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Meet the Artist | Nancy Fouts
Editorial / Artists

Meet the Artist | Nancy Fouts

17 Jan 2019

We are beyond delighted to welcome the amazing Nancy Fouts to the Hang-Up family and formally introduce her to our followers. Read on for our interview with the artist and a chance to peer into her magical studio and thought process...

A little bit about Nancy Fouts...

American-born artist Nancy Fouts is well known for her innovative and playful creations which distort and play with reality. In her work the multimedia artist brings together unexpected objects, creatures and symbols with stunning results. As she has explained her work is about the manipulation of objects and demonstration of ideas and not a comment on religion, nature or anything of that sort.

Nancy Fouts photographed with one of her creations.

Although her work often gets mistaken for digital photo-manipulation, Fouts actually creates each sculptural object and then photographs the final result. As a long time collector and traveller, Fouts has built an impressive bank of objects, religious iconography, pendants and trinkets over the years. In her studio, which we were kindly invited to visit, these objects surround her, becoming the inspirations and materials for her creations.

Nancy Fouts - Exit Jesus

Below the artist offers a view of her studio and discusses how her ideas come together in a video produced by Black Rat Porjects:

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In Conversation with the Artist

We had the pleasure of speaking to Fouts to learn more about her ideas, process and inspiration.

Hang-Up Gallery: Your artworks never fail to amuse, is this the intention in the work or is there a deeper meaning?
Nancy Fouts: The physical appearance of a piece is always my primary consideration, and bringing together instantly recognisable objects in unexpected situations can create surprise and often humour. By playing around with context and challenging preconceptions, juxtaposed items can be surreal and sometimes very funny.
There are certainly deeper themes that appear in my work, but I encourage my audience to primarily enjoy the visual humour, and then bring their own interpretation to the work.

Nancy Fouts - Snail on Razorblade

HU: Where do you get your ideas from? Do you take more inspiration from personal events or from your environment?
NF: My inspiration comes from everywhere. My ideas come from a lifetime of looking and noticing connections between things. Sometimes two objects come together and they just ‘fit’. Some of my starting points are word play, size and scale, other artists and everyday objects around the home. Most of my ideas come when I’m not trying to find them.

Nancy Fouts - The Birth of Venus, Without Venus

HU: Who are the artists you admire the most?
NF: There are so many; a non-exhaustive list in no particular order includes the Chapman Brothers, Richard Wentworth, Chema Modoz, Ron Mueck, Urs Fischer, Camilla Parker, Gabriel Orozco, Wim Delyoye, Ai Weiwe. And all the old masters and all the ones I’ve forgotten.

Above: Ai Weiwei - He Xie in Blenheim Palace 2014 - Photograph: India Roper-Evans, The Guardian

HU: You worked in advertising, very successfully, before becoming an artist. Was the transition easy or was coming from glitzy ad land more of a barrier?

NF: I’ve always been an artist at heart. In advertising, where I was responsible for making the props and sets, I had the opportunity to develop my model making skills that are now a fundamental part of my own practice. When I started making my own work rather than meeting other people’s briefs, there was a sense of freedom in being able to play and develop my own ideas.

Above: Crow with Eye | Limited edition of 10
HU: You have recently published a self-titled, beautifully put together and rather fabulous book. Can you tell us a bit more about it?
NF: The book was funded through a Kickstarter campaign that was set up and organised by friends. It’s down to a wonderful team of supporters who made it happen, namely Tim Barnes at the Wind in the Trees, Gavin Turk and Deborah Curtis, as well as everyone who invested in the campaign and allowed it to go to print. It’s a 328 page comprehensive visual record of my work to date, and a good introduction to my life and my brain…

HU: Your house is crammed full of amazing artefacts, objects and artworks, would you go so far as to say that you are a hoarder?

NF: Yes.

Above: Works in Fouts' Studio

HU: We are proudly displaying your ‘Old Master’ cigarette packets and 'Shit' matchboxes on miniature easels in the gallery. Can you expand on the using these ‘ready-mades’ and is there a connection between the two or an underlying message?
NF: The images on the cigarette packages reminded me of classical paintings and I thought it would be fitting to title the range as ‘Art History: Health Warning’. The easel translates an everyday mundane item into a piece of art, but also elevates an object that is treated with disgust, fear and disdain into something perceived to be a valuable item.

HU: Why is the macabre such a dominant theme in your work?
NF: I don’t consciously produce macabre work, and certainly don’t consider it all to be macabre, although my dark sense of humour may be apparent at times! Some of my work features innocent, vulnerable animals in threatening situations, frozen in time before a moment of devastation. This evokes empathy from the viewer, but finding the scenario amusing can also create a sense of unease and conflict. Black humour can create an alternative way of seeing things, and is an accessible way to tackle controversial themes.

HU: There is a lot of religious iconography throughout the body of your work - Do you go to Church on a Sunday...?

NF: I went to Sunday school for many years as a child, and was fascinated by the nuns from the local nunnery that used to walk past my house. It wasn’t until I came to Europe and saw all the religious iconography in Italy, Spain and France that I felt the need to start to play with some of the symbols and to challenge their significance in a playful and humorous way.

Thank you to Nancy for taking the time to speak to us and thank you for reading this week's blog. You can now view Fouts' catalogue online. Expect to see a lot more of her work at Hang-Up! Watch this space.


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