Norman Sutton-Hibbert talks about his journey to becoming an artist, where he works and what inspires him.
What drives your passion – when did you know that art is what you wanted to do?
My earliest recollection of knowing I had to make art came during my school years. After school, circumstances led me off into other employment but making art was always my ‘other job’.
Over the years art became increasingly important to me. To illustrate this, in 1980, when I had a painting in a group exhibition that went from Glasgow to Nurnberg in Germany, I ended the piece I wrote about myself for the catalogue by saying “At one time I thought of myself as being a Social Worker who painted, but now think of myself as a painter who does Social Work”.
How did you get where you are now in your career?
I’ve simply just kept making work. For a long time, it was mostly painting in oils. Later collage became, and has continued to be, a real passion. I also developed what is a real interest in the history of art. I went to lots of exhibitions and tried to exhibit as often as possible.
Then, over two decades ago, I became a member of the Glasgow Print Studio, where I’ve focused on printing from woodcuts. This gave me my first real opportunity to work alongside other artists and played a very significant role in my development.
Then, because I felt an increasing desire to make my own sculptures and installations, but didn’t feel I had the confidence or skills to do this, I was fortunate to secure a place at Glasgow School of Art in 2010 where I studied for a BA (Hons) and then MLitt.
What do you make and what are the ideas behind what you make?
I paint, print, make collages, sculptures, installations and on occasions I use photography but am not a photographer. I have for some time been particularly interested in interrogating aspects of male identity; the role of everyday, but all too often ‘unseen’, man-made objects, such as barriers and fire hydrants, in our cities and landscapes; games and puzzles also intrigue me. There is really no limit to what might trigger a work – as can be seen in the varied subject matter in my work.
What inspires you?
I’ve long had a real interest in exploring the conventions of colour, the use of patterns and the concept of repetition – and we are all constantly surrounded by these, which goes a long way to explaining the content of much of my work.
Over the past four years, fabrics have featured largely in the sculptures and installations I make, and most of the material used being second hand because of my interest in the ‘history’ they bring with them. The colours, patterns and forms of the fabrics can come through in works in other media.
Where do you work? What is your average working day?
I have a room in my home which is my studio, which is my favourite space. I tend to wake really early in the morning so aim to be in my studio by no later than 8am and work until about 5pm.
My installations tend to comprise of many individually made small fabric pieces and can be labour intensive so I can often be found sewing even when ‘listening’ to the television in the evening. If I have no family or social commitments then Saturdays and Sundays are also working days. I also try to work in the Print Studio at least one day a week.
What are you working on now?
I’m nearing the end of making a wall mounted installation with the working title ‘It’s All About Blue’, and have been doing research and made some test pieces for two others.
Also, I have the featured artist space in the Glasgow Print Studio in July and have produced a series of digital prints that I plan to work on. I’ve also been doing collages on a series of postcards, with material for other works always being sourced. At the Print Studio, I’ve just begun a series of prints inspired by the concept of games. I’m also working on other barrier paintings and plan to begin some of fire hydrants (Lisbon was full of wonderful subjects!).
In what way does being Scottish/living in Scotland influence your work?
I’ve lived in Scotland for almost 50 years, and previously lived in several countries and have visited many others. However, although I tend to bring back a lot of ‘information’ from visiting elsewhere, it’s only here, where my family, friends and peers live, that I sufficiently at home and supported to be able to make work.