He was at the time exhibiting as part of Shades of Clay at Kunsthuis Gallery, the Bils and Rye Emerging Artists exhibition in Kirkbymoorside and was about to be selling his work at the Saltaire Inspired Makers Fair.
Drew spoke to East Street Arts at a time of creativity and success, to explain about his work, his inspirations and his future plans. This is the text from 2018:
“I would describe my practice as studio-based sculptural ceramics with a focus on hand building. At the moment I am making a lot of animal/human hybrid figures which I describe as “archaic pop” art. I am also making sculptural vessels drawing on the human form, particularly the spine, which explore our relation to time and our mortality.
“The physical style of my making is influenced by the cut and paste aesthetic of punk, as well as the sampling, sequencing and distortion of rhythms you find in dub reggae. I also really love texture and pattern which I sample from found objects or create with processes such as stretching and stamping.”
Typically working with clay, using a variety of techniques, Drew creates objects with an emotional and almost spiritual quality. Drew explains his attraction to the versatile medium of clay.
“Clay has a primal quality that takes me back to childhood days of playing with mud and plasticine. It is a very sensuous medium and probably, most importantly, it has a physical presence in, what is, an increasingly virtual world. Clay also has a timeless quality that links you to the long chain of artists and makers stretching back through history.
“Ceramics can be sophisticated or primitive; it can be conceptual, sculptural or purely functional. It is a very open medium and there are many possibilities in how you can use it such as throwing, free modelling, casting, taking impressions and despite it being used for thousands of years, people are still expanding the possibilities, for example using 3D printing technology and increasingly in installations.”
Drew says the aim of his artwork arises from his ‘compulsion to make objects’, describing his work as ‘archaic pop’.
“I realised that I want to make desirable objects that have an emotional, psychological and almost spiritual quality. A quality that hopefully transcends time and place. At the same time, I am not looking to provide a narrative, rather I am trying to encode a subtle series of ambiguous triggers, drawn from many sources, into my work which leave plenty of room for the viewer to respond emotionally in their own way and supply their own meaning.”
“I am interested in the power of pop art, advertising, character culture and so on. To me the image of Our Lady of Guadalupe, the sugar skulls of the Mexican day of the dead or the Venus of Willendorf share a very similar appeal to Hello Kitty or the Apple logo. They are all iconic images that invite the viewer to become emotionally and psychologically involved. This is the tradition I am aiming to work in.”
Before working in a studio at Barkston House, Drew was a stay at home dad for seven years, although not physically making work, it gave him time to think about his practice.
“Life was pretty hectic and I literally had no time to produce art, but what I did have was time to think and dream projects that never got made but which got worked through mentally and stored away.
“So, when I arrived at Barkston House it was like lighting the blue touch paper, my practice was reignited and the ideas began tumbling out. On a practical level, having a space to work in and access to a kiln were vital but just as important was the community of artists I found at Barkston House.
“Making art can be a solitary pursuit and working in a studio space like Barkston House is very nourishing both emotionally and practically because there are so many different perspectives to draw on, connections to be made, experience to be learned from, work to see being created and advice to take.”
So, what’s next for Drew?
“Ceramics has quite a long lead time and I am currently working really hard making a lot of pieces for upcoming exhibitions. Further on down the line I have a few ideas that have been bubbling away at the back of my mind which I want to develop, they aren’t quite fully formed yet but I am really looking forward to exploring them.
“Without going into much detail they will probably involve ceramic robots and perhaps a bit of installation work. I am still just at the early stages of restarting my career so I am actively seeking out opportunities, researching and contacting galleries and generally trying to make producing art a sustainable activity.”
If you want to see some more of Drew’s work, check out his Instagram @DREWCAINESCERAMICS