VIP - VideoChannel Interview Project

Palmer, Stephen

Stephen Palmer
UK based

artist biography


Interview: 10 questions

1. Tell me something about your life and the educational background:
artist based in Newcastle upon Tyne, UK. Graduated from Winchester School of Art (1990), then post-graduate Northumbria University, Newcastle (1998).

2. When, how and why started you filming?
Originally worked in painting. Following post-graduate course started experimenting with other ways of working. First film-work was about expanding the language I was using in painting (at the time abstract looking works that were based on surfaces and patterns found in everyday design). This developed into working with narrative ideas, ideas that have subsequently been developed back into painting.

3. What kind of subjects have your films?
I work mostly with everyday ‘domestic’ subject matter, or develop work from stories found online or in the press. Collecting and what drives people to collect things is a current ongoing theme.

4. How do you develop your films, do you follow certain principles, styles etc?
Usually the films develop over a period of time and finally get finished when I have an opportunity to exhibit. I might work with an idea in different mediums and some ideas then suggest that they are most suited to moving image work.

5. Tell me something about the technical equipment you use:
This varies. For The Daily News I created a scale model of the apartment I was living in at the time and filled it with miniature bundles of newspapers. I then filmed the model using a portable web-cam attached to an old Imac, moving it around the interior by hand and watching the results on screen as I went. My aim was to create one long shot but technical issues meant that I had to break the shot in several places (the model was in fact in two parts and it was impossible to film the whole thing at once). Creating the model took several months. Filming only took a few days. An earlier work Colour-blind was filmed using a full-scale set. Other works have used found material carefully edited out of TV advertisements.

6. What are the chances of new media for the genre film/video in general and you personally?
The main thing is accessibility. Whereas moving image work used to involve hiring specialist equipment and editing at a specialist facility, you can now do pretty much everything using a reasonable quality camera and your home PC.

7. How do you finance your films?
They are all self-financed and therefore made as cheaply as possible.

8. Do you work individually as a video artist/film maker or do you work in a team?
If you have experience in both, what is the difference, what do you prefer? I work on my own but occasional get assistance from others to build a set or to help with tricky camerawork.

9. Who or what has a lasting influence on your film/video making?
Hitchcock, 70s horror movies.

10. What are your future plans or dreams as a film/video maker?
To finish the animation that I’ve been working on for ages.

Stephen Palmer makes paintings that catalogue everyday items from a personal collection of usually ‘free’ or ‘found’ objects – matchboxes collected in pubs, pens that have been sent through the post by charities and credit card companies, and sugar sachets collected as mementos of trips to places far and wide. The paintings present these objects in small groups and leave the viewer to create connections between the items depicted. The objects depicted often feature designs and logos that add to their purpose and functionality, sometimes in themselves miniature works of art that create allusions to long distant shores or remarkable feats of creativity, political power and design.
Alongside painting, Stephen makes short digital films that have a more clearly defined narrative. These can be based on ‘found’ stories from internet, TV or newspapers, things seen around and about, or obsessed over while watching TV.