patternsthatconnect

abstract art, a systems view

Posts Tagged ‘interview

Dystopia at HMS: Interview with Clay Smith

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Viewing images by photomontage artist Clay Smith in the exhibition Dystopia at Harrington Mill Studios, I am reminded of the constructedness of our present and that we do not necessarily live in the best of all possible worlds. All is not what it seems, just beneath the surface of civilisation is flesh and the ‘civilising’ itself may not be a good thing. There’s a series of images here that runs in a sequence revealing the process of social and technological development as beginning with control and ending in cannibalism. Yet all the images have beauty, whether in the soft magenta and tan colours or in the subtle blemishes that are as near to painterly that a photo can get. They pose questions for me about beauty, meaning and process. Rather than attempting to think through these questions on my own, I asked the artist for an interview. My questions are shown as headings with Clay Smith’s responses below each one.

Clay Smith, Blue Collar 1, 2012, image by courtesy of the artist

Clay Smith, Blue Collar 1, 2012, C-type print. Image by courtesy of the artist

To what degree do you think of your images as “abstract”?

My works are very recognisable, you can easily spot the imagery in them but I use them in a way that changes the culture or meaning of the originality of the image. I see that as an abstract variant. I change the meaning and use of the image, making the viewer look differently at the work, to think about the piece perhaps on an abstracted level. I love abstract paintings, I even tried it myself many years ago, but failed terribly! I prefer to look at paintings than photography as they allow the viewer to interpret the piece as they wish. I’d like people to perhaps do the same with my work although not abstract in aesthetic they could be abstracts in how we would deal with them intellectually.

How do you make them? Surely not physically cut out, nor likely to have been made in a darkroom, are they digitally manipulated?

I use photographic slides, I find them, buy them and get given them. I also make my own. I look through hundreds of them to find the images that I need, then I scan them. I used to send them to the Palm Labs in Birmingham but I now own my own scanner so I do them myself. When they are scanned and made into TIFF files I only adjust the contrast a little and that is it! I leave everything else as it was, the dust specks, the hairs, water stains and grit. I love em! Then they get printed onto light sensitive papers using a Chromira printer. The files are projected onto the paper as light, then it goes through another machine that fixes the image, then hey-presto! Out it pops. So, they are kinda produced in a dark room but on a modern technological ground.

Clay Smith, Landscape with Superimposed Cannibalism, 2012, Image by courtesy of the artist

Clay Smith, Landscape with Superimposed Cannibalism, 2012, Image by courtesy of the artist

Do they exist primarily as digital images that could then be printed, or are the physical images the artworks?

I usually have an issue of say 3-15 depending on the work, but I would like to start working on issues of just 1 so that the piece would be the artwork. I’d like to make photography just as important as painting, and for it to be viewed the same. I don’t like the idea of reprinting work over and over again, to me that takes away some kind of layer from the piece. Perhaps it begins to destroy its originality and heart. The sizes of my work mean a lot. Depending on the condition of the slide and its content, I will only print the work to a size according to how best the image will be displayed. Some of my pieces can only be printed at a small size due to the unfocused nature of the image or how busy the image is, and some can only be printed large because of the content of the image. For example, open mountain scenes that are pretty well composed and shot can be printed large as this gives a better impact.

Earlier you were using real moths, clearly a mix of digital and real, has that changed?

I was going through a transitional state when I was using moths and butterflies. I wanted to use two different ‘cultures’ with my work so I tried using insects and photography as a way of displaying two different objects within the same frame and making them work. My photographic work still uses two or even three different images in the same way as the butterflies did but I have gone completely photographic now. There is more material out there and of course I can make my own. With my new work I want to get across something very different then the butterfly work.

What specifically is the difference?

The butterfly works were objects of collage that would just be looked upon as objects of collage. Any attachments people would  have had would be more about how the two collaged objects worked well together. My new works are more about how the photographic images create an entirely different meaning and direction to the original image. They hopefully question the image, create dialogue that will change the way we look at images perhaps, if it’s only whilst looking at my work. I want the images that we recognize in the work to have new meaning for the viewer.  I have a lot more scope and flexibility with pure photography then I did when using insects. This alone gives my work more freedom of expression and expansion that’s open to reinterpretation and analysis.

Clay Smith, Landscape with Superimposed Masters, 2013. Image by courtesy of the artist

Clay Smith, Landscape with Superimposed Masters, 2013. Image by courtesy of the artist

Do your pictures come together by assembling disparate found images or do you have images in mind and go looking for them?

I collect as many slides as possible (good and bad) and go through them to find images that I am currently working with like open landscapes, empty townscapes or planes. I organise my slides into sections of ‘landscapes’ ‘planes’ ‘medical’ ‘towns’ ‘people’ etc. If I need to find some people to put into a medical image I know where to find them. If I receive a bag of slides I may just make a series of work from that one bag, keeping them together. I was given a bag of slides from the artist Laura Ellen Bacon and with the slides I was able to make just one image, that’s good enough for me! It is a good image. So sometimes I will keep a collection together or I will mix and match to find what I want from other collections.

Clay Smith, Hedonic. Image by courtesy of the artist

Clay Smith, Hedonic Nothing. C-type print. Image by courtesy of the artist

How important is the content for you? And what are your main interests in relation to the content?

The content is everything but its meaning means nothing to me. I try to par images together in order to create for the images a completely different objective. Images that I work with are usually amateur holiday and family snap shots, when I make my images they become semi political and questions societies and their cultures a little. Using slide film allows me to flip the image around which also allows me to flip its content around, this works well for me as I feel the world from how people see it should be flipped about a bit!

What artists do you appreciate?

I tend to lean towards established artists for various reasons: Werner Herzog the film maker for his directing methods and character/actor choices. Shomie Tomatsu for his ambiguous photograph of the glass bottle, Jan Saudek for his backgrounds, Gottfried Helnwein for his scale and the ability to prove just how powerful art can be and Alberto Burri for his choice of material.

Clay Smith, Plane 4, 2014. Image by courtesy of the artiist

Clay Smith, Inverted Space, Demagogic Device, 2014. C-type print. Image by courtesy of the artiist

To what extent do you see your work as participating in a tradition?

My work lends itself to exploration of a theme rather than tradition. It is because of this I’ve been able to find myself as an artist. Tradition to me is craft, and I think a lot of artists get trapped in the tradition of making and not creating. I use photography but I wouldn’t call myself a photographer, far from it. I am an artist that uses photography. In fact I could go as far as to not even call myself an artist! To call yourself something traps you in its meaning which doesn’t allow you to breath properly. I see really amazing printers using acid, copper, etching etc, but some of them are trapped in their tradition as printers and produce work that only displays a great skill in printmaking and not art. I can say perhaps that I am a photomontage artist.

When people look at your pictures what do you hope they will experience?

I hope that they will walk away feeling a little different then they did when they walked in, and that they will say ‘thank you’ when they leave.

Clay Smith, Stenographic Child 10, 2014. Image by courtesy of the artist

Clay Smith, Stenographic Child 10, 2014. C-type print. Image by courtesy of the artist

Some of your images have shock value (some for example are obscene) is that a reaction you seek?

I think some people are shocked by viewing something in a gallery that has an erection in it or scenes of a medical nature because of the environment they are in. These same people wouldn’t think twice about flicking on the t.v and watching A&E or enjoying some private time with an erection or two! Some of my images are extreme, such as the use of Marilyn Monroe. I find her very extreme, nothing normal about Marilyn at all, so I will use an image that I think is equally as extreme but taken from the other side of the wall. In the Marilyn case I used an image of a medical nature, and it worked. I have used pornography, but after I have worked with it the final piece of work no longer has any attachments to pornography because I have perhaps merged it with a photograph of an English gentleman. I think it’s this that people are offended by. People don’t like to view things out of its rightful context. I don’t make work in order to shock, that would be too easy, I use certain imagery in order to get across the extremism of people.

Why are the aeroplanes upside down?

To give us the viewer the impression that something isn’t quite right. To establish a kind of dystopian environment to which I feel we created by how we treat each other. The abnormal and surreal action of the plane is a metaphor for our times.

 

The exhibition Dystopia is on at Harrington Mill Studios. Long Eaton until 7 October 2014.

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Written by Andy Parkinson

September 9, 2014 at 8:00 am

Interview at Traction Magazine

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Here’s a link to Traction Magazine’s interview with me.

What great questions.

Thank you Traction Magazine.

Written by Andy Parkinson

July 18, 2014 at 7:30 am

Posted in Art

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An Interview with Artist David Riley

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David Riley makes reductive, abstract, images, in series. They are not paintings, they are digital images and constructions that I think read a lot like paintings. I had seen some online at http://www.revad.com, before getting to see one of them in “hard copy” recently, at the group exhibition Crossing Lines at &Model, Leeds. Our exchanging of comments on this blog alerted me to the possibility of doing an interview, which we agreed to do by email (a lot more difficult than ever I thought it would be, because of the time delays in the dialogue). Here’s the result.

Citrus Pair, [Angelika Studios Gallery]; ink, tracing paper; coloured tracing paper, transparency film, binding combs, rebar, steel eyelets; 33cm x 153cm; 2013; installed for a modernist coin wash event. Image by courtesy of the artist

Citrus Pair, [Angelika Studios Gallery]; ink, tracing paper; coloured tracing paper, transparency film, binding combs, rebar, steel eyelets; 33cm x 153cm; 2013; installed for a modernist coin wash event. Image by courtesy of the artist

AP: I have heard you refer to individual works of yours as “outcomes”, which I think relates to the virtuality of your work, digital images that may get realised physically, have I understood that correctly?

DR: I use several words, ‘outcomes’ is one. You may also find me saying result, or side-effect. Generally, I am focused on the exploration first and the aesthetic of the outcome second. That is not to suggest the aesthetic is unimportant, it is just that enjoyment in the exploration of the idea is of foremost concern. It is also true to say I rarely consider anything finished. An outcome is usually just something I have decided to share along the way. I do flip between the virtual and the real, between digital and analogue. I never try to create a perfect copy between one and the other. Each outcome is new. So, an outcome presented in a virtual-world space is a different outcome when presented in a real-world space, even if both outcomes occur from a similar point in the same exploration.

AP: So, when the enjoyment in the exploration of an idea is foremost, what kind of exploration is that?

DR: Usually, some variation on what has gone before. I make something and then a new trigger event suggests a different path. Sometimes this is along similar lines and at other times it is off at a tangent. My experience is that the exploration involves studying the source of the idea, thinking about how this fits with my experience, and then experimenting with materials to see how I might express the idea in the best possible way (or, more accurately, in a way I find interesting). So, the exploration involves an analysis of the idea, an analysis of how this fits with my experience, an exploration of materials, and an analysis of the outcome. This, analysis followed by action sequence, can be looped many times before I find something I want to share. The loops are recorded in my journal.

David Riley, Code [for Crossing Lines]; a materials and installation notes journal entry; 2013/14. Image by courtesy of the artist

David Riley, Code [for Crossing Lines]; a materials and installation notes journal entry; 2013/14. Image by courtesy of the artist

AP: To what extent would you situate your work within the traditions of abstraction and systems art?

DR: I often use codes as a foundation, as a starting point. I use them to give me somewhere to start. I then generally setup a process and follow that process to see if it leads to an aesthetic outcome, an outcome I find interesting. If I find it does, then I might choose to share it. So, I setup a process or system of working and then explore to see where that might lead, to see if I find something worthy of being shared. The outcomes are a side-effect of the process or system being used. How this fits within any tradition is for others to decide. That is, I am not concerned if it fits or not. However, it would be true to say my aesthetic influences lie in the abstract art produced in the middle part of the 20th Century.

AP: Could you say more about how you use a code as a starting point?

DR: I record connections between ideas using visual codes developed from the Roman alphabet, the alphabet we normally use to communicate our ideas. So the idea starts in a commonly understood code (the Roman alphabet symbols) and progresses through the use of other representations. I realise we don’t often think of the alphabet as a code, but that is exactly what it is. Alphabet explorations, so far, have included using geometric shapes, stretched bungee cord, and colour to represent the alphabet. These ideas are then influenced by my own experience as a systems engineer. Morse Code, Murray Code, ASCII and other communication codes have become important.

David Riley, Hello World; an installation of bungee cord; bungee hooks and steel hooks; this 'me' of mine; The Art School Gallery, Ipswich Museum, England; 2013. Image by courtesy of the artist

David Riley, Hello World; an installation of bungee cord; bungee hooks and steel hooks; this ‘me’ of mine; The Art School Gallery, Ipswich Museum, England; 2013. Image by courtesy of the artist

I am concerned with connections and components, with how one thing might influence another. As a systems engineer, it was part of my job to try out different boundaries, to generate a more rounded appreciation of the situation, however complicated, familiar or unusual. So, I am used to setting up different processes in order to explore an idea from different perspectives. One constant element in every process is the concept of input, action, output and feedback. My artist statement relates this to the idea of a black-box systems approach.

“In science and engineering, a black box is a device, system or object which can be viewed solely in terms of its input, output and transfer characteristics; and without any knowledge of its internal working. Using this well understood concept, I think I am (in) the black box. That is, I receive stimuli to make work; I apply my interest, experience and passion to making the work; I produce output and I share the output I find satisfying. Over time, we may all be able to deduce more of my transfer characteristics. Although, I am also certain, every new work feeds back and may change those very same characteristics. If I ever know precisely what and why I do what I do (my transfer characteristics), then I will very likely stop.” (See http://www.revad.com/about.htm for the complete statement).

David Riley, Code [for Crossing Lines]; an installation of paper, ink, tracing paper, coloured tracing paper, transparency film, binding combs, rebar, steel eyelets; 33cm x 180cm; crossing lines; & Model, Leeds, England; 2014. Image by courtesy of the artist.

David Riley, Code [for Crossing Lines]; an installation of paper, ink, tracing paper, coloured tracing paper, transparency film, binding combs, rebar, steel eyelets; 33cm x 180cm; crossing lines; & Model, Leeds, England; 2014. Image by courtesy of the artist.

AP: I recently saw one of your works “Code” at Crossing Lines at &Model, I find that I relate to this piece as a painting though I know it isn’t actually painted, I might equally use the word “construction”; how would you describe it?

DR: I would describe ‘Code’ as a wall based installation using: paper, ink, tracing paper, coloured tracing paper, transparency film, binding combs, rebar, steel eyelets; size 33cm x 180cm. Or ‘a mixed media, wall based, installation’ for brevity. Thank you for suggesting “construction”. I like that a lot, very succinct.

“Code” is the result of several coincident ideas influencing my process. A continued exploration of different representations of the alphabet: an interest in using office type materials for fine art production (office materials are an important part of my history); a need to manage the costs involved in getting an idea to and from a fine art gallery situation; and a desire to reduce the storage space required for (relatively) large art works. The idea of connections has been about in my work for a number of years (e.g. Twitter User Names, Facebook Initials Grid, and Connect with this Space). So, the idea occurred for crossing lines I could make a site (context) specific installation and send it to the gallery through the ordinary parcel post, as a small package of materials, with full installation instructions. The gallery (curator) could then install the work, display it for as long as necessary, and then take it down, repack it into the box, and send it back to me through the parcel post. I would then have a small parcel to store. This materials/ packaging idea could then be reused to make context specific installations available for other opportunities. The ‘code [for crossing lines]’ presentation was influenced by all of these coincident thoughts.

David Riley, Cirtriare [Cluj Romania]; a permanent installation of sandblasted glass panels in a domestic setting; each 90cm x 200cm; 2013. Image by courtesy of the artist.

David Riley, Cirtriare [Cluj Romania]; a permanent installation of sandblasted glass panels in a domestic setting; each 90cm x 200cm; 2013. Image by courtesy of the artist.

Thank you David Riley for participating in this interview.

Written by Andy Parkinson

April 8, 2014 at 6:02 pm

Interview at Studio Critical

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Thank you Valerie Brennan for interviewing me for your blog at Studio Critical (here’s a link).

Also, thank you Painters’ Table for including the interview in your survey of painting blogs (here’s a link).

Written by Andy Parkinson

December 3, 2013 at 9:48 pm

Interview with artist, painter Andy Parkinson | Painters’ Table

with 2 comments

Written by Andy Parkinson

December 3, 2013 at 9:45 pm

Posted in Art, blogging

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