In the weeks running up to Henry Glover’s first solo show Take Me Somewhere Nice, Liliya Curator Joséphine-May Bailey caught up with Henry to ask a few questions.
Catching him in a brief moment of repose in Clapham, Henry sat working away at a new painting for his show. Henry’s studio provides a double insight: on the one hand, a view of the and all-encompassing nature of being an artist; and the other, a view of his life as a young Londoner working during a pandemic. Having been moved out of a ‘traditional’ studio in March 2020, Henry’s studio performs many roles, a haven, a stage, a laboratory, and a living room. There is a special satisfaction in seeing and speaking to an artist in their own studio, it is a total aesthetic environment, crammed with low hanging frames, works in progress and other objects for the viewer to pore over. It also invites a practical question: Why does Henry work on the floor?!
Despite his lack of seat, Henry answered Joséphine’s questions with ease, revealing more and more about his fascinating practice.
Josephine: Tell me about your background before becoming an artist?
When I was younger, I was always into animation and stop motion, so from quite early on I was playing a lot with plasticine and clay. Both of my parents are creative – my dad was an illustrator and my mum was always the one pushing everyone to do creative things.
I have always enjoyed drawing and making things. It was during my foundation year that I really got to grips with oils – it was also when I first made ceramics, and from there basically I sort of began to create a bit of back and forth between them.
But yeah, background wise, I have always been interested art. Massively into film too. I would say I’m more of a film buff than an art nerd! I remember being 16 and thinking that I know I like art, and that I wasn’t sure if I wanted to do my A Levels… my mum was a substitute teacher, now a practicing counsellor, and so always supportive, pushing me, you know, do them. I ended up getting the best results in my year, so it ended up being worth it! But, to be honest, I always knew I was going to end up doing art.
Josephine: Could you go into a bit of detail about the relationship between your ceramics and paintings- are you trying to emphasise this through your upcoming show?
Yeah definitely. So it’s always been going on, the relationship between the two, however I have never really found the opportunity to showcase it, or explain why. I think that basically, as I was saying, I am really interested in the process of making, I like to understand how things work. Both of these practices are really process heavy – therefore I feel really natural and comfortable with them. I see them working together because I don’t think that the jump between ceramics and paintings, oil paintings specifically, is that big. There is something to do with the glossy glazes, or the kind of tactility you can get into with oil paints… to me they feel similar. It is, for me, another way to visualise something in both 2D and 3D. They’re really complementary to each other, but also they can feel like extensions of the same medium. It is important in this exhibition for me, as I think I’ll really be able to show the territory that I am building from different perspectives. You can see exactly my ideas, processes, and relationship in the works.
Josephine: How have you found creating a new body of work during such an uncertain time?
Ha! Yeah… it has definitely been tricky, but in a way it has also been extremely liberating. I mean, since the first massive lockdown in March last year, and when I had to quickly collect everything from my studio, I had to quickly adapt my work to my house. I had some canvases already prepared, which I decided that I would have to use for the rest of my work for the year. I then had to work in acrylics, because I didn’t want to stink up my own house with the smell of oil paint! It took a while though and I did a lot of drawing over the summer. It was a bit of a break, a time to refigure my process.
I then had to move in September, and I began to paint again in my new place. I was juggling a whole load of different jobs to get by – construction labour, odd graphic jobs.. all sorts. But basically, I think if anything, I have been really productive. I have found my work to be such an outlet. Not having a studio, as in walking into my living room which has become my studio, it meant I painted way more than I would have done otherwise. I think I’ve been lucky as I have really adapted well.
Josephine: Can you tell me about any specific influences that have been important to you when creating work for the show?
So obviously the Tracy Emin and Munch show that I managed to see at the R.A. [Royal Academy in London] was really nice. That for me really showed how my sources tend to vary – you know, like really traditional artists, classic expressionist painters like Munch, I really enjoy that kind of work. But then comparing that to an artist like Tracy Emin, whose bronze works and abstract paintings and figurative paintings give me an opportunity to see an incredibly multidisciplined artist. But yet the conversation still exists between them, even one hundred or two hundred years apart.
That’s really something that I feel I’m battling with. I have a really strong preference for traditional mediums and traditional representations, but also I cant help but find my sources also In my every day. I am really diaristic.
Other artists – I love George Rouy, Paloma Proudfoot, Faye Wei Wei, anyone who has got very lyrical drawings. Drawings are really important for me – tis what I look for. I really appreciate artists who are limitless in how they work. Working in multiple mediums, you know? I think that is ultimately exactly what I am trying to do.
Can you tell me a bit about your continuous references to folklore and romanticism? The castles, men in armour, swords etc.
Yeah – ok so that is all just very ‘me’. I didn’t start doing it deliberately or draw from specific sources. It really is just what I grew up with. I used to you know play knights when I was little.. it is like bringing together things that are from my childhood. Like Disney! Disney was a huge part of my childhood, and it is still something I reference. You know, like, my graphic drawing style is because I used to copy Disney when I was younger. I also use specifically romantic or yeah, like you say, folklore references because I like to think it’s quite universal. I think everyone can draw something from that reference. You know it’s like a shared story or allegory that people can take from it. That feels really important to me. I like the sort of wistfulness and dreamlike feel that comes with looking at a castle, a sword.
Why do you give some of your works borders?
I think I will often start on a work knowing exactly how it is going to look, I will know the title or the ‘couplet’ that I will want to reference. Sometimes I will have written it myself or I will have adapted it from a lyric. I also keep a diary / journal where I write things down that sound nice, or could be potential painting ideas. This kind of written journal sometimes feels that it should be on the painting itself, I’ve only just been brave enough to start suggesting it on the works, and I think certain paintings require the border to really further that. Not everyone obviously knows that I have started with this idea or couplet, so for me it’s directly adding the context. It’s also about the space and the structure that it adds. Sometimes it’s a really technical decision.
Tell me about the title of the show ‘take me somewhere nice’
Yeah, so I’ve really been toying with this title for years now. Probably since 2018. It is a song from MOGWAI. The song has always spoken to me, as has the phrase. I have named one of my paintings ‘Take Me Somewhere Nice’ – the girl in the hat amongst the trees and foliage. It is an ethos almost. It is the most succinct way of expressing how I want people to feel when viewing my work. My work is my own escape. It is something that I do to get away – it is very personal. It is literally that I want the work to take me elsewhere. It has also obviously taken on a new meaning now, given where we are and where we are stuck. It is really all I want.