In The Studio: Alice Channer, artist

'I was never any good at making things when I was in college'

Karen Wright
Friday 15 March 2013 20:00
Art of stone: Alice Channer in her east London studio
Art of stone: Alice Channer in her east London studio

Alice Channer peers into a box and says: "I am bringing 18 fingers up to Wakefield, a couple of extras if I need them." These are some of the materials of the large installation to be constructed in the lofty galleries of the Hepworth Wakefield. Casts of Channer's fingers were stretched using three-dimensional technology, and in one instance are slotted into a low aluminium structure.

Channer, born in Oxford in 1977 and a recent graduate of the Royal College of Art and Goldsmiths, says: "The Royal College has this amazing technology. That is why I went there – because I knew they had it and it would be like a playground." The MA she took was also important for creating the web of contacts that helped her move on from being a student to a practising artist.

One tutor, Elizabeth Price, last year's winner of the Turner Prize, suggested she join with a group of artists including David Batchelor and Charles Avery, in securing her second studio, in Hackney close to Broadway Market.

The space here is bright and although not overly large has a good vibe – separated into two spaces, one for storage and one for thinking.

Here she has her sound system that plays non-stop when she is in the studio, and a view of a striking urban landscape, featuring several gas meters in the process of being dismantled. Channer works alone, but uses many different fabricators, who, she says, "are my assistants".

Channer, whose practice compresses objects into a flat surface, creates new environments that question the idea of three-dimensional sculpture, challenging the viewer with its awkward connections. Much of her work is exploring and manipulating objects. A shiny group of stones sits upon her desk. They are made from rubble she collected from outside of the studio. Covered in aluminium foil they become transformed into extra-terrestrial .

She traces her use of fabrics back to her mother. Large flags, printed with silk-screened images of synthetic hair, bedecked with what she tells me are blobs of chewing gum, hang from the ceiling, swaying lightly in the breeze. "My mum was always making things or sewing things; that was my first experience in how the world could be made. I did not have a father who was an architect: I had a mother who was a seamstress."

Exploring materials is expensive, and Channer again relies on the old network of the Royal College. Using its three-dimensional printer, she managed to make her stretched fingers. "I was never any good at making things when I was in college, the assistants would laugh at me, but that is not the point – it's not how well you make it." She nods at two shoulder-height aluminium works, shiny and flat on one side. "I made the casts for these from wax, I like the flatness of them. It is wrong and awkward but art is often like that."

Alice Channer, Hepworth Wakefield (01924 247360) to 12 May

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