The east London-based illustrator tells us more about her first solo exhibition featuring a series of paintings on wood planks
University of Brighton graduate Suzi Kemp has her feet firmly grounded in her own brand of DIY. Her style has developed from teenage years weaned on the sounds of 80’s safety-pinned punk youth, a childhood discovery of the ‘Man with Kaleidoscope Eyes’ Alan Aldridge, and the vibrancy she finds in everyday life. Now based in east London, Kemp is establishing herself as an artist through her signature pretty punk aesthetic.
It’s Kemp’s youthful energy and playful approach to illustration that caught the eye of KK Outlet, the venue for the artist’s first solo show, featuring a brand new series of illustrations set on wooden planks which are available to buy throughout July. Dazed Digital caught up with Kemp to find out about the collection and the colourful future of her artistic career ahead...
Dazed Digital: Can you tell us a bit about yourself?
Suzi Kemp: I am an illustrator, and often work in black ink. For this exhibition I had the freedom to do whatever I wanted, so decided to make a series of paintings on wood. I really love painting, as much as I love drawing. I had a big list of sentences jotted down in my sketchbook and wanted to turn them into finished, colourful pieces.
DD: How would you describe your style?
Suzi Kemp: My style looks quite crude, but secretly I am a perfectionist.
DD: What are your influences?
Suzi Kemp: Certainly I am influenced by the music I listen too, and its associated artwork. 80's hardcore - musically and visually. Collecting punk samplers when I was a teenager, they had great covers. There are a bunch of sweet hand-painted signs round where I live. They make you want to paint. My grandma gave me an Alan Aldridge book when I was younger, that was crazy. I had never seen anything like it.
DD: What do you love most about being an artist?
Suzi Kemp: I like seeing colours look amazing in everyday life, then putting them together in a painting. I also like turning words and sentences into images.
DD: Anything you dislike about it?
Suzi Kemp: There is nothing to dislike about being an artist if you don't care about money!
DD: What do you do when you're not making art?
Suzi Kemp: When I am not making art I am tending to my 'Borstal garden' (the plants I am growing between the gaps in the bars on my window), cooking and eating foods that are mainly round (veggie burgers, pizza), and hanging out with my friends.
DD: What's it been like since graduating?
Suzi Kemp: After graduating, I was lucky enough to work in an internship position where everyone was extremely supportive and encouraging, which certainly helped my progression. Since then I took a big risk, scraped some money together and moved into a flat in East London. There have been times when I have been very hungry indeed, but the payoff is having the freedom to work on painting and illustration, and progress in this as a career.
DD: What inspires you?
Suzi Kemp: Colours inspire me daily. Sometimes I do a painting because I have seen a certain colour. I like rough mark making which is probably why I like home-made tattoos, which often appear in my work. Deadpan British humour which is often found in old punk and Oi! songs, and books like Adrian Mole. Other things that inspire me include crazy animal stories (especially ones about small dogs), dad jokes, and a bunch of very creative and driven friends.
DD: What does the future hold for Suzi Kemp?
Suzi Kemp: Recently I have been working on artwork for some skateboard companies, which is awesome and I want to keep doing more work like that. I'm off to do a giant painting at Latitude festival next week, so I'm looking forward to working in the countryside. In the long-term I want to do bigger paintings on bigger planks, and get through a lot of ink by drawing a lot of things for a lot of people.
'Two Short Planks', Suzie Kemp; KK Outlet, 42 Hoxton Square, London, 8 – 30 July, 2011