling that you might win, or was it a complete surprise?

Well that’s funny. I did wonder whether something was up when they asked me in advance to do a talk at the gallery. And also when they asked me for a sound clip of the piece, as it would ‘work well on radio’. That combined with my usually false sense of optimism I have whenever I buy a raffle ticket…you could call that an inkling.

What made you decide to submit an audio piece?

There are many exciting 2D drawings out there, but I suppose I chose this piece because I am interested with its parallels with conventional observational drawing. It is more of a question about drawing than a definitive answer.

What drew you initially to the pot in question – was it the description, or was the pot itself particularly alluring?

Definitely the description; I love the way the text is purely factual (it has to be to accurately catalogue archaeological finds) yet is richly descriptive of tone, form and materiality. I haven’t actually seen the pot in question!

What are your plans creatively for the next 6-12 months?

To focus. I find that a real challenge to my art practice. I’d like to find a ‘home’ for the sound piece and two others I’ve made; I’m going to continue to ask artists about ‘The Drawing Attitude’, and I want to get back into the print room.

Where do you tend to draw your inspiration from?

I find inspiration is almost entirely down to chance; I suppose its just about being open to ideas and metaphorically ‘keeping my pencil sharpened’.

What makes you excited about a piece you have either created yourself or seen elsewhere?

For me, the best work is always going to provoke a debate; whether that’s the direct gaze of Manet’s ‘Olympia’, or Martin Creed’s humorous take on Minimalism. It’s the work that pushes ideas forward.

What are your thoughts on the opportunities and challenges for emerging artists, especially those living outside of London?

The art world is increasingly tough, with a shockingly low number of artists working for publicly funded spaces with no pay. There are opportunities up and down the country; but I feel artists need to be even more determined when the opportunities don’t materialise. Artists need to be pretty savvy too at applying for funding, making successful proposals and promoting themselves; as well as making thought provoking art!

Thanks Alison

Conal Dougan