Artist Liz West took time out organising her first solo show Chroma to answer a few questions for us…

Yellow Chamber 1 (detail)

Looking back at your GSA Degree Show 07, the use of colour using mirrors and objects to create a wonderful glowing yellow impact is still so memorable. Why do you think colour has such a strong psychological effect upon a viewer?
The psychological effect of each colour often varies depending on peoples interpretation of each colour. Colour can evoke memories that are personal to each viewer. I want to provoke a sensory response that is unique to each person who views my work dependent on their own experiences of that colour. However I think that with my work there is often an immediate response to the intensity of the colour used. Colour is powerful. It can trigger many different reactions, and it is this that I enjoy creating and witnessing. I am removing outside elements that interfere with people’s preconceptions of colour, allowing them to experience refined colours in its raw state.

You started collecting Spice Girls memorabilia at a very young age of 12  and have recently had two exhibitions. Do you still see this as part of your art practice or as an intrinsic natural element of your character?
I have been collecting Spice Girls memorabilia and costume for 16 years, I started because I was young, impressionable and desperately wanted something to follow as a fan. Now I realise that it was not their songs, but instead their colourful image that I was attracted by as a 12 year old. Exhibiting and curating exhibitions of my collection at national museums gives me great experience and earns me a living; allowing me to work full-time as an artist. I try and keep my Spice Girls collection and the collecting of coloured objects that feature in my art practice separate at all times. Collecting is an intrinsic element of my character… I will always do it and my friends will always know me for it.

The vast size of your Spice Girls collection is overwhelming, where do you keep it all?
The whole collection is all packed away in a secret storage location. There is no clue from looking round my house that I am a Spice Girls collector, other than my Guinness World Record certificate (for having the largest collection in the world) being tucked under my bed – you’d have to search for it though!

Trolley Project

For your Trolley project, did you get some questioning looks from passersby with trolleys full of various items all in one colour? If so, was there an element of performance attached to this work?
This work was initially meant as a performance work which took place in the supermarket, with the aim of gathering block colour en-mass in a container – a shopping trolley. It was young children that first noticed my trolley filling up with single-coloured items, it was only when I took out my tripod and camera to document the work did I get stares from adults. Surprisingly there was only a few curious shoppers who plucked up the courage to ask ‘what the hell are you doing?’. (I have attached a never-been-seen-before photograph – totally off-the-cuff – of an elderly couple giving me a very questioning look when doing my very first trolley dash).

There is a rather poetic irony at play when images of your collections are sold in limited edition prints for art lovers in turn to collect. Is this something you’ve considered?
Yes, of course. It is only my ‘Trolley’ photographs that are available as limited edition prints, which ironically is the only work I have ever made that just anybody could reproduce in a supermarket for themselves. The photographs are just a snapshot of a temporary artwork that existed for no longer than 30 minutes. I enjoy collecting; it plays into my work and into my lifestyle. The idea that someone can collect a set of images that illustrate a collection I have made is amusing to me. My work always has playful elements, this is an example of that.

Difference is Important Installation – detail (paint, coloured bulbs, acrylic, mirror, objects), 2012

Systems of ordering is obviously very important to you, how is Chroma different from your previous shows?
First of all Chroma is different to all my other exhibitions as its my first solo exhibition, therefore in the past i have been limited by space as I have only exhibited in group shows. In the instance of Chroma I have been given free reign to explore the gallery building and create new large-scale and ambitious site-specific work like never before. In Chroma I am still using methods of ordering and collecting as part of the work, but my methods of display are different in terms of presentation; although I have made ‘Orange Chamber’ specially for the show, which will be my largest chamber work to date. I am presenting my first foray into video work in a piece comprising of reclaimed wooden furniture and videos panning over single-coloured objects. ‘The Visual Grey’ references the disposable culture in which we live and how as a throw-away society we dismiss the beauty in banal items. In another new work I have changed four existing rooms into one piece, ‘Difference is Important’ utilises the irregular nature of the gallery space. Stepping into the rooms you are immersed by the brash, intense colour, stimulating your senses. Questioning the architecture of space and colouration of objects, the work dissects the building, questioning what we see and understand.

Liz beside Difference is Important Installation – detail (paint, coloured bulbs, acrylic, mirror, objects), 2012

‘Chroma: Liz West’ accompanying exhibition catalogue (limited to 100 signed copies) is available to order here.

Chroma is showing at BLANKSPACE, Manchester until 29 July 2012.

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