An interview with artist Suzanne Thornley



Suzanne Thornley’s exhibition Yves Tanguy Revisited finishes on Tuesday 13 December. We talk to her about her work, the influence of Yves Tanguy, and being “smitten with emotion”.

Q. You are directly influenced by Yves Tanguy – what is it about the French Surrealist that inspires you?

A. Yes, Tanguy inspires me because his forms are totally fascinating, especially in his exploration of sculptural and spatial ideas on a formal level. The idea of the work itself is poetic, enigmatic and mysterious. Totally beautiful and inspiring.

Q. What were you like before his influence?

A. I’m very individual and have many influences – not just Yves Tanguy. I find visual art of the turn of the 20th Century revolutionary, and this period in time for me is most influential.

Q. Where/when did your relationship with art begin?

A. When I was very young, my father, who was an art teacher, showed me some paintings of Delacroix horses. From then on I was totally smitten with the emotion that was displayed in these works and influenced me from then on.

Q. Your work seems to be very sculptural – where do you think these forms come from?

A. I have always been interested in the sensual tactile world of three-dimensional art. It doesn’t necessarily come from anyone or any place specifically.

Q. You use a mixture of pencil, watercolour and gouache? It’s quite unusual. Could you tell us a little about what these materials are like to work with? Do you call them paintings, drawings or watercolours?

A. The materials I use directly influence the outcome of my work; pencil to render volume and mass watercolour for ephemeral background suggesting sea or sky. I use three different processes in the making of one work. I don’t really mind which one you use to name the painting.

Q. What drives you to make work? What does art give you?

A. I think I was born with the ability. It just seems second nature to make art. I have been making art from 12 years of age. It is a release from what is going on inside and marks the spiritual side of human nature.

Q. What makes you different from Tanguy?

A. Yves Tanguy’s work is Surrealism – not all my work is influenced by Surrealism. I work with different ideas and materials.

Q. What’s the best piece of advice you’ve been given?

A. My aunt, who is a practising professional artist, says “it is a lonely path being an artist. When you see your art displayed in a show – it is the only true real happiness you can experience.” I found a connection with other artists through this comment.