An Interview with Mary Rouncefield


I have a degree in Illustration from the University of the West of England passed with honors at II(i) in 2009. Most recently, I have exhibited work in two exhibitions at the Royal West of England Academy in 2013; with animal screen prints in ‘Riegning Cats and Dogs’ and a three dimensional piece featuring a drawing in ink , in the open exhibition: ‘Drawn’.
In 2007, while still a student, I was short listed for the Jerwood Drawing Prize. Other exhibitions include, the 7th International Mini Print Exhibition organised by the Printmakers’ Council (2009), the Royal West of England Academy Autumn Exhibition in 2009 and 2012, and the Wrexham Print International in 2011. I was an exhibitor at One Church Street gallery in the first ‘Art In A Box’ open submission. During 2012, I have exhibited print work in New York at the Noble Maritime Collection, on the BBC News Website and in Riga with Offorte Gilde. I also make artist’s books which I print and bind by hand. These occasionally appear in exhibitions including ‘White heat’ organized by Kaleid Editions in London and the Sheffield Artists Book Festival.
I have a BA in Statistics and Sociology from the University of Exeter, as well as an MSc in Applied Statistics and a teaching qualification. I began my career teaching in secondary schools, worked for a time in curriculum development and then taught in Higher Education at Chester College and John Moores University, Liverpool (1999-2003). I have an extensive publications list mainly in pedagogy and school textbooks for maths and statistics, with most for teachers and pupils in the 16-18 age group. I have had articles published in teaching journals and have presented papers at international conferences including the International Conference on Mathematics Education held in Quebec 1992 and the ISI (International Statistics Institute) 50th Scientific Meeting held in Beijing in 1995. For some years I was very active in the Royal Statistical Society in London and was Chairman of the society’s Education Section from 1996-1999.

What made you become an artist?

I have always enjoyed art from early childhood and used whatever materials were to hand. While still working as a lecturer/writer in mathematics I began to attend life classes enjoying the challenge they provided. I then became a ‘weekend painter’ but soon realized that I needed to change my life around and make art my main focus.

How do you incorporate mathematics and corsets into your work?


I am a mathematician/statistician and artist and as such I can work across traditional boundaries and arbitrary divisions in knowledge. Much of my art work expresses my complex feelings and ideas about mathematics and science. I am particularly interested in exploring the effect on creativity, of conventions and procedures used in science and mathematics.
For most of my life, I have found the beauty of mathematics, geometry and patterns fascinating, and have tried to link mathematics and art in a series of sculptures, drawings, and prints entitled “Mathematical Curves”. I hope to express my ideas about mathematics and mathematical thinking through my art work.
Mathematics is the language of science. Without it, the scientist has difficulty in expressing ideas succinctly. However, with mathematics, the scientist can formulate and manipulate complex concepts elegantly and simply. Mathematics is a discipline, which involves strict logic and rules. While mathematical language can be used to describe beautiful curves, it is also very constraining. It is this constraint which led me to link mathematics with the ‘corset of the mind’ and to use the image of a corset as a metaphor for mathematical convention. The restraint imposed by the corset symbolizes the constraint imposed by the discipline of mathematics on the way the mathematician must think.
Enamel and copper are materials which fascinate me both for their beauty and their strength and durability. Like mathematics, enamelled copper artifacts have endured through the centuries. Thus it seemed appropriate to construct a mathematical corset out of enamelled copper. I have made three life-sized corsets so far, decorated either with hand drawn graphs or with screen printed figures.


What advice would you give to artists?

I believe that the artist wishing to work in a cross-curricular way with science should be commenting on science and its methods of working. The artist can make science more accessible to the non scientist. However, the artist should be expressing ideas about science rather than merely copying images produced by scientists using microscopes or other scientific instruments. While these images are interesting, they are not necessarily art.

Has the pop art movement and the anatomy drawings of Leonardo Da Vinci work influenced your work?

I have occasionally referenced the work of other artists. Some of my mathematical and animal prints have certainly been influenced by the work of Andy Warhol and other artists in the Pop Art movement. I have also referenced a work by Leonardo Davinci in which I have replaced his male figure drawn inside a circle with a female figure. I am interested in his work mainly due to the fact that he too was an artist and mathematician/ scientist. I do not like the modern-day tendency to put art and science in separate ‘boxes’ with knowledge compartmentalised into separate ‘subjects’. There is also a tendency to ‘compartmentalise’ people’s abilities and work and to label them as being a ‘mathematician’ or a ‘sculptor’ or an ‘illustrator’ to the exclusion of all else.


Your titanic work seems somewhat detached from the rest of your work?

This body of work was made as part of my final degree assessment in 2009. I then had it displayed on my website from that date onwards. A group of four etchings were exhibited in the Royal West of England Academy Autumn Exhibition in 2009. Later I was approached in 2011 by Offorte Gilde in Riga to exhibit the complete set of 13 screen prints and etchings in their 2012 Titanic exhibition. Also my work was noticed by the curatorial staff at the Noble Maritime Museum in New York and six etchings were requested for exhibiton in their 2012 centenary ‘TITANIC 100’. I had originally created the etchings screen prints and artist books after finding some old family papers among my grand mother’s belongings. Her brother Teddy Harris died while working as a steward on the Titanic – at the young age of 18 and she also lost her fiancé. My work was intended as a memorial to those two young men.


Do you have a set art process when you do a piece of art?

I do not have a ‘set’ way of working – except for the fact that I mainly do a lot of thinking first!

Can you see your artwork changing at all?

My work is changing. I have done so much work on the mathematical theme – that I need a break from it! I am also working more with drawing and painting, and less with screen print for the moment.


Some of my new avenues of investigation and thought are more ‘political’ as I am interested in the victims of human trafficking . I have produced a series of drawings on that theme which were exhibited by ‘Guerilla Galleries’ in London in April 2014.


Do you have any current exhibitions?

In Bristol, I have work on show at the Berkeley Square Hotel. Just ask at the hotel reception to be shown up to the first floor gallery! I have a few pieces in a group exhibition also.

Where can people find you on the internet?


Author: Helen Ingram

Self Published author, artist, interviewer and owner of New Art United