The Visitation 1 © Henry Tyrrell
Oil on Linen, 40 x 30 cm, 2017

Student Spotlight: Henry Tyrrell, Slade MFA Award 2017
June 20, 2018
The next student to be featured in our Student Spotlight series is Henry Tyrrell, recipient of the MFA Award funded by ACS at the UCL Slade School of Fine Art in 2017.

Henry, who has recently completed his Master of Fine Arts degree at the university, received a £3,000 prize to aid the development of his practice during the final year of his postgraduate degree.

In this instalment we revisit an interview conducted with Henry during his studies in which we find out more about his approach to painting and his past experimentation with photography.


Q. How would you define your work in three words?


Shifting, ambiguous forms.


Q. What does winning the ACS/Slade MFA Award mean for you as an artist?


Winning the ACS Award has been fantastic. It’s great to have people interested in my work and giving me feedback on it. It has boosted my ambitions for my work and I am very grateful to the Artists’ Collecting Society for this encouragement and support.


Q. How do you intend to use the prize money? How will that help you as an artist?


I intend to use the money mainly to invest in good quality and much needed painting materials like paint, stretcher bars and DIY tools that will benefit my practice long into the future. It will also be good to have it in case I need to do things like frame works on paper or transport my work in a van. For these reasons the prize money will have a significant impact on my work.


Q. What medium do you mainly work with and why?


I make work using paint of all types. For a long time I designed my work on the computer and either printed out the images, or rendered them precisely using acrylic paint in a flat style that avoided gestural marks.


In my more recent work I have really tried to change everything around and explore those areas in painting that I had previously avoided like gestural mark making and using different consistencies of paint with different levels of translucency. However I think that the more distanced computer-design stage in my work has had a lasting impact.


Q. Where do you find most inspiration for your work?


In my more recent paintings I have turned to my memories as the main source of imagery in my work. The process involves doing a lot of automatic drawing and as I am drawing I try to remember places that I have lived or known. I try to make each painting take on the character of one of these landscapes. Even though my work presents itself as abstract, I hope that a spatial sense of place is communicated.


I also listen a lot to music in my studio space and find inspiration in the rhythms and attitudes of the music I love. I find that music can assist with the visual decision making process.


Cosmic Mechanism © Henry Tyrrell
Acrylic on Unstretched Canvas, 180 x 206 cm, 2017


Q. Take us through your working process.


I draw a lot, sometimes scan the drawings into the computer, work on them there, work on colour ideas and then start painting. However the more I try and copy a drawing the less the painting tends to work – I have to engage with the painting intuitively using the drawings to give little hints and tips as to how to progress. Increasingly I keep the possibility of making radical changes to the whole of the painting open right up until the end of the process.


Q. Can you remember the first work of art that you created? What was it and why was it so memorable?


I always enjoyed drawing but the first proper piece of artwork I remember making as a teenager was a series of photos of empty car parks and retail parks near where I lived. I was trying to find a way to make work that failed at every single criteria for what makes a good image in terms of interest, lighting, composition etc. I thought if you produced consistently failed photographs by one set of criteria, a new set of criteria as to what makes a photo good would begin to emerge. I don’t really take many photos at the moment but the ones I do take still seem to contain a similar impulse.