Recently I watched Here Is Always Somewhere Else, a feature length documentary about the life and work of Dutch conceptual artist Bas Jan Ader. The isolation that is often experienced both as a human and as an artistic individual is something that often informs my work, and the film raised some interesting points surrounding this. Ader's simple performance art allowed space for so many facets to his work - humour (the instantaneous slapstick moments of the artist falling of his bicycle into a river in Fall 2) philosophy (the ultimate shortcomings of the human condition in the face of the complexities of the world around us - the force of gravity is pivotal In his work) and romanticism (the sense of loss and alienation seen in I'm Too Sad to Tell You). I was also interested by the point made that much of Ader's work attempts to keep a balance of irony and melancholy - a balance difficult to master but one which I explore in attempts to both subvert what I see around me and at the same time express my very human emotions of fear, sadness and love. There was something deeply moving about some of Bas Jan Ader's work, and an underlying sense of failure and hopelessness. I found it interesting to see such qualities in conceptual art, an area not often thought of as being overly emotional. I found I'm Too Sad to Tell You (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vUzBCl6iVoc) particularly moving - the direct confrontation and acceptance by the artist of the overwhelming feelings of human loneliness, made all the more poignant by his ultimate performance In Search of The Miraculous - a tragic one man attempt to sail the Atlantic. I have made an homage to Bas Jan Ader's conceptual Romanticism in a small video work Relativity (Trying Not to Cry) (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s7vrwm905IU), in which I reflect on the struggles of human expression, interaction, and understanding.
In :P, I have produced a series of pictures of a piece which is both site-specific (relating to its surroundings) yet transferrable. By placing the rubber tongue in composition with a variety of household objects, I subvert the domestic environment, interacting with the audience as they become mocked by their previously inanimate surroundings, raising questions of paranoia and our mastery of the fabricated spaces we occupy - tongue (out of) cheek.
Richard Hughes balances a playful appropriation of found objects and a considered sense of abstract composition. By using familiar items in unusual contexts (for example his motorcycle helmet as plant pot in Fallen Angel (Salmon)) Hughes brings a pop sensibility into the school of found object art that has its routes in Duchamp and, later on, Rauschenberg. I like the way Hughes toys with semiotics and meaning, using phrases in the work itself (like the nihilistic END OF THE WORLD spelt out in Jimmy Jimmy) and in the titles (suggesting a depth of ideas perhaps not immediately apparent in the work itself such as the hanging shoes of Dead Flies) yet also allows space for the viewer to make our own inferences and personal interpretations. This sense of ambiguity yet possibility of meaning is something I have been exploring within my own work as I begin to formulate more ambitious installation pieces. Another element of Hughes' work I have found influential is his idea of making 'convincingly bad' art, and the middle ground between proficiency of artistic skills and time put in to the work with a carefully manufactured aesthetic of apparent menial quality (further discussed in this interview: http://bcove.me/zkmk4opv).
Irene Zafra is the partner of musician and artist Lewes Herriot (http://lewesherriot.carbonmade.com), an artist I have previously researched. I feel that Zafra's collages, particularly her Desambiguación series have a strong critical link to some of my own work. They are post-modern dreamscapes, using a mash up of media imagery to create compositions of haunting and somehow poignant ambiguity.
Noble and Webster bring a punk ethos into a post-modern arena. They are interested in the transformative process - ordinary objects and detritus being transformed by the artists and the abstract given meaning by the audience. This phenomena is often termed as 'Perceptual Psychology' - a concept very relevant to my own work, where I encourage interpretation and dialogue of new ideas through the ambiguity of form and material (for example in my recent untitled piece consisting of a bra emerging from a Kinder Egg capsule - birth, growth, innocence, sexuality and more topics could all be discussed)
There is a discernible balance of opposing qualities throughout Noble and Webster's practice - art/anti-art, form/anti-form, high/low brow culture, male/female, sex/violence, beauty/filth. This equilibrium gives constant momentum and energy to the developing ideas, and consistently provokes the viewer, grappling with the dissonance of comprehending such contrasts of ideals. This idea of opposites is a recurring theme within my critical studies, seen in artists that have heavily influenced me such as Martin Creed and Cornelia Parker. For the reasons given above it is an idea that I will continue to explore through my own work, considering Noble and Webster's Punk-meets-Brit Art values with me.
Lutz Bacher caught my attention when I was recently reading about her Zurich retrospective, Snow. I was interested in the way she uses simplistic elements - found objects, magazine clippings and childlike drawing - to explore much more complex issues of sexuality, identity and community. Bacher is playful in a Duchamp-esque sense, composing household objects to amuse and provoke and never fully revealing the facts (the press release for her 2008 exhibition at Ratio 3 in San Francisco consisted of a recipe for butterscotch pudding). Yet Bacher is also brave in her creative independence and personal exposure - My Feelings consists of words uttered before she underwent a surgical procedure. Although there is a certain ambiguity about her work, a sense of mystery constructed by the artist (her website contains simply page after page of unrelated photographs of various urban and domestic curiosities), Bacher can also be very direct and emotionally raw (her Sex with Strangers she combines pornographic imagery with antiquated psychological statements). In the next few weeks I would like to create some larger sculptural/assemblage work, citing Bacher as a key influence - in work such as that seen in her exhibition at Portikus, Frankfurt, she creates large, toy-like figures, exploring themes of social and personal relationships with an aesthetic of primitive pop fantasy.
Ray Johnson was 'New York's most famous unknown artist' - an elusive character in the NY 60s scene, playfully hiding, provoking and entertaining with collages, performance and conceptual pieces. I am fascinated by Johnson for his mystique - the idea of 'the artist' as a hermitic genius, never fully realised by those around him until death. Like his contemporary Andy Warhol, Johnson had a penchant for pop culture - celebrating and perhaps simultaneously mocking figures such as Monroe, Elvis and the obsession surrounding them, and repeating commercial motifs such as Lucky Strike cigarettes throughout much of his work, depicting a fixation yet deep understanding of the world around him in all its puerile glory. I feel I can relate to his term 'moticos' - collages made from magazine images, sketchbook-friendly in their simple composition and smallness. Often the collages of my own that I like best are the smallest and simplest ones (see OUCH below). I am also interested in the process by which he created some of his work - by way of mail art, a movement that acknowledges Johnson as a major proponent. The idea of art as fluid, temporary, able to be passed around and recycled, edited and shared between different creative minds is something that appeals to me - in a way, I often undertake this process on my own, re-using elements of my work again and again in a constant flux of artistic construction.
WATCH How To Draw a Bunny (feature length documentary on the artist and his work)
LISTEN Locust Valley by Manic Street Preachers and Hey Ray by John Cale (songs about Johnson)
SCHOOL'S OUT is an on-going exhibition (https://www.facebook.com/events/1479264162314934) at the Ariel Centre in Totnes, curated by artist F.G. Davis and featuring his former students from Torquay Grammar School. I was honoured to be included in the group of 7 artists (including Damien Hirst-influenced Janec Van Veen, whose exploration of death and the human condition I found hugely engaging - https://janecvanveen.com), and have displayed 10 pieces of work from the previous academic year as well as a selection of limited edition prints. I see this as a mini retrospective of my artistic life from 2013-2014 and a representation of how my taste, confidence and personal style has developed in that time. Information on each individual piece can be read below.
Out of my interest in the history of the British Pop Art scene (Richard Hamilton and Eduardo Paolozzi being key influences within my practice), I have recently been researching the work of Peter Phillips. I love his penchant for futuristic imagery and garish, neon graphics - a 70s/80s era projection of a 21st century that has never existed. I enjoy the contrast that this aesthetic presents - on the one hand it would have been fantastically modern and utopian when first produced by Phillips in the mid-70s, yet despite their futuristic quality they have now become antique, relics of a previous modern era, vintage in their imagery and futuristic predictions. I am interested in recycling imagery from a similar moment in history within my own work (although I tend to work more in the medium of collage rather than oil paint), exploring the ideals of 20th century popular culture - I like to think of such images as 'modern relics', presenting what are now historical artefacts from previous generations to a post-post-modern audience (such as my piece BOWIE below).
I discovered Holden's work in the Summer issue of the Saatchi gallery's publication Art & Music. I was instantly taken with his manipulation of pop images seen in his digital and physical collage work - iconic cartoon characters, celebrities and commercial branding all falls prey to his playful subversions. I like how the imagery he produces is full of humour but also very much able to ply the viewer with more sombre reflections on matters of politics, consumer behaviour and the role of the artist and individual in the 'internet generation'. I feel this is something I touch on in some of my collage pieces, such as FULL OF BEANZ