Every Tuesday for the duration of Waterloo Festival 2020, we'll be meeting an artist who either lives in or is connected to Waterloo. Susan Haire, our guest this week, not only lives and has a studio in Waterloo but was also the curator of 'Nothing Endures but Change', a sculpture exhibition in St John’s churchyard for Waterloo Festival 2018.
I studied sculpture but a year into being a post-graduate at the RA Schools I switched to painting and painted for many years until I was offered a solo show in Peterborough Cathedral (2012). I sat in the nave thinking, I can’t do paintings for this – they will look like postage stamps. Instead I did 18 installations including one, requested by the clergy, reaching over 30m into the tower (1). My studio has been in The Cello Factory, in Waterloo, since 2006. The main space enabled me to make the large installations for Peterborough and conveniently the length of the space corresponded to the width of the cathedral (2). Since then I have made sculpture, photography and video.
Earlier influences were Rembrandt’s Philosopher in Meditation and Georges de La Tour’s candle paintings (3). Dadaism and Duchamp have had a far-reaching effect – anything goes, you make your own rules which you can break and through this, as a painter, chance has been my special friend. It’s involved working on the floor pouring (4), throwing (5) and flicking paint, drawing/squirting with a medicine dropper and hair-drying the paint.
A solo show in response to Pollock’s late painting, Out of the Deep (6), was the inception of years of work focusing on red and white paint that had a visceral quality that seemed to touch on human vulnerability in an unsettling but powerful way. One example of this was the series entitled Mysteries (7) made in response to Biber’s Mystery Sonatas which I listened to the whole time I worked on it. The paintings were an abstract rendering of the Stations of the Cross but with intimations of a writhing body and were shown in three different churches.
I have recently made a great deal of work in response to Leavers (hunter-gatherers) and Takers (us) from Daniel Quinn’s book Ishmael (8, 9, 10, 11). I used offerings as one metaphor for Leavers. Another was interconnectedness inspired by both particle physics and Eastern thinking which meet in the Dalai Lama including his book the Universe in a Single Atom (12). This was one of a number of collaborations with NY composer and Chinese guqin player, Stephen Dydo, which started in 2007 and included Reflection in Peterborough Cathedral – his music still features in work I show.
'Prayers to Durga' was made in response to a Hindu Shrine with prayers on rolled up paper tied to a tree. My rolled up paper were hundreds of reminder notes I obsessively write to myself.