Keeping in the moment.
Interview by Ursula Lake
Artwork by Frea Buckler
Make meets artist Frea Buckler to discuss her working process and the inspiration behind her work.
Q. Can you tell us a little bit about your background?
A. I was born in Cambridge but spent most of my childhood in rural Somerset. My dad is an artist and was also my art teacher in secondary school and he was very interested in printmaking, which meant we had great facilities for a local school. I made my first screenprint when I was fifteen and I have pretty much been making them ever since!
My parents were big fans of Modernism and artists such as Ben Nicholson, Bridget Riley and Barbara Hepworth. Our house was even modernist, a 1960s architect-designed ex Vicarage, I can really see these influences in my work today.
As a child I was always making things, I used to spend hours at my desk in my bedroom, mostly making models out of cut paper and card or fimo.
Q. Your work is very colourful and strong, was it always this way or can you explain how your style has evolved?
A. Even when I was young my work was driven by my love of colour. There is only one period of my life where my work was all black and white and that’s when I was studying Fine Art at Central Saint Martins and they were probably my most miserable art-making years. At the time I didn’t have the confidence or maybe even the knowledge to articulate my reasons for using colour. Everything was analysed and I couldn’t justify it. Somehow colour didn’t feel serious enough. It took me quite a few years of reflection and understanding myself to start using it again.
Now it is central to my practice and certainly what drives it forward. Like music, colour is known to have an effect on our nervous system and human sensibility, for this reason, I find it incredibly powerful and emotive. I love how joyful and uplifting colour can be. I have always felt confident using colour and have a strong sense of what looks right and wrong to me. I have purposely not studied it too much and prefer to rely on my instinct and intuition. Colour still surprises and delights me and I hope that it always will.
Q. Can you tell us a little bit about your working process and the circumstances that you like to work in?
A. I have my own studio. I like to be alone and not distracted as making my works requires a lot of focus and concentration. I make large abstract screen prints, which I consider to be made more like drawings or paintings rather than the traditional idea of a screen print. I start with a blank sheet of paper and no preconceived idea of the finished work, I work intuitively, balancing my knowledge with venturing into the unknown and constantly being on the edge of making mistakes. It’s mildly stressful but also very exciting and forces me to be bold and not play it safe. When I’m working, I listen to music and I like it in my headphones, so I feel immersed. I have one playlist that I have been playing for years, over and over. I add songs to it but mostly listen to the same ones repeatedly. There’s something quite specific about the music that I like to listen to while I work, I can’t really describe but somehow it just helps.
I tend to be in the studio in three to four-hour intense bursts, and then the rest of my day will be doing something else. I did think I would like to spend all day there but I have learned that a balance is good, and that it is best to leave wanting more!
Q. Who or what inspires you?
A. I am inspired by many artists for different reasons, for their ideas, aesthetics or their approach or working methods. Carmen Hererra, Bridget Riley, Robert Mangold, Richard Serra, Agnes Martin, Sarah Crowner, Terry Haggerty, Jan van Der Ploeg and James Turrell are all artists I find inspiring. And movements such as Constructivism, Abstract Expressionism, Modernism and Hardedge Abstraction.
I also see inspiration everywhere, quite often in ordinary things, discarded items or litter on the street, piles of objects waiting to be put to use, street furniture, shapes and shadows in architecture, combinations of colours in unexpected places. All these things are photographed and somehow form the basis of new work.
Q. Is there a piece of art that you would like to own and why would you give it house space?
A. I would like to own a painting by Carmen Herrera or Agnes Martin. Life is quite busy and chaotic, I like work that is pared back and minimal and offers some sense of formality and order. But mostly the focus, determination, and spirit of both these women artists who continue and continued to make art into their old age, I find very inspiring. Both are my heroes and if ever I find things difficult or I feel disheartened, I think of them and remind myself my only goal is to still be making work when I’m 90!
Q. How important is the digital era to your work if at all?
A. In terms of making screenprints, all my work used to begin digitally and then I would prepare it for printing. But about ten years ago, I decided to change that as I wanted to be more open to mistakes and in some ways to lose a little bit of control. Now the whole process is analogue. The same is true of my sculptural work. I learn and work out what I am going to do by working with the materials, rather than designing work and then making it. I find the best ideas arrive this way.
I still work digitally to create mock ups of installations and social media has been a great tool – to reflect on, develop, share and archive my process and progress.
Q. If you weren’t an artist, what would you have liked to have been, or would it be impossible to be anything other than an artist?
A. Well, I always wanted to be a nurse and thought I would be one. But I am bit squeamish so I decided not to pursue that! After that I only ever imagined myself as an artist, I still want to help people though and I think that in big and small ways art can do that.
Q. What is next for Frea Buckler?
A. Thinking small, keeping in the moment, continuing my work and being in my studio. But also expanding outwards, in to bigger projects and immersive installations. Always being open to possibilities and I hope I will always be feeling excited and energised by what will happen next.
To see more of Frea’s work (and purchase it at)