^ Erica Eyres, High Heels, 2015, pencil on paper, 42 x 29.7 cm.
OTP Short-Forms: Erica Eyres
An interview with the Glasgow-based visual artist.
Bizarre fetishes, Twin Peaks and hanging out at the mall.
Focusing on the feelings of awkwardness that human bodies tend to dwell in and produce, Erica Eyre’s practice fits into the same aesthetic tradition that includes Vanessa Beecroft’s ambiguously provocative performances, Diane Arbus's voyeuristic photography and the gutteral and absurdist video work of Paul McCarthy.
Born in Winnipeg and eventually moving to Glasgow to study for an MFA in 2002, Eyres most frequently works with drawing although has also maintained a prolonged interest in producing both video and sculpture. The following interview was produced to coincide with A Bit More Exciting, a presentation of drawings by Erica Eyres with OTP.
OTP I have previously read about your interest in found images - could I ask you to speak about the sort of material you were looking at when you created the drawings included in this presentation?
EE I collect a lot of outdated material like old magazines and manuals. I prefer to work from hard copies and never use my phone or computer other than to buy the magazines online.
It's a bit of a gamble because I often don't have much sense of what's in the magazine based on the seller's photos (obviously they can't show everything that's inside).
I look for images that predate Photoshop and have bodies that aren't slick and toned like the ones we're bombarded with now.
I'm always looking for obscure magazines or bizarre fetishes. However, I go for the images before anyone takes their clothes off.
I prefer not to use anything explicit because I find it distracting. The awkwardness of the pose is more important.
^ Erica Eyres, Jane, 2018, pencil on paper, 42 x 29.7 cm.
OTP What was the process of learning to draw like for you?
EE I drew a lot from an early age. When I was a teenager I started to draw portraits from photography books my parents had in the house. But I learned a lot about how to draw in a realistic manner during art school in Winnipeg.
My drawing teacher, Diana Thorneycroft, taught me a lot about how to draw objectively and how to stand back from a drawing and see what's happening in the overall picture.
OTP I have seen your parents described as keen amateur photographers in a previous interview. What sort of images would they take?
EE Yes, they both did portraiture when I was young, and my father photographed a few weddings. They also photographed our pets, sitting them in front of backdrops.
My mother is still an obsessive photographer and takes endless pictures when she travels in order to document everything she sees and experiences. She used to take a lot of photos of me as a child, asking me to pose in different places.
However, this became a huge point of tension when I was a teenager because I was incredibly self-conscious and hated having my photo taken. We still argue about it sometimes.
^ Erica Eyres, Latex Maid, 2018, pencil on paper, 42 x 29.7 cm.
OTP Did you like Winnipeg growing up?
EE I'm not sure it occurred to me whether I liked it or not because I didn't travel much. I was kind of a melancholy teenager so probably didn't look like I was having much fun.
I go back once a year to see friends and family and I enjoy it a lot more now. It always takes me a while to get over the jet lag and the feeling of being somewhere strange but so familiar.
I immediately revert back to being a teenager and want to hang around places I used to go like the mall.
OTP What are some of your favourite aspects of Glasgow by comparison?
EE I like Glasgow because it has a good art scene but is still small enough that you don't get lost in it. I've lived here for about 18 years and it just seems normal now.
OTP Could you tell us about a recent interaction with a stranger?
EE I was on the bus a while ago, wearing headphones. I think I scratched my face and a guy came and sat in front of me and said something that I couldn't hear. I took the headphones out and said, "what's that?" He said, "I thought you were picking your nose."
^ Erica Eyres, Emma, 2015, pencil on paper, 42 x 29.7 cm.
OTP What time of day do you like to work?
EE I generally keep "normal" working hours, starting work after I walk my dog in the morning and working until I have to walk him again around 4 or 5 pm.
I do manage to waste a lot of time in between, cleaning or watching YouTube videos, depending on what I'm working on.
OTP What are some of your favourite movies?
EE I have so many.... some of them are movies I watched a lot as a kid because we had VHS copies of them. Like The World According to Garp and the Lenny Bruce movie.
Not a movie but I love Twin Peaks. And The Great Beauty.
OTP How important is narrative to your work?
EE Narrative has always been important to my work, in terms of the videos but also implied narratives in the drawings.
Like what is the scenario surrounding the image, what is the relationship between the model and the photographer?
^ Erica Eyres, Latex, 2018, pencil on paper, 42 x 29.7 cm.
OTP I have read you talk about comedy before in your work, how would you describe your sense of humour?
EE I'm most interested in deadpan comedy because it can be so subtle and nuanced. But I also laugh a lot at things that are over the top or silly. Like pictures of animals doing stupid things. Or John Candy in SCTV skits.
OTP Do you have a favourite joke?
EE I can't think of any favourite jokes. Asides from one a friend told me, which was "How does an elephant ask for a bun? (puts arm in front of nose and makes grabbing motion) Geeze a bun" Though I'm not sure if it's as funny outside of Glasgow.
OTP What is the best question about your work that no one has ever asked you?
EE Do you think your drawings look like you? Not that I want anyone to ask that, it's just something I worry about.
See more from Erica Eyres:
Erica Eyre's exhibition history includes: Mark-Making: Perspectives on Drawing, Gallery of Modern Art, Glasgow (2019; group), Fascinated Witness, Korai Gallery (2019; solo), New Hobbies and Pastimes, Katharine Mulherin Gallery (2019; solo), Girlz Club, Glasgow Project Room for Glasgow International (2018; group) and Inflatable Head for Plug-In ICA (2017; solo).