Peach Fleck by Vic Wright, May 2022.

Vic Wright

In Conversation

SCP's editor Duncan Riches talks to Vic Wright on the eve of her first show at SCP. They talk about her journey in the art world, her working process and the new specially commissioned collection for SCP.

On the eve of Vic Wright’s new SCP window exhibition, we caught up by video meeting to talk about her story in the art world, her relatively new home studio in Manchester, working process and experimentation.

Where are you from and where did you study?

I’m from Wigan originally and then went to Humberside University to study Fine Art there. Then after Uni, about twelve of us who studied art moved down to London and got communal studios and such. I worked within the arts for twenty years in London, I worked with a lot of artists that I studied, and it was amazing to be around that art work. Then more recently, when we moved back to Manchester, I got back into my own practice. I felt like it wasn’t something I could really do in London but I now have a studio at home, so I work around school hours.

I want to rewind right back to when you were young. What kind of creativity were you exposed to then? How did it get to the point where you went to art school?

Luckily for me, myself and my brother are both creative, and my mum is an artist. So, although there wasn’t a lot of art around Wigan, or an art scene as such, my mum was a great early influence on me. She was a painter, which exposed us to a lot of different materials. We started painting with bitchumen, with latex and with lard, all kinds of stuff. She encouraged us a lot, and we were quite experimental. Especially in my early teens, when I was definitely leaning more creatively.

"My mum was a great early influence on me, because she was a painter, which exposed us to a lot of different materials."

Vic Wright
Workbench and shelves at Vic Wright's studio in Manchester, 2022.

Did you do an art foundation?

From school I went on to do the art foundation.

I think the art foundation course is a great thing in our education system.

Totally, it’s amazing. Where I came from, I didn’t know anybody that had been to university, any of my peers, or things like that. I actually talked to the careers advisor at school, and she said, “have you thought about going to college rather than doing A-levels?” I just didn’t know it was a thing. That whole world was opened up to me, it was incredible. Trying all these different things out, that’s all I wanted to do.

That’s what I think is great about the art foundation is that it comes at a moment in a young person’s life when they want to experiment. They don’t want to specialise, they want to try all these different things. So afterwards, you decided to go to University?

Well, they were gearing everyone up for that at the college So yes I did, it was the best decision I ever made.

What did you do when you first got there? Did you do a lot of painting like your mum?

Yes, my first year was painting. But I was using a lot of materials within the paints I was applying, rather than just straight paint, so I was moved onto the sculpture course. At the time, it was decided without a conversation with me. I went back in the second year and I was no longer in the same building. I was quite miffed by it, but it was the best decision. Because, the conversation I have with the materials I work with, are all with my hands, not necessarily with a brush. They saw it before I did.

"The conversation I have with the materials I work with, are all with my hands, not necessarily with a brush."

Vic Wright
Peach Fleck by Vic Wright, 2022.
Fleck by Vic Wright, 2022.

So you come down to London with a whole crew, which I can imagine was a lot of fun. So how did it work when you first came down?

Things were a lot cheaper back then and a whole load of us got a studio in Deptford, which we carried on in various guises for about ten years. Then I had my own studio, but soon I just didn’t have the time or the headspace to dedicate to it. Work gets in the way, then we bought our first flat and that took time doing up, then we started a family. It’s always something that I wanted to return to, and the move allowed that, it created the space to do it.

So, why did you pick Manchester?

It’s not too far from either set of parents. We wanted our daughter to be near a big city, for what that offers culturally, and we wanted that too. It was just a case of it being more affordable, we lived in a match box in London. It was what we could do.

So when you started to refocus on your practice in Manchester, what was it like? Did you pick up where you left off? Did things go in a new way?

I guess it did go in a new way. I thought it would be more daunting than it was, but because my work is quite experimental with materials and things, that’s where it started. Okay, it’s like, get your hands dirty again, see what we are doing, see what I can do with the materials, work and expand it, and it just progresses organically like that. I feel very much how I work, the work almost leads me, with how it turns out as a finished product.

"I feel very much how I work, the work almost leads me, with how it turns out as a finished product."

Vic Wright
Double Vert by Vic Wright, 2022.

I know you work with sustainable cement and you do castings, but can you explain a bit more about how you work. Is there a set process that you work through?

Yes and no. The basis of all the pieces is a white casting cement. It’s really fine, like a sculptors material. I get the different colours and textures by adding materials to it. That could be metal fillers that rust, pigments, or surface inks that are applied afterwards. Some are done during the casting process, so I don’t know the outcome until it’s fully dried. With the cast itself, some are repeat casts, but most of the bigger pieces are individually cast, like bespoke pieces. I am just learning the skills of silicon casting and mould making. So it’s a mixture of both really.

Often your pieces seem to be compositions of different elements. How do you go about creating them, do you have a picture of what you want to do beforehand?

The studio is full of castings. I have shelves and shelves of different bits, things I have casted where I have joined materials to see what happens, experiments to see how it works over time. Do they rust more? Do they change at all? Mostly in the bigger pieces, I find the compositions in this way, how they stick together, how the shapes work, how they stand together. Do they balance? That kind of thing. Sometimes I do have an idea where I might want to incorporate say more minerals, or more crystals. Can I get that to lean, or to balance, and what would that look like? I think about that in the castings sometimes. But I would say that it is trying to tame the material in some way.

I want to get a sense of how you work in terms of time and process. Do you prepare work for specific shows? Do you work on pieces in a group, or individually?

I would say it is a mixture of both. You can be working on something and say, okay this might sit well with this, or this colour-way with this, or maybe I will try and make a certain shape, and then it will be a continuation. Saying okay, this is working, and this is sparking this idea and so on. Although you know you have a show coming up, and you will work towards that. It tends to be that I work in batches. As I have lot of things already made up, with pieces already cast, I might have a play about with that. I might have a group of things sitting together on the bench, and I will go back to it. So sometimes it can be really productive and I will make a few pieces in a month, sometimes it will be eight pieces or so. Then sometimes it will be two a month, and I will be casting for a couple of months and seeing what is working. It really depends.

Vic Wright at work in her Manchester studio, 2022.

Do you have a working rhythm, or a perfect kind of working day?

So it’s usually the school run first thing, come home by nine, check emails and then be in the studio by half nine. Having the working day around school is quite short, so I don’t usually have a lunch break, I usually just grab something quick and carry on. With the nature of my work, to get changed and washed every day after a messy day in the studio, takes time. But I will be in the studio most days.

Do you have days out? Do you go and looks at things, or make time for that?

That is the problem, I am not doing enough of it, because I have deadlines and the day is so short, I find it really hard to carve out time to do that and I need to get better at it. Some inspirational days. I miss seeing things, as I work at home and don’t even have a commute anymore. I used to find even the commute could be inspiring. You might be getting your coffee somewhere that is using a material really nicely as a bar top, or on the floor they have used concrete in an interesting way. I find a lot of inspiration in architecture, in general design, it could be furniture design. Nature definitely plays a big part in my work. I love seeing behind the scenes of things, especially things being made. It could be anything. One time I went to see how aluminium windows were made, and I loved it. It’s like the curtain being lifted.

Banded by Vic Wright, 2022.
Standing Taupe by Vic Wright, 2022.

"I find a lot of inspiration in architecture, in general design. Nature definitely plays a big part in my work. I love seeing behind the scenes of things, especially things being made."

Vic Wright

So can you tell me a bit more about the new collection for SCP.

Some of the pieces have extruded cement on them, with pigmented cement. Some pieces have an ink texture put on them after the cast. The palette is quite neutral, with some punchier colours too, like a terracotta or a green. They are all one-off pieces made for SCP.

What next? What are you excited about for the year ahead?

I am really excited about the SCP show, and excited to see where the relationship goes, as this is the start of it I hope. I have another show in London at the end of June. I would like to see if I can scale up work. That’s next. All of my work seems to be about the same size, because it’s so heavy. But I would like to find a way to scale it up. I seem to be gradually making them larger, but I want to step it up.

Vic Wright studio shelves, 2022.
Vic Wright at her studio in Manchester, 2022.

A big thank you to Vic Wright for making time for the interview and for supplying all of the images.

Vic Wright Collection at SCP