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In the Studio: Tania Kovats, Artist

'I don't have an impulse to make work that looks like my work'

Tania Kovats lives in the Devon countryside with her long-term partner and fellow artist Alex Hartley and their son Frank. To give Frank more freedom, the family moved from a Shoreditch loft to this former mill house on the river Love. Kovats works high up in an attached mill tower, where two precipitous ladders narrow skyward to her ethereal space, although she also rents an industrial shed nearby to produce larger work.

Born in Brighton in 1966, Kovats studied in Newcastle before getting her MA at the Royal College of Art, London. Selected for the Barclays Young Contemporaries of 1991, she received the young artist award. Her notorious early work Virgin in a Condom resulted in large numbers of complaints wherever it was shown. Whether it was the resulting furore or making peace with her Catholic upbringing (she boarded at a convent), Kovats has more recently turned her attention predominantly to questions of archaeology, landscape and nature.

She recollects that on her first trip to Jupiter Artland, a private collection open to the public near Edinburgh and the site of one of Kovats's recent projects, she was encouraged to take a walk round the site to see if a place grabbed her. She explains: "The two works [at Jupiter] that I feel very connected to are the Ian Hamilton Finlay, Only Connect, and Stone House by Andy Goldsworthy. I knew I wanted to work with water. And then I heard water, this little trickle, right at the edge."

Returning to Devon, she chose to work with a local carpenter and joiner to create the boathouse that houses the 100 simple glass receptacles of water, collected from rivers across the British Isles, now comprising her Jupiter installation. What was the genesis of the work? "I think I wanted to bring all these rivers to one place. A simple impulse. To make a still place, even though I collected moving water." She acknowledges that "Rivers is an important work for me. I make a range of works, and that is one that got right in there."

I comment on her works' wide range, and she says, "I don't have an impulse to make work that looks like my work. Things don't repeat. I had a period where I had a formula with the landscapes embedded in the plinths, and a run of works working with light that I could predict what they would look like. I was losing my interest, as I want to surprise myself. I am comfortable with those differences. There are always connections. It is a charm bracelet and I stick on different things."

Jupiter Artland is open by appointment (jupiterartland.org)