|Cornelia Parker. Photograph: Linda Nylind for the Guardian|
Portrait of the artist
Artist Cornelia Parker talks about growing up on a smallholding, stringing up Rodin, and why Michael Gove should heed her words
"I didn't make any money out of my art until I was in my 40s"
Interview by Laura Barnett
What first drew you to art?
I was very physical as a child – we lived on a smallholding, and I was always outside making mud pies, or building structures up trees. But mostly, I had to help my father, so the idea of sneaking off to play was quite clandestine.
When did you decide to become an artist?
On a school trip to London when I was 15. We went for a week, and the whole world of art opened up: I'd never even been to a museum before. Having spent my childhood working hard, the idea that I might spend my adulthood playing began to seem quite attractive.
What have you sacrificed for your art?
A lot, financially. I didn't make any money out of my art until I was in my 40s, but it preserved my sanity and my freedom.
Which of your works are you most proud of?
My exploded shed (1), because it's the most well-known and well-loved. And wrapping up Rodin's The Kiss with string (2). I got a lot of flak for it, but for me it was about progressing my understanding of sculpture. And I've just cast some paving cracks in bronze, which I'm very happy with. I'm trying not to go through that midlife dip that artists tend to have.
Which artists do you most admire?
What's the biggest myth about being an artist?
That we're frivolous, and that art is an add-on: something that's not important for society. Art and creativity are crucial, whether you're a mathematician, a scientist or an artist. Take note, Michael Gove.
Is there any truth in the old saying that art is 1% inspiration and 99% perspiration?
Yes, most probably. But that one per cent is the most important thing.
What work of art would you like to own?
A Van Gogh drawing. I love looking at the thousands of tiny little lines in each one. They can make me cry.
What's the worst thing anyone ever said about you?
That I was vain and stupid. That was James Fenton, I think (4), talking about me wrapping up Rodin's The Kiss. It seemed a bit much.
What one song would work as the soundtrack to your life?
Is there an art form you don't relate to?
No, I don't think so. I love it all.
Born: Cheshire, 1956
Career: Studied at Gloucestershire College of Art and Design, Wolverhampton Polytechnic and Reading University. Work encompasses large-scale installations, sculpture and performance pieces. Showing at The Edge of Painting at the Piper Gallery, London W1, until 30 December. Details: thepipergallery.com.
Low point: "A fallow period about six years ago, after my parents died."
High point: "Being nominated for the Turner in 1997, and going on Desert Island Discs (5)."
(1) Cold Dark Matter (1991) consists of a garden shed that Parker had exploded by the British Army.
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