An interview between
Stella Capes & Rebecca May Marston, 20th September, 2006
RMM: Ok. Hmmm. How are you?
SC: Fine thanks.
RMM: Um, shall we just… Let’s just start with the first question
Ryan asked Matthew.
RMM: I don’t know. Just because… of continuity.
RMM: When was the last time you were in the studio?
SC: I work at home, so just this morning.
RMM: Why do you work at home?
SC: Um, because I don’t really need a studio. I do a lot of work
on the computer and for the sort of sculptural stuff I do where I need
the space I’ve actually learnt to be quite organised. I like it,
I like it a lot. It takes the pressure
off sitting in a studio and worrying about stuff. I much prefer working
at home. But it’s to do with being skint originally.
RMM: What’s the… you know how you said before that the title
of the video work you’ve done is quite cryptic…
SC: I did say it was cryptic. But it’s just that unless people have
knowledge of the area, they’re not going to know what it means.
RMM: What is the title?
SC: From Ravenser Odd.
RMM: Ok, so what is it? What does it mean?
SC: It refers to the location, a 3 1/2 mile peninsula on the Humber Estuary.
It’s quite an unusual geological landform. The reason it exists
is to do with the eroding coastline to the North, which has a history
of lost towns and villages
that have fallen off the edge. Erm… the coastline erodes about two
metres per year and all of that shifting debris goes south to form what’s
now called Spurn Point.
RMM: ’Spurn Point’. So the name Ravenser Odd?
SC: Well the landform has a lifespan of 250 years. Every 250 years the
sea erodes the whole peninsula, wipes it away, along with the villages
that form on the end
of it. It’s got quite a strange history. Like, I think there were
lived on it. I don’t think any community has actually realised the
of what ends up happening to the land until quite recently. So their communities
are destroyed and they only live there a certain amount of generations,
then they all flee back inland. Erm… the name, Ravenser Odd, which
is the title of the film, was the landform before last.
RMM: Why did you title it with a previous name?
SC: Well, I wanted to draw attention to the place that was there before.
Just bringing in that aspect of time really, about things changing. And
also about the possibility of where all this matter came from –
you know, the objects placed on the beach. Because, I mean, it wasn’t
necessarily intended for the objects to appear swept up from a lost town
or village or something, but it was important
that there was at least the potential of it.
RMM: They’re odd things to be swept up…
SC: Yeah, I got interested in the place, and then when I had this idea
for burying this man – which was actually to do with something completely
different – which
was to do with this idea that if you bury someone upright from the neck-down
then they’re not able to laugh. It’s to do with you’re
diaphragm not being able to collapse under the pressure. Whether it’s
true or not doesn’t matter.
RMM: Does the laughing come from the gramophone?
SC: Yes, it’s a twenties laughing record. It was a bizarre trend
in the twenties and thirties to have them at parties… perhaps to
make it seem like you had more friends or something.
RMM: And you know the kind of dirge-like music is that coming form the
gramophone as well? Are they laughing in response to it?
SC: Well yeah, on these laughing records the laughter is usually set around
somebody not being able to do something. Which is one of the reasons I
became interested in it in the first place because a lot of my work tends
to look at elements of failure.
RMM: Why do you make work that looks at failure?
SC: I think it’s a particularly timely and relevant aspect of the
human condition… alongside it being something that I empathise strongly
with… Well… There’s just something very honest about
RMM: Um… let’s do some last questions now. How was art school?
SC: Royal College I loved. I think the thing about Royal College, or any
college, it so depends on the department you’re in and when you’re
RMM: And which department were you in?
SC: Painting. I really think my year was quite unusual because most people
stopped painting – they all re-assessed their work and began again.
RMM: Were you exclusively making painting when you applied to that department,
because now your practice is… I don’t want to say multi-disciplinary…
but you work with totally different media now.
SC: Say it. Yeah. Well a month into the Royal College I threw all my work
and decided to throw all my ideas away, and everything I’d done
before. Like, conceptually and physically, and… yeah, I remember
I was with Rose Finn-Kelcey, my tutor at the time, and we marched my paintings
out the door and chucked them in
RMM: That’s sounds so ‘art school’ Stella. Were you
scared to throw it all away
and try to start without your previous ideas?
Sc: Not scared, no, because I was in the best environment to take a risk…
A bit daunted maybe and a bit lost at times but it was exciting ‘cause
I got to play about with video cameras and fireworks. It was brilliant
actually because I was then sat in my studio going “what the fuck
am I going to do?” And… you’re sitting there going –
and this is very art school as well – going “what do artists
do?” Well, you think of a thing and then, you sort of make it into
something more interesting or something? Is that what…? Yeah it
RM: Can you really ‘start over’, afresh?
SC: I’m not sure now. Like you said, it’s very 'art school'.
I was determined to turn myself into the sort of artist I wanted to be
before I left college. I think it’s good to constantly re-assess
what you're doing to make sure it’s still you though.
RMM: And what was the last show you saw?
SC: The last show I saw. Sorry, I’m really rubbish with memory questions.
Well… I went to the ICA one, Surprise Surprise. I thought it was
really weak. I think it was potentially interesting – the concept
– because of the idea that artists might suddenly make this bit
of work that’s out of character… But I don’t actually
think that many artists do.
RMM: What’s your relationship, in general, to seeing other artists
work and seeing exhibitions? Do you do a lot of it?
SC: Yeah I do. I don’t go to many openings. That’s my problem.
RMM: Well that’s not a problem is it.
SC: It is. Going to openings is ‘everything’.
RMM: No, come on, it’s not. No. That’s rubbish. Surely artists
who have integrity don’t whore their arses around openings night
SC: Yeah but the whole point of openings is that you go to openings and
you get pissed with somebody who’s going to curate a show, blah,
blah, blah… ’I think it’s such a fundamental part of
how the art world works, and I hate that. And that’s
why I don’t go. I can’t stand it.
RMM: That’s so mercenary though. There are other ways of doing it.
SC: What are the alternatives?
RMM: I don’t know exactly because I think the alternative is going
back to that antiquated idea of the artist sitting in their studio waiting
to be found…
SC: Doesn’t happen. Sorry, you’ve uprooted something that
gets me really annoyed.
RMM: Sorry. Ok. We should probably… this is 29 minutes and the last
one was 20 minutes and it took me hours. Is there anything else you want
to say? Shall we
just leave it at that then?
Stella Capes was born
in Sheffield in 1978. She gained an MA Fine Art Painting from Royal College
of Art, London, in 2003, and a BA(Hons)Fine Art Painting from the University
of Brighton in 2000. In 2005 Stella had a solo show at The International
3, Manchester, and was awarded the Byam Shaw School of Art/Cocheme Fellowship.