Henry Hussey is a multifaceted artist, known for his emotional and physically raw artwork across a variety of mediums including print, textiles, sculptures and film. We sit down with Henry to discuss his work, inspirations and the statement sculpture he created for Chateau Denmark…
Have you always been interested in making art?
I have but there was definitely a part of me that was timid and unsure about making a career out of it at first. At school, I enjoyed doing doodles and drawings but the teachers weren’t always encouraging. It wasn’t until I got to college and began doing textile work that my work properly began. I was accepted into Chelsea College of Art and my creativity came naturally and the work just developed. The more I was encouraged, the more self-driven I became. My confidence and art-making have definitely gone hand in hand.
Your work has been described as raw and emotive. How do emotions inspire your work?
There’s a great deal of catharsis in my work. I explore personal grievances and pains and then create art from there. Lots of my work references religious or symbolic imagery – like saints and martyrs like Saint Sebastien, for example.
Tell us a little bit about the piece you created for the Chateau Denmark project…
The piece was based on stigmata and representations of Christ with a nail going through his palm. My work quite often features hands going through acts of stress and pain. The piece was made from glass and creating it was almost like a performance act. I had to sculpt a glass hand, which is a difficult process in itself, and then I took a hammer and chisel and went through the glass palm while the glass was still molten. You’re dealing with a material that’s hot enough to burn your hand and then putting a hammer and chisel through it, causing shards of hot molten glass. The act of doing it was pretty traumatic, performative and almost as interesting as the work itself.
Lots of my work is cyclical. I work in a lot of different mediums and more recent works have started from printmaking. I’d typically make a black monochrome piece, which would then inspire sculptural work. I started this piece as a printmaking piece, which I then made into glasswork. The collector who bought it then commissioned me to make a series of works and one of those was used for Chateau Denmark.
You were born and live in London. How has the city influenced your art over time?
Lots of my work references ancient Greek and Roman antiquity and so I’m often going to the British Museum to look at sculptures, vases and vessels, which have been really influential on my work. I also run a project space called Ohsh Projects, which is near Centre Point on New Oxford Street. After seeing so many properties close down during the pandemic, I began reaching out to landlords to set up this space. We’ve had it for a year and a half now and use it to run artist-led exhibitions for artists who might not have the representation or the opportunity to show in galleries in this part of the city. Most galleries in this area are typically blue chip, which is a very different sphere of the art world compared to the emerging art scene.
How and where do you work best?
Because of the different processes I work in, I work across a lot of different spaces. So my home base has almost become a place for thinking and gathering ideas before I go off to different locations to do different processes. I also like to do regular residencies and go abroad. I’ve just got back from Seattle, where I spent two and a half weeks at a glass school called Pilchuck and working in a secluded location, which was very exciting. Right before the pandemic, I was in Italy for a month or so doing a residency making a new series of ceramic sculptures. I do enjoy having these periods of time away, where there are no distractions.
What’s been your proudest achievement?
I think about this a lot when I think about showcasing artists. Recently, I’ve come to the conclusion that I’m not actually that interested in artists who have immediately graduated from art schools. Yes, they might create great works but it’s hard to actually exist as an artist. Some of the artists you come across might end up giving up their art practice in five years’ time. Because it is a meat grinder out there. It’s very difficult. Even the most talented person might not have the luck or success to continue their practice. So to look at my work over the last 10 years and see how it’s changed dramatically is great. I’m proud that I’m still working in different mediums and trying new things. I enjoy the fact that my work has progressed.
Don’t get me wrong, my self-confidence has been knocked down in the last two years or so. Having to stay in the same location and the repetitiveness of life during the pandemic gave me bad insomnia and there was a period of six months or so where I found sleeping really difficult. My artmaking suffered in respect of that. Part of the reason I started the gallery space was that it allowed me to continue being creative without actually making my own work. Fortunately, in the past year or so, I’ve gone back to making and enjoying the work that I do.
What are you working on next?
I’ve been working a lot on large standards, using metal rods, banners and sculptures. They’re mostly Roman standard bearers with the eagles on top.
Quick Fire round
Control or chaos? Chaos!
Textiles or sculptures? Sculptures.
Private or public? Private.
Sun or moon? Sun.
Autumn or Spring? Autumn.