Interview with Artist Jenny Steele (and her obsession with seaside architecture)

I met Jenny on an atypically warm Blackpool day to discuss her interest in some of Blackpool’s modernist interiors and architecture and how it informs her creative process.

Scottish-born, Manchester-based artist Jenny Steele develops work that references 20th century architecture and interiors, whilst also exploring post-colonial, post-industrial and modernist sites. Since early 2015, she has been working on Looking Back | Moving Forward; a research and development project exploring 1930s modernist seafront architecture in the North West of England and Scotland.

The resulting body of work, for which she received an Arts Council England Grant for the Arts, is currently being exhibited in her solo show An Architecture of Joy at the Grundy Art Gallery in Blackpool.

By exploring structural and decorative aspects of architecture and interiors, I process selected elements through drawing, sculpture, printmaking and animation.  For the past three years, my practice has predominantly explored modernist architecture and interiors, pulling from its utopian idealism, sometimes creating pseudo furnishings that sit in between art and functional object.  I am interested in the boundaries between the disciplines of making in craft, design and fine art.

Completing her MA at Goldsmiths in 2007, she eventually settled in Manchester where the local architecture and spaces of the great northern town have further enriched and influenced her work; she is currently based at Rogue Studios there.

Jenny’s work is predominately digital, textile or large scale installation influenced from  visiting places such as  New Brighton Palace in The Wirral which has a rich history of pleasure and tourism. North East Scotland’s outdoor swimming pool, cafes, Aberdeen’s Beach Ballroom her research has led her into and around spaces which were once over flowing with the general public seeking “fun” and “pleasure”, the history behind these environments bring us to question how we find fun in modern day.

Her research in Blackpool includes The Pleasure Beach and The Winter Gardens with Blackpool Historian Ted Lightbown and further visits to Bispham Tram Station, Haweside Library and Stanley Park Cafe. Creating her own observations and transferring her aesthetic onto a series of three dimensional sculptural and installation-based creations.

Jenny’s interest in the post war “pleasure  spaces” include their structure and design and how the spaces are created for public enjoyment, Some of her creative influences include Oliver Hill, Eric Gill, Cerith Wyn Evans and artists who are influenced by textiles and personal objects like Lucy Mckenzie.

Jenny Steele’s current exhibition in The Rotunda Space at The Grundy Art Gallery runs until Saturday 13 August with a talk on Wednesday 3 August 5.30 – 7.30pm

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