Catching up with… Mary Ramsden

Series: Graduates of the RA Schools

Published 20 March 2015

Before she departs for a residency in Connecticut, Mary Ramsden discusses her time at the RA Schools and tells us what she’s been up to since graduating in 2013.

  • Mary Ramsden moved into her new studio space at the Royal Academy in 2010, attracted to the RA Schools by the promise of a freedom to experiment within a close critical framework. But there were other perks, too: “It was a privilege to spend time in a place like the RA in central London for three years… and the food is unbeatable.”

    The three-year program at the schools gave Mary the opportunity to be taught by Royal Academicians, as well as access to a wide variety of lectures and artists’ talks. Richard Kirwan, Brian Griffiths and Vanessa Jackson were her tutors and there is evidence of their influence on her work, particularly in her employment of geometric shapes and her use of colour.

    Ramsden’s works are abstract compositions of bold gestural marks, where the paint itself is as much a part of the work as the image it depicts. Marks are created by wiping down the surface of the canvas with cloth to remove excess paint, thereby creating a lively yet contemplative surface. Seemingly quiet and minimal, her work, on close inspection, becomes vibrant and energised.

  • Reflecting upon her time at the Schools, Ramsden considers what contributed most to her development as an artist: “It just felt like there was more time. Perhaps having all the necessary workshops right there sped the process up, and the rigorous feedback kept ideas ticking over. A short conversation in the corridor might be the catalyst for a big shift in the studio that was totally unexpected.” Her advice to any Schools students? “Milk it for all it is worth.”

    Ramsden is still in touch with many of her fellow students, particularly those who stayed in London as she did. She continues to feel the support of the RA tutors who regularly attend the openings of RA Schools alumni, and Ramsden has even exhibited alongside them: “I recently showed with third year tutor Brian Griffiths in a exhibition in Athens called Panda Sex, so it was good to catch up with him out there.“

  • Portrait of Mary Ramsden

    Portrait of Mary Ramsden

    Photo: Sam Irons

  • Since graduating, Ramsden has moved to a studio in Bow, which had been recommended to her by fellow Schools students: “I had been on the hunt for ages so I was grateful for the advice. It worked out really well and it’s great to have familiar faces just down the corridor.”

    It is from this space that Ramsden has been creating work for numerous exhibitions. She has had two solo shows at London art gallery Pilar Corrias, the first in 2012 while she was still a student.

    Despite the absence of the constant feedback and encouragement of the RA Schools, Ramsden’s work has continued to “tick over”, even if it didn’t always feel that way: “My second show at Pilar Corrias opened this January, and it’s both strange and surprising to see the progress of recent works up in the space I had shown in before graduating. I sometimes feel as if things in the studio are moving slowly and it’s good to see that, actually, the shifts can be bigger and bolder than I realised.”

  • In May, Ramdsen will leave the crowded streets of London and move to the States. She will take up a three-month residency at Steep Rock Arts - a competitive program designed to support and inspire emerging artists.

    “The residency is something I applied for due to its proximity to New York City, combined with a generous studio space and a pretty solitary location. I can dip in and out of a quiet working environment, but also benefit from the city not so far away. My mum is from Omaha, Nebraska which has made me keen to spend some time in the States for a while and I was also impressed by the list of alumni who have spent time there before me.”

    Set in a hundred acres of farmland in Connecticut, Ramsden is excited to see the effects that this dramatic relocation will have on her work.

    “The land surrounding the house and studio looks amazing, and I just felt like it could be a good change of scene.”

    See more of Mary Ramsden’s work on the Pilar Corrias website.
    Find out more about the RA Schools.

    Sophie Parker is an arts writer and contributor to RA Magazine.