Exploring Illusion with Lucy Rose Kerr

“Ambiguity is uncertainty and it is vagueness, it contradicts the pillars of reality and the routine we are encouraged to believe in, but which are equally uncertain, a bigger illusion in fact.”


Lucy Rose Kerr’s work pulls you in like a dark fairy tale; a storybook set in her native English countryside. Exploring realms of newness, otherness, and “stuffness,” as she calls it, the young artist oscillates between light and dark, fantasy and reality. There is a definite theme of polarity present in Kerr’s work, a certain balance of opposites. The ethereal installations and illusions offer a moody voyage into the artist’s mind, evoking feelings that shift subtly between daydream and nightmare. Kerr’s illustrations waver between the abstract and narrative, creating landscapes and worlds that are full of mystery. Kerr has the rare gift of creating work that leaves it largely up to the viewer to decide what they are seeing—forcing her audience deep into their own minds in order to process what is in front of them. Intrigued, we asked the clever, poignant artist a few more questions about her captivating body of work.

Ctype me in cave
Fameless Quarterly: Where did you grow up?
Lucy Rose Kerr: I grew up in the countryside near Stroud, England. I spent a lot of time playing, exploring and thinking about magic. Like a lot of children I was convinced my toys were alive. I also liked to lie on the floor watching the dust particles drifting through light from the window, I would imagine it was another universe.

FQ: Where did you study/what did you study?
LRK: The Birmingham Institute of Art and Design, BA (hons) Fine Art. Falmouth University, MA Illustration: Authorial Practice.

FQ: Would you say that ambiguity is an important aspect of your work?
LRK: I feel ambiguous about my answer, it is difficult to pin down, but I will try… it is important yes; it is a means to feel more awake. Ambiguity is uncertainty and it is vagueness, it contradicts the pillars of reality and the routine we are encouraged to believe in, but which are equally uncertain, a bigger illusion in fact. There is no one true meaning we can find in the everyday, but there is an underlying sense of wonder and sadness amongst the confusion, which is what I find when I dislocate in the landscape, and what makes me feel alive in the moment. I re-create that feeling with objects when I am at home to reconnect. Dislocation from daily routine, from the ordinary, helps me connect to the extraordinary and feel alive in the moment allowing conflicting emotions to decant into work. An oscillation of identity.

FQ: Much of your art is very ethereal and dreamlike. What do dreams and unconsciousness mean to you? Are you a vivid dreamer? Lucid?
LRK: I am often woken by hallucinations during the night, even if I sit up and turn on the light they remain and I am arguing internally with vision and thoughts, they usually form around objects in the room. When I was little I had a beautiful reccurring hallucination of glowing lights, they would disappear before I could grab them. There was also a time where I felt something malevolent during sleep, which was terrifying. It suggests to me that same balance of extreme beauty and sadness found in exploring the landscape and dislocation. Unconsciousness and dislocation is like magic; it feels like an ancient secret, watching, hinting at or guiding.

FQ: You say in your statement on your website that you would overall describe your work as, “a response to a meditative dislocation from the everyday.” I would agree that your art definitely feels like a venture to a place in the mind that is rarely visited. What do you feel you must create in order to provoke people to disengage from the banality of the day to day?
LRK: I want to provoke people to question the everyday, to be aware in the moment. To see yourself seeing is to oscillate between realms, but I’m not sure why, I like it because the sadness is part of the extreme beauty of wonder. I always try to find it in the domestic everyday household ‘stuff’ that we live with, so that I can walk into a kitchen and feel it. I’m not sure if it’s healthy to want to feel it all the time, it is to teeter on the edge of the deadly.


FQ: Some of your work is so light and dreamy, that it’s almost dark, in some disconnected way. You say in your statement that you are interested in, “not the comfortable feeling of balance but the balance you feel when you are so happy the sad creeps in,” and how this “heightens your awareness of living.” Are there any other artists, musicians, or writers that inspire you in this sense?
LRK: Ken Kiff, Brian Eno, James Turrell, Bill Viola, Peter Doig, Alain Du Botton – particularly The Art of Travel, Walkabout by James Vance Marshall – both the book and the film, James Hillman, Miroslaw Balka – At the Edge of Darkness, Werner Herzog documentaries – Cave of Forgotten Dreams and White Diamond. The film Melancholia by Lars Von Trier.

FQ: What has been the most challenging project you’ve worked on so far?
LRK: Probably any of my collaborative work, it is really difficult to dislocate with other people but it is really rewarding when it works. We all dislocate in different ways, for different reasons and the outcome can morph into something very unexpected, I can find myself getting quite lost, unintentionally, which is different to intentionally!

FQ: If you could do a residency anywhere in the world, where would it be and why?
LRK: Somewhere remote, by the sea, somewhere I could explore then retreat to a home and re-live the experience with objects, perhaps a remote Scottish Island, a lighthouse, a desert, there are three ingredients: dislocation, landscape, and household stuff.

FQ: Your illusions are particularly fascinating. Could you describe these a little bit more, and the process you might go through while creating one?
LRK: To make an illusion I am alone, reflecting on my experiences of exploring outside alone. Usually I make them in the bedroom or the bathroom, turning my experiences over in my mind, what have I seen, how can I re-explore and with what objects that I have here. Meditating on the micro and the macro. I like to listen to the right kind of music for my mood, or work in silence. I made my cave listening to Brian Eno and have listened to the soundtrack to Werner Herzog’s documentary Cave of Forgotten Dreams repeatedly. I have objects I collect, my ‘stuff’, they are items with peculiar qualities and are generally shape-shifters when photographed, these tend to be things with reflective surfaces, or interesting detail for their scale. The house is full of useful things: the bathroom is great because it has natural elements, a good expanse of water, the potential for steam, also cupboards for darkness, the kitchen for the freezer, the bedroom for the landscape of the duvet, mirrors, torches. I spend hours, usually at night adding elements and taking them out, photographing, changing the angle or the light, until I get an image which feels right, sometimes there are a few. There is no digital manipulation of the images as this would remove the magic of an illusion being captured in reality and in real time.


FQ: How has your practice changed over time, if at all?
LRK: In earlier years I made a lot of larger sets and lo-fi videos with stuff, I was always interested in dimensions of reality, identity and searching for an answer. I trapped myself inside some of these illusions, but I felt later that this was a distraction, I wanted to share my feelings with others not show myself to others. I was always communicating the same set of feelings. My sense of confusion and ambiguity came from home; I had a foot in two very different realities.

FQ: Can you describe one real-life experience that inspired you, either in a specific piece or you art in general?
LRK: I found Lizard Point on the North coast of Cornwall, it is a dramatic, stormy and wild place with really unusual plants that you don’t find anywhere else in the UK, probably brought in on the feet of sailors for thousands of years. It is the most southerly point of mainland Britain. There was a cave there, which felt to me like a portal to different realities, it became a regular pilgrimage and I would drive there when there was stormy weather. It inspired me to make a life size version in a small room to photograph as an illusion; I spent a lot of time sitting in it.

Illusion - Waterfall. 2014

FQ: What is your favorite room in your house, and why?
LRK: I would say that the best room in the house is the bathroom, it has always been the easiest place to dislocate, I associate it with relaxation, reading, and reflection in every sense. It is an immersive, meditative and ritualistic place for me, somewhere I can play with the experiential, it’s my cave. For some reason I find it easier to concentrate, retain information, be critically analytical. Apart form the physical properties for experimentation with light, steam, scale, reflection, it seems to draw me into actuality, which in turn becomes another form of illusion.

FQ: Anything in the works we can know about?
LRK: They are all accidents. I want to play with the illusion of reality, at a given moment in time with the everyday ‘stuff’ surrounding me.

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