Wednesday, 28 March 2012

Interview with Zoë Taylor

q)Introduce yourself, name,age, location.

a)Zoë Taylor, 30, London

q) Can you describe your path to being an artist? When did you really get into it?

a)Well I’ve always enjoyed drawing since I was very young but it took me a while to come around to the idea of doing it seriously. I studied ancient history and archaeology at college and was about to go on to study anthropology but around the same time I got a job in an old art bookshop and there were other artists working there and it kind of took me back to my roots. Instead of doing more academic stuff, I enrolled on an art course.

I really got into it when I started to understand more about my work – when I realised that atmosphere, drama and narrative were my major motivations and that I could explore them for their own sake within the context of illustration. It was like something suddenly clicked.

q) Describe your ideals and how they manifest in your work.

a)I’m personally drawn to images that have a mystery or ambiguity about them as well as a strong sense of drama, so for instance film stills really interest me, especially ones from the classic era because of the kind of cinematography that was used. Film stills represent isolated – or dislocated moments of dramatic tension – you get a feeling but not the context - and that idea has really influenced the way I work.

I try to make images that have a dramatic intensity about them but where the context and atmosphere remain ambivalent. I’m interested in grey areas and the drama of internal (psychological or emotional) experience.

q) Is music a part of your studio time? What do you listen to?

a)I used to hope that if I played a song loudly and often enough that I could somehow infuse its atmosphere into my drawing but I’m not sure if it ever worked! Lately I tend to listen to music which helps me get into an internalised and detached kind of head space, so durutti column, cocteau twins, nico, diane cluck, cat power etc, they create an atmosphere I like without distracting me too much.

Music has had a big influence. The way narrative works in songs is often interesting – you get an intense feeling but not all of the details, the whole back story. Songs can be really vague but still have a strong effect. I’d love to be able to make narratives or collections of drawings that worked in an abstract way, more like music.

q) How would you describe your work to someone?

a)I draw atmospheric narrative-based scenes that tend to have an ambiguous tension. I also draw faces and I’ve been doing a lot of fashion illustration lately. Some people have also described my work as film noir-like.

q) Influences?

a)Film, Kiss Me Deadly, Blue Velvet, Inland Empire, Terminator, The Bitter Tears.., film stills, fairy tales, pop songs and music, the stories of Anna Kavan, my tutor Andrzej Klimowski and so many artists from Egon Schiele to Frank Santoro. John Stezaker’s work and interviews have also been inspirational as have many books. I love Diane Arbus’s photographs at the moment. I also think romantic and symbolist art has had a strong indirect influence as that was the kind of work I looked at as a child. But at the moment I’m more drawn to work which is quite different to what I’ve been doing – more direct, expressive drawings that haven’t referenced photographs, with all of the mistakes left in, that’s a new route I want to take.

q) Describe your process for creating new work.

a)I work in an improvised, intuitive way but I usually reference photos or film stills as a starting point. I tend to make lots of versions of drawings before I get one I like and most of my work goes in the bin. My commissioned work is more controlled.

q) What advice do you have for artists looking to show their work?

a)Get lots of good work together first.

q) What are you really excited about right now?

a)Making new work, taking my work in a new direction.

q) What do you love most about where you live?

a)There are so many people trying to do something creative in London, often they’re struggling for money in order to do it but they keep going somehow - people try to start gig nights or do exhibitions or open new venues or whatever - there’s a huge creative drive in this city and I draw energy from that too.

q) Best way to spend a day off?

a)Reading or seeing something which makes me feel excited, going to a less familiar part of the city, or getting out of London to the seaside. Doing something different is always recharging.

q) Upcoming shows/ projects?

a)I’m about to start collaborating on a drawn narrative with writer Dominik Klimowski, I’m working on some zines, I want to exhibit some drawings, start some blogs, make some animated scenes and find a new way of working. I also want to do some writing.

q) Where can people see more of your work on the internet?

a)My website is but it hasn’t been updated for a while.

My fashion illustrations can be seen at


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