Gaye is an extremely talented and recognised multi-media artist out of London. She has been making art in various media, especially collage. She has always been interested in the dark side of life and is inspired by horror films, extreme music, and her own creativity. Some of her pieces include bones, old toys, broken jewellery and shells. As well as exhibiting in various shows, she has curated the wildly successful “Beyond Punk”, “Punk and Beyond” and “Black Christmas” shows at the Signal Gallery in Shoreditch.
I sat down with Gaye after a few computing mishaps one cold, February afternoon and we discussed her first memories of art, what the best time is for her to create and why death metal soothes her soul when she is working on a piece.
Erin: What is your first memory you have of creating art or of art in general?
Gaye: I can remember at school, one of the first things I drew was a quite complicated kids playground toy, that was long and green and one kid sits on one end and the other kids sits on the other end.
Erin: Like a teeter-totter!
Gaye: And I drew all the wheels and things underneath it and it was a bit overdone and they went “it was just a scribble!” I was 5 years old going, “I know what it is!”
Erin: And the teacher or whoever said “oh, I don’t know what this is?”
Gaye: They said it was “too scribbly!” With all the pulleys and intricate wheels underneath!
Erin: Teachers-they can either be so constructive and inspiring or they can just shit all over you and make you never want to draw again!
Gaye: It was a convent so we didn’t have any fancy methods all we had there were poster paints and powder paints and the colours of those and lately, I keep seeing those colours that remind me of those paints at school and it is really nostalgic; they had featured pieces at the Saatchi Gallery last year utilising those colours and I thought oh wow that takes me back! Not that I enjoyed my school days but, colours are starting to trigger off nostalgic things in me.
Erin: So as an artist, what are you trying to say or what feelings are you trying to provoke through your art?
Gaye: Lately, I have some pretty cool dreams and I am trying to get them down in one format or another, they’re rather fascinating and it’s quite difficult sometimes and I’m doing it in different ways. Before I was more into pattern things, but in recent years it’s begun to reflect my life a bit more and the dreams I want to concentrate more on now and I think I can do that without offending anyone!
Erin: Are you going to incorporate them into like mixed media or 3D pieces or more like just however you can conceptualise it?
Gaye: Kind of a mixture. There’s one I had last year, where I’ve been kind of doing these photos I’ve taken and been layering them and I tend to need bright light to see everything I want to see when I’m creating things but if I’m doing things on my lap top like doing photography layering using different programs. There was one brilliant dream I had about 6 months ago where I landed on this flying saucer on a beach on another planet, I got out and I’m walking across the beach and there was like a rock pool with like a dip with water in it, so I waded into it and when I got out of my depth I saw something in the rocks and started to pull at it and it was like a human size dummy, like a ventriloquist dummy. And I’m trying to get it out and I’m pulling it and it was alive and it started struggling and I was trying to bite it because it was plastic, but that wasn’t really helping, and that is such a weird idea that I have to try and do that! I’m not really into painting so trying to paint a rock pool “oh this is a pain in the ass” but I just have to show that detail. There is another one I said to a person I knew a few years ago, “I dreamt that you were standing on the edge of like a volcano lip with like loose shale and I was saying don’t stand too close to the edge and you didn’t take any note and you started to slide down into the volcano to your death.” So I recreated that last year with a sort of 3D thing using guitar picks. That one has been bought and is in France now actually! I have some really weird ones! There’s another one where part of it involved these men in white coats in a sort of laboratory in a cave under the ground, where they were turning people into text, a kind of runic language. They’d just sort of lean them over a desk… So when I have these dreams, when I first wake up I have to write it all up and do a couple of drawings and try and sort of make it work as a picture.
Erin: I have such vivid, insane dreams and I wake up and I just regurgitate everything that happened,
Gaye: Yeah you have to otherwise you lose it.
Erin: And try to write it down, because some you just forget completely but others as the day goes on, something triggers you and if you have it written down you’re able to add to it. To make it into art, I think that is absolutely fantastic!
Gaye: I’m just impressed at my own imagination sometimes!
Erin: When I wake up from my dreams I think, should I worry I am some kind of sociopathic freak or is it I have a very vivid mind? I don’t know!
Gaye: They all say dreams mean something but it could be the opposite. It probably means I’m quite boring!
Erin: I was a social worker and obviously I’ve done writing so I always try and figure things out in a very scientific way, there’s a reason why this does this, etc., but I’ve never been able to put dreams in a box and label them because they are so abstract and everybody’s dreams are so different and related only to them, there is no way you can scientifically explain them or why people have them or the ones that they do. It’s really magical.
Gaye: And you can’t conjure them up. You get them every now and again. That is kind of what I like best about them.
Erin: But to try to conceptualise and try to create your dreams into some sort of 3 dimension piece, I commend you on that. That is not easy!
Gaye: It is easy to set up a scene and photograph it. I’ve had a bit of a midwinter lull, but am now starting to work on new ideas.
Erin: I was part of a gallery and was an oil painter, first portraiture then abstract in my late teens, early 20’s and I’ve always suffered those bouts where I would be prolifically creative for months or even a year on end and then all of a sudden I’d hit that dreaded dry spell and it could last one year or three years, I never know when it will come and go so when it hits, you just have unlimited pieces you want to create so I know all too well about those dry spells.
Gaye: I’m always more productive in the summer. The darkness of fall and winter always cuts me off a bit. If I’m doing things on my lap top then it doesn’t matter what the weather is like or I can do it in the middle of the night, so I’m going to be doing more of that. And then technical problems really hold me up! I was going to do a load of prints and I had all this ink I wanted to use and then there was a hold up technically and it’s like I spend half my life trying to fix things! I know another question you asked me is when do I create art , I kind of said that already but, the lap top-y stuff I can do anytime, but the mornings, this room (she is speaking to me from,) has got the light and it places east and I feel like doing things when I can see really, really well. I know you can get bright lights, but it isn’t the same.
Erin: No it isn’t the same at all. It doesn’t have the same tone or texture-it’s false.
Gaye: Yeah. I’ve got so much ammunition around the place, I have that big cupboard over there (rotates camera to a huge wall length cupboard filled to the brim with all sorts of magical items for creation!) I’ve got like boxes of bones and loads of different kinds of paper cuttings and things to do things with. I only paint and draw when I haven’t got anything else I can use because I prefer the crispness of collage. I’ve got one here where I had to paint a snake because I couldn’t find a suitable snake (she brings art piece on camera with hand painted snake which is, of course, amazing,) I didn’t really want to paint a snake, but I couldn’t find anything that would work, it’s not a great snake but it went with what I wanted to do.
Erin: So you are using resin as well?
Gaye: I’m just gonna start using a different kind of resin actually, so I’m looking forward to getting going with that. For years, like at Rebellion Festival, I’d get people saying, “I like your tiles!” And I’m saying, THEY’RE NOT TILES-you don’t stack one on top of the other, you can’t put anything on them, they scruff really easily. It is quite satisfying. It’s all or nothing, I’ve had bad batches of resin that has really wrecked things, the one resin I’ve always used is Pebeo Crystal Resin, but I’ve been told to use one called Art Resin, it’s just like 50/50 with the hardener. And that’s better. The best is the Liquitex Pouring Medium but you can’t get it over here, they still don’t sell it over here for some reason. An artist whose exhibits I follow in London, she said, “oh you should get this” and I’m like, I can’t! You can just mix different colours up into it and it does these abstract things and it just swirls. I’m gonna try this Art Resin anyway because it sounds really cool.
Erin: And it’s 50/50 so it’s a bit less toxic I would think.
Gaye: I have to be careful of that because technically I’ve got the COPD, that’s why I had to give up smoking, I’m not so bad now since I’ve given it up. Think I can carry on!
Erin: I just gave up smoking in September on my wedding day, it was part of my husbands and my deal when we decided to get married and I’ve smoked since I was 13 and I’m 39 now and I was a raging bitch for about two months. I was so angry and sad and depressed and felt like I was missing something, like my baby blanket.
Gaye: I was in it longer than that.
Erin: Wayne started to get COPD type problems from all his years of smoking, so it takes its toll on your body.
Gaye: I gave up with a thing called Champix which is brilliant. It just blocks your brain receptors so you don’t even miss it. I never thought I’d give it up.
Erin: Well congratulations! How long has it been?
Gaye: 15 months!
Erin: Wow! Good job!
Gaye: I can’t take any credit for it, it was just a drug!
Erin: What I like now is that my hair doesn’t smell like cigarette smoke. I never realised how bad it made me smell.
Gaye: Now when I sit next to somebody on the Tube I go ohhh yuck.
Erin: So what does creating art mean to you? What do you take from it?
Gaye: It’s interesting to sit back and actually look what you’ve done; it’s quite interesting sometimes to see what you come up with. Because some of my stuff is just really elaborate doodles so I’m not sure where it’s going but other stuff is really precise, you know the symmetrical stuff, it’s really planned and laborious. I kind of veer from one extreme to the other so sometimes I enjoy doing a sort of splatty abstract background and then doing something really precise on top. I’ve always liked really extreme contrasts and things. A lot of my stuff is really dark, and I try and fight that. I did this rose in charcoal and paint, just like one of the roses from my garden and then I kind of did this charcoal skull on top of it!
Erin: Just subconsciously!
Gaye: Yes! I suppose it’s the music that I listen to which is quite dark and my stuff does kind of go that way, hence collecting bones and all that.
Erin: Are you a retired social worker?
Gaye: I wasn’t a social worker; I was a home care manager. Social workers would refer people to me and I would send carers out to them to get them up and washed and all that. I managed about 25 people that I would send out to do all the things that people needed doing but they privatised it in the end and made us all redundant so we all got early retirement.
Erin: How long did you do it for?
Gaye: 17 years.
Erin: So you did it for quite a while. As a caretaker, do you feel that sort of caretaker or I don’t like to use the word, but “fixer” mentality translates into your art in any way either subconsciously or not?
Gaye: I don’t know. Some of my sort of ethical thoughts are, I’ve done pieces based on animal rights issues and things but I can’t think of anything. You wouldn’t know it, put it that way, if you looked at all of my stuff, you wouldn’t know I’d been a home care manager. There’s an ethos of being left wing and into animal and human rights that comes across when I’m trying to make that point, but not really in the more abstract patterny stuff, or the darker horror stuff.
Erin: I’m sure being in the caretaker field you had to be diplomatic with people, with doctors, employees, families and patients themselves. Do you think that having those diplomatic skills helps when dealing with galleries or buyers?
Gaye: To be honest, I’m very lazy; I’m not proactive at all. I don’t go out looking for shows to be in or buyers; they come to me. People say I’ve got a gallery do you want to be in it, I say yeah, OK, you wanna be in my art show? Yeah OK.
Erin: But you don’t go seeking it. You don’t have to.
Gaye: I don’t pay to be in shows. Most shows you have to pay to be in them.
Erin: I can’t believe that because to me that totally defeats the purpose of sharing and getting out art for everybody to see and experience!
Gaye: Yeah, yeah, you expect galleries to take a cut, I know central galleries take like 50% and then if you have an agent they’ll take another 10-15%. I don’t normally go into things that big. I have been in one where they took 50% but it’s a different issue to actually have to pay up front to be in them. I don’t really need to do that because I can just have a party round here and most people buy my stuff from my house! They come round to visit and they go, “ooh! How much is that one!”
Erin: So that works out even better for you! Do you dedicate a certain amount of time, I know you said you are a morning person, say either each day, week, month, etc., to create or nurture artistic ideas or is it more of a sporadic impulse for you?
Gaye: It’s more sporadic. But I do go in phases and once I get into something I keep at it and I try not to get too many distractions because my social life tends to take over a bit. But I have to keep looking at it fresh, I go out and come back and look at it and think, right-now I’m gonna do this and this leads into another one of your questions, which is how do you know when something is finished-there’s a lot of going away and looking at it again and with technology I can get the phone out and take a quick picture, look at that in a bit and go a bit further and take another one and I think, mmm yeah, because you get a different perspective when you look at it and I find it really helps. I’ve got all these really strange pictures on my phone!
Erin: Do you listen to music when you’re creating art? If so, what inspires you the most?
Gaye: Yeah, I’m afraid I mostly listen to black metal.
Erin: That’s awesome!
Gaye: That’s why the art tends to get a bit dark!
Erin: Who is your favourite to listen to?
Gaye: I like a kind of mid paced simple riff something that really resonates with me. Things like Sarkom From Norway.
Erin: I was gonna say the Norwegian death metal?
Gaye: Black metal. I don’t like death metal. Some of the Finnish ones like Sargeist, Behexen. The ones I like they’re not technical, they’re riffs that I really like and guitar sound and I can quite happily have a nice morning like listening to that and creating in my front room.
Erin: It energises you and gets you in the zone?
Gaye: Yes, although sometimes I might be listening to the Jesus and Mary Chain or something like that.
Erin: Is there a piece of artwork you created that you’re most proud of and why?
Gaye: Can you see that big piece over there (pans camera to show me,)? That is the biggest one I’ve resined. I had never spread resin over such a big area and it had 3D things on it as well, I was impressed when that worked. Just some that are more of a challenge than others. This triangular one (pans camera to show me,) for some reason it’s very difficult to spread, cause when I use resin I sort of pour it over, I don’t use a mold I just kind of guide it to the edges. When you have a three sided triangle, well, all triangles are three sided, it’s very difficult because it will drip off the ends! That was quite a challenge. I like to rise to a challenge! Sarkom
Erin: What is your most important creative tool?
Gaye: I think my inspiration. I’ve got racks of things like paper and once I get things out and get all inspired , I never quite know where I’m going unless I’m doing something very specific. I think things rather than materials. I must say I do like my palette knife.
Erin: Is there something you can’t live without in your studio or workspace?
Gaye: Natural light! I don’t know. Not any one particular thing.
Erin: You create from whatever is around you so I would think that natural light is the only thing that you couldn’t do without!
Gaye: I am enjoying doing the odd line-y ones. They don’t have the sort of texture of the other ones but it is quite fun what you can do. I like taking photos and doing things cause when I was at art college I used to love doing, I haven’t changed much, taking photos and turning them colourless and just making real contrast of black and white and airbrushing the colours on and things. I’ve been hand colouring some now that kind of recreates that effect and it’s great to be able to do it myself. Once you start tinkering with that you can stay up til the small hours going on and on.
Erin: Between the different art mediums that you create, which one do you feel most comfortable with?
Gaye: I think collage, definitely. Because you get such great contrast. I love the contrast of really precise stuff with splotchy blobby stuff and sharp lines and things, just the juxtaposition really. That’s one of my main things.
Erin: The purpose of your art is the juxtaposition of the piece that you are doing.
Gaye: Yeah. Sometimes it surprises you! You know you can put things together-like oh yeah! That’s where I’m going with it.
Erin: So, my big question, do you think that the internet enhances or destroys the creativity of the mind?
Gaye: Well a bit of both because it really dumbs it down. Before the internet we had to think for ourselves, it was more true when you were looking for something cause you had to try and back in the day of punk gigs, how did we find out about them?
Erin: You had to hunt for everything!
Gaye: Yes! So it’s a bit like that, I think like creativity as well. But when you’re researching now it’s easier to find more diverse things and get led down paths that you would never even thought of. A bit of both really. It depends on what exactly you are looking for at any given time. Before people had the sort of endless sort of diversion of looking at their phones, looking at stuff all the time, when you were bored you would do sort of more creative things because you couldn’t just absorb stuff, you had to actually instigate it. But it’s handy for research, so yeah it works both ways really.
Erin: For me, it is so easy, it depends on, like the devil’s in the details, what you’re using it for, but like you said, you can end up on a path you wouldn’t have even thought of and then you’re doing something completely unrelated to what your original plan was. As a kid, I was always looking at anatomy books or the old flora and fauna Dover books, where now you can pick up all that clip art so easily on the internet, so I think, back in the day when we didn’t have phones, when you had nothing to do, like me, I always had a book or a magazine or a sketchbook and pens and pencils in my bag and piece stuff together. I get kind of sad around here (in Lyon, France,) because I expected to see more organic creativity with all the Universitès here, but every kid is on their phone looking down, so whenever I see a kid with a drawing board or a sketchbook I rejoice because they are creating something organically! How is it over there in your part of the U.K.?
Gaye: There seems to be a lot of younger people creating art and it’s nice when you go to somewhere like National Gallery and you’ve got people sitting down; drawing, you know they do still exist which is nice. They have these shows called “free range” shows off Brick Lane (in London,) every July. Sometimes it will be photography, sometimes it will be illustration and you get an idea of what’s coming out of the art schools now. It’s pretty clever stuff, some is getting a bit too technological for me, but there is still a lot of creativity coming out, I don’t think that will ever change really.
Gaye has work currently in the Waterloo Square Gallery (included pic) and will be having a solo or joint show there in a few months.
Gaye Black Art CV
1972-3 Bideford School of Art – foundation year (A level in art & printmaking)
1973-5 South Devon Technical College – graphic design (diploma in graphic design)
1976-9 Bass player in Adverts
Gaye Black spent three years at art college, qualifying as a graphic designer before becoming bass player with the Adverts. She is now exhibiting regularly and curating the odd show. Her work references her past, and explores the contrast between attraction and horror, mainly through collage.
Rebellion festival, Blackpool, August 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017
Zenith bar, London, Autumn 2008
The Others’ Spectrum Autumn ’09 show
Resistance Gallery, as part of the Rock and Roll Expressionists collective, December 2009
Beyond Punk, Signal Gallery, London, August 2010
La Fiesta, Newcastle, August 2011 (solo show)
Mexico Siniestro, Resistance Gallery, London, October 2011
Punk and Beyond, Signal Gallery, London, November-December 2011
Christmas show, Cultivate Vyner Street, London, December 2011
Taking Liberties, The Treatment Rooms Collective, London, December 2011
Black, Cultivate Vyner Street, London, February 2012
Slag, The Treatment Rooms Collective, London, February 2012
Vinyl Record Show, Cultivate Vyner Street, London, April 2012
Pandamonium, Signal Gallery, London, June 2012
Sex & Drugs & Rock &Roll – Trash Art Gallery, Pennsylvania, USA, August 2012
Art Barter show, Sir Peter Blake’s bus – Strummer of Love Festival, August 2012
5 Year Anniversary show – Signal Gallery, London, September 2012
Multiplicity 2 – 129 Gallery, Berlin, October 2012
Magick Eye 2 – Orbital Comics, London, October 2012
Black Xmas – Signal Gallery, London, December 2012
Joe Strummer tribute festival, 100 Club, London, December 2012
The Gender Agenda – W3 Gallery, London, March 2013
Hanged – JP Art Market, Massachusetts, USA, March 2013
Changed – JP Art Market, Massachusetts, USA, April 2013
You’ve been Framed – W3 Gallery, London, May 2013
Location – Red Door Studio, London, May 2013
Memorabilia – Norlington Road Studios, London, July 2013
Cre8 pop up – Gallery on the Corner, Battersea August 2013
Augsburg Calling Britannia – Augsburg, Germany, October 2013
HUH? – JP Art Market, Massachusetts, USA, October 2013
Affordable Art Show – W3 Gallery, London, December 2013
Opening show – Londonart showroom, London, January 2014
Divine Define Feminine – Londonart showroom, London, February 2014
Gender Agenda II – W3 Gallery, London, March 2014
Pop up show – 100 Club – Oxford Street, London, June 2014
Scotland In Our Eyes – Scottish Crown Court, London, August 2014
Bermondsey Joyriders show – Underdog Gallery, London, September 2014
Pop Up Show – W3 Gallery, London, October 2014
The Screening – Stratford Picturehouse, London, November 2014
Guilty Pleasures – Sweet ‘art @ Juno Bar, London, November 2014
Affordable Art Show – W3 Gallery, London, December 2014
Inspiring Change – W3 Gallery, London, March 2015
Sacred and Profane – Hundred Years Gallery, London, March 2015
ABC – Gallery 40, Brighton, June 2015
Understanding the Ritual – Gallery at the Storey, Lancaster, June 2015
We Are W3 – W3 Gallery, London, July 2015
Rock n Roll Art Show, Underdog Gallery, London, September 2015
Don’t Look Now – i’klectik, London November 2015
Pop up show – T Chances, London May 2016
She – Sweet’art, London, July 2016
Come to the Sabbat – Underdog Gallery, London, August 2016
Punk Rock and Roll Art Show – Underdog Gallery, October 2016
I Hate Christmas Pudding – Gallery 40, Brighton, November 2016
Paste Table Gallery – AMP London, January 2017
Whitley Bay Film Festival – Newcastle August 25th-26th 2017
Malt Cross gallery – Nottingham September 3rd-16th 2017
Underdog show – London October 2017
Affordable Art Show – W3 Gallery, London December 2017
Waterloo Square Gallery – Alfriston October 2017-2018
Beyond Punk – Signal Gallery, August 2010
Punk and Beyond – Signal Gallery, November 2011
Black Xmas – Signal Gallery, November 2012
Rebellion Festival art show – Blackpool August 2018
Rock & Roll Art Show – Underdog Gallery, London September 2018
Images can be viewed at
facebook.com/gaye.black.1 look under photos, albums, art