In the Studio with Ross Head

In the studio with Ross Head, whose practice is primarily concerned with the lives of queer people and the ways in which we exist in the world, both now and throughout history. We met with Ross to tell us more about growing up in Shropshire, what they hope to convey through their practice, and unexpected sources of inspiration.

When did you first begin to see yourself as an artist?

I was drawn to making art from a young age. It feels like the desire to create has always been with me in some form.

 Where are you from and what was your upbringing like?

I grew up in Shropshire in the West Midlands, not far from the Welsh border. Being part of a farming family my upbringing was spent surrounded by nature and the wilderness.

Paint us a picture of your artistic journey. What inspired you to first pursue, and then continue to practice, artistic work?

I have recently undergone a radical shift in my work. I am currently working on a series of large-scale paintings depicting bodies intertwined and melting with others – framed within an erotically charged landscape of vivid shape and colour. I often adopt a playful approach , creating compositions layered with ambiguities that nod to queer fetish subcultures through the inclusion of sports imagery and depictions of leather wear. These paintings simultaneously explore flatness while portraying sexual freedom, liberation and acceptance of the sexual male body. Another series of smaller paintings I am working on reimagine cruising grounds as dream-like worlds where bodies are immersed within the landscape.

What’s the message of your work? How would you describe your aesthetic? 

My artistic practice reflects on the lived experiences of queer people, subverting the status quo by challenging preconceived notions of these identities. My practice creates a platform which foregrounds and these identities, celebrating desire and joyous shared experiences.

Who/what are your greatest influences? 

There’s a group of queer artists in the US – such as Louis Fratino and Doron Langberg – making phenomenal work at the moment. They are breaking down the traditional barriers that denied queer experience by depicting intimate acts between queer people in their paintings. I have also been long influenced by artists such as David Hockney and Francis Bacon for their gay subject matter.

An unexpected source of inspiration?

I regularly draw from sports photography in newspapers, exploring relationships, touch and emotion through bodily forms, colour and shape. 

What do you want people to take from your work when they view it? 

A curiosity to see more.

What events in your life have mobilised change in your practise/aesthetic? 

I have been participating in the Turps Painting Programme for the last year and half. It has been a complete savour during the pandemic being able to connect with peers and form new relationships with artists. My mentors Anne Ryan and Sarah Pickstone have been unfaltering in their support and have pushed me to grow as an artist.

What are your ideal conditions or catalyst for creating a good piece of work?

Time, Space, Money.

Something in the future you hope to explore?

I am interested to learn more about Greek mythology and its acceptance of homosexuality. I plan to embark on this research in 2022.