Based in the southside of Glasgow, Tess Glen is an alumni of the Edinburgh College of Art, and the Royal Drawing School.  She happened to be familiar with our name sake street and even knows a Mr. Butterbiggens.  Recently showing work at Salt Space in Glasgow and online as part of the Curated for Covid festival, Tess has an upcoming show at Six Foot Gallery in Glasgow, ‘Worship in the Neighbour’s House’. (May 7th-25th ’21) We spoke about the narrative elements of her work and the technical overlap between different mediums. Please click through for a short profile.

Butterbiggens 

is there Really a  “Mr Butterbiggens”

Tess Glen

Haha, well he’s just a friend of a friend ,lives around the corner from me. I am interested in why the prize is named Butterbiggins though? it’s a great word

Tess Glenn's Portrait of Mr Butterbiggens
Mr Butterbiggens

BB

After the hospital, but no real reason, I was told it was an old Scottish word for a dairy.  Daisy and Allison  streets are named after the daughters of the man who owned most of the land in Govanhill

Tess

I love these Glasgow street names, I’ve stolen the name Ardbeg for one of my characters in a comic I’m doing

 

BB 

 I wanted to ask you about comics ,the prints on your website have this very narrative quality, and even the paintings, look very intimate in scale ,like “New Yorker” comics almost

 

T

Oh well that is a big compliment thank you, I’ve always loved New Yorker cartoons, I used to have this great book of James Thurber cartoons that I loved but unfortunately the library asked for it back after 3 years

I think they influenced me a lot because they are very funny and you can’t quite put your finger on why, I aspire to that quality!

I was doing a lot of etching when I was at the drawing school, I always thought I was too impatient and slapdash for printmaking but actually I found etching to open up lots of new ideas for me. It forces you to slow down and really think about what you want to contain in a plate. It also makes you expect disappointment and work with it. I naturally work quite small and get lost in detail and pattern, because they are so time consuming you naturally begin to construct more of a narrative about what’s going on in the drawing

 

 

BB: What about the installation, where the plant is in relief on the wall?

T: That was a really big painting I was doing for a long time on a big sheet. I couldn’t make it work so I just cut out the individual elements and stuck them up. I  had totally forgotten about that installation, it’s good to be reminded because that often happens with a painting, I get to a point where just want to cut it up

BB 

 I wonder how you’ve been showing, and viewing work, if your consumption changed (with the various UK lockdowns)

T

It’s been hard i’ve really missed seeing physical work. I really enjoyed an exhibition put on by Mostyn Gallery called ‘My Online Bedroom’ ,it was this very cool and kitsch interior online that you could wander about in and view the work, it looked like you could see the sea in the distance behind the walls. The last irl exhibition i saw was John Byrne at the Glasgow printmakers, i was quite amazed by that and just how good he is at drawing, and funny too

BB: Is there anyone, a painter, or other artist, who you like who you think is kind of due for a critical revival?

 

T:I think it would be Hokusai’s for me. He’s not underrated but lots of people just look at his very famous prints like the wave. He did these catalogues where he tried to draw everything from species of birds to eating utensils, I really love the ones of figures stretching and fightingin terms of contemporary artists I would say an irish painter Eoin Mcevoy and Lana Svirezheva who lives in Hawaii.

BB 

you must have spent a lot of time in Museums, i saw these drawings you did of African masks

T

I find drawing from them is the only way i can really properly look at them because they are so mythologized and when you go to museums it can be very overwhelming to be surrounded by these objects you don’t know the context of, i think drawing from them is a way to learn and listen

BB:  Aside from artists who you think should be reconsidered, do you have any guilty pleasures?

 

T : Well, something that’s not really art but i think must have some influence on the characters i make up is watching a lot of obscure documentaries about ego maniac celebs

Madonna, Marco-Pierre White

BB

 Marco Pierre-White, the chief?

Tess:

He’s a very very complex man

 

 

 

to see more work: https://cargocollective.com/tessglen or on Instagram at @teddglen.

Interview April 21, by Ben Duax

Robert McCormack

Screen shot of html chat
Ben Duax and Robert Mcormack in Conversation

Robert McCormack

Robert Mcormack makes mostly black and white images blending abstraction and sentimental, almost thurberesque vignettes.  As part of his practice he creates custom mark making tools , such as charcoal paws and snouts, and big rubber tongues and animal busts for erasers.

BB With your work, there are conceptual questions, but I kind of want to ask  technical questions.

RM maybe that’s a better way in.

The process and physicality of it is so interesting, the paper wrapped around canvas seems like it would be so fragile.

Yes, it’s a nightmare actually ! I recently sold a work and it made me very nervous! but I really like playing with the idea of painting. I wanted them to signal paintings although there is no paint involved.When I show the works they are always leaning against the wall. I think I like to sort of rob painting of its authority or something or make fun of painting.

Black and white door size painting leaning against wall on painting blocks
Work By Robert McCormack

the fragility of the paintings  is reflected in the cast dog heads and paws–it reminds me a bit of Janine Antoni, who made busts of her head out of chocolate or soap

There is something entropic about them–I like the tools as much as the paintings and show them together. The paws become worn down the more they draw.

The paintings themselves have these kind of kitsch images like outlines of bones

black and white painting of abstract shapes including bones and teeth
Untitled work from 2020

There is something violent in that. I like to use imagery or subjects that’s a bit kitsch–dogs for example.

Something maybe debased? 

Well when I say violent I’m referring to the worn down paws but yes , perhaps debased is closer.

What do you use to bind the charcoal together? 

The charcoal mix took a while to get right. I tried crushing coal and all sorts but in the end I bashed up charcoal into powder and mixed it with dyed plaster.The mix has a consistency like porridge. and then I pour them into silicone moulds made from clay sculpted paws and heads.

A Charcoal marker in the shape of a dogs snout
Part of the production process

Is it a  specific dog? 

I suppose something closer to allegory. At the time I was thinking about how similar children and dogs were.I work in a school so I see a lot of reward and punishment driven practice and I would go home and make my dog do a trick for a treat.

The tongues are used as erasers, not as mark making instruments, there’s something kind of allegorical there, about language?

Yes I think so–something about dogs or children not being able to speak perhaps.

People talk about trying to draw like a child, like the elephants who they trained to paint

Yes I looked at these ! And apes !

 

cast dog heads dripping silicon
Custom tools for mark making

 

You’re going to be showing something as part of the open doors festival?

So I wont be showing anything I don’t think, but I am co-organising a show within the festival with another recent grad. We have 25 recent graduates looking to show. The festival will be operating in outdoor spaces and window spaces this year. A lot of traditional arts spaces will be playing catch up when things open up and so won’t be showing graduate work. So it’s pretty perfect timing. I like things that exist outside the institutions

Are there any other exhibitions you’ve seen recently that you really enjoyed, either in the november when things were open, or online, or in print 

The last work I saw in the flesh was at the Boros collection in Berlin. It’s a collection in a massive bunker.I saw some Avery Singers I really liked which I looked at a lot when making my final year’s work.  this place is only doing tours and you have to book months in advance but I really recommend it !

I snuck in once a few years ago and got on the german tour – didn’t know a word of German but just looked at the work. On the same trip I saw a tiny Cathy Wilkes painting on a plate.

Is there an artist you like, that you think is maybe due for a critical resurgence someone who either isn’t as well known as you think they should be or who is currently unfashionable

rubber dogs head used as a mark making device
A rubber dogs head, part of the creative process

 

Karen Killmnick I really love her work–her scatter installations are amazing with Sugar and things and her later paintings–I think she’s really underrated but is going through a bit of a resurgence. And one of my new favorites New York painter Joyce Pensato recently died–her work is starting to emerge a lot !

Do you know Pensato ?

I actually had no idea she died.

Yes she did this year I think… Love her work and her studio objects–these fucked up elmos walking around.

This cartoon specificity which then is sort of pushed back into conceptual abstraction through removing elements,

Yes it’s like a German expressionist got hooked on Disney

 

Biomorphic sculptures look like styized babies , in stone colour
Neonate, from 2019
plaster cast sculptures, distorted stuffed animal figures
Neonate, Work made on exchange at Emily Carr, in Canada, 2019

I ask people about an underrated artist but I also wanted to ask you if you’d tell us a “guilty pleasure” , something you really like, but that you think is uncool or lame

Well I was going to mention one of my tutors, Richard Walker,Did you know him?

The Guy who  paints with the lights out?

Yes, we got to go to his studio and saw him make these massive paintings – he cuts out shapes from the paintings and paints on them individually and then constructs the paintings. Eventually we saw a show of the finished works and I thought they were brilliant. I thought this show was pretty knockout he cuts the shapes out and paints on them he can brush through the forms and not stop something you can’t properly do another way I think

A guilty pleasure…Ok so the other day we did a kahoot with the kids. it’s like a quiz – anyway I discovered i’m really good with faces of actors and this comes from watching loads of trailers I think I see almost every trailer that comes out – never see the movie just the trailer And I like spotting actors from other trailers

Like Oh is that Jake Gyllenhaal or Tobey McGuire

I didn’t let the kids win the quiz haha like ah that guy is also in this thing !

 “The actor who played thor” or “That  guy from saw”

Yes haha – That’s so weird. 

See more work at https://robertmccormack.co.uk/

Interview by Ben Duax, February 2021

Emalia Mattia

Darlin’, 2020, acrylic and ink on paper, 42cm x 29.7cm

 

 

Starting the New Year with a profile of Emalia Mattia, who works in performance and painting, and is currently based in Glasgow. They met us online to speak about the specificity of the moment and how the work they make has changed in lockdown.

Hi!

Hi Ben!

I’ve been doing them here as if it were asking people to met me at a cafe or a museum lobby

Oh I’m grateful soul, lol.

Yeah.

Emalia Matta and Ben Duax in conversation

 

Cool, Did you make this website? (refering to the chat room were we did the interview)

It was supposed to be a pop up show, my friends had group shows cancelled over the summer, and normally we would have had a show in a gas station bathroom or something, the back of a cafe, so I felt like we could do something with the same degree of formality-

It looks great, I have a real block with programming so I really admire anyone who can do it

It’s pretty simple in terms of the html

I’ve seen a couple of things online and I guess everyone is experimenting with different formats, this one feels good to me,some of them are like RPG style

Yeah RPG style, like MYST. Did you see the VR show that the GSA BFA did ?

(laughs) oh my god, Myst. I played Myst and never solved anything.

I did see that show, honestly going through 3-D rooms gives me vertigo, I find it very unsettling. That time was such a blur for me.

Kitchen painting, 2020, acrylic and ink on paper, 42cm x 29.7cm

 

 

– For everyone

Because i was dealing with so much heartbreak and frustration with GSA and constantly trying to have this line of communication with them

How have you been seeing work, or showing work?

I’ve seen 2 IRL shows since lockdown began, both of which made me feel very emotional. “Shoving from all sides” at platform 2020 , in Edinburgh , I really loved seeing work by two people I know, Susannah Stark and Rabindranath A Bhose. Maybe because I’ve seen their work develop over the past 2 years.

You were on the same course as them?

No, I just know them in Glasgow. 

There is something more special about making an appointment, having to wear a mask, and so on.

Yes it feels more intentional. It feels special to see someone’s work in the flesh. also, in Milan Trisha Baga’s show “the eye, the eye and the ear” at Hangar Bicocca ,which is a massive space

The show covered 15 years of her work, it was so MUCH ,these big video installs , It was a little overwhelming ,after not seeing work for a long time. We just spent hours in there

Trisha Baga would really be kind of perfect for this moment, because her work is at this intersection of screen and physical object

Yeah definitely, many layers. It almost felt interactive, different videos were different outcomes of the same rpg game adventure to me.

 9 Pound Hammer, Performance 2019

 

 

How have you been sending your work into the world these days? you were doing zines before and that doesn’t seem like it would have to change much, but performances are kind of limited.

I made a pretty drastic change with covid, because I was focussing mainly on performance , Painting and drawing has been something I go back to sometimes, but in particular last year while I was doing the MLitt I had a lot of ideas for performance. I was really interested in organizing live events in Glasgow. That all fell through obviously.

Queen of Diamonds, 2019, acrylic on paper, 293cm x 217cm

 

 

Making smaller things to sell has been a focus for me, I filter most things through social media

That allows you to select an audience?

Or that changes the audience, it’s still self selecting, but in a different way than people who would come to a performance.

There is a coherent visual language though, your 2D work has similar imagery even something as basic as like, some of the characters having the same haircut as you.

Yeah exactly, I like self portraiture. A running theme for me would be movement, for sure, but also how using your own image becomes this abstraction of self. When I started painting again during lockdown, specifically all the “Pastoral” paintings I think I was speaking to people who would follow me on social media, trans people in my circle. I knew that they would get it, and it felt like some kind of intimacy.

With live performance people beyond the extensions of my social scene would be there but because we’re all experiencing this at this same time it feels like I can control it more.

People are kind of primed to see things as a specific historic moment or having increased gravity.

I do find a lack of audience now frustrating, I have done an online show but honestly I find that very dissatisfying. The experience of not getting a degree show was a major heartbreak.

Someone told me that it’s a bit like a badge of honour or more like a crystallization experience people will read that list of twenty people or whatever , from each institution, more closely than the year before , or the first year back.

Like an online degree show people would look more closely at the artists, or a post covid IRL degree show?

 I don’t mean the specific exhibition , I mean like a register,there is this plaque at the basement of (the Glasgow School of Art) of all the students who died in World War 1

Oh Lord ,Wonder where it is in the new building.When I was in Edinburgh I saw an exhibition with paintings from that time From Scottish painters, it was a couple floors below the platform show

What were they like?

Maybe this is going off on a tangent but there have been a lot of comparisons between now and that time, early 1900s,because of the spanish flu. The paintings felt like they were a bit outdated for their time? Like there was futurism going on and they were very sweet nature paintings ,portraits of women taking baths. Scotland feels so remote sometimes, maybe that’s why I haven’t seen a lot of portrayals of covid life in art.

Almost none, not in fashion photography or anything that’s mediated.

Though I did watch a few episodes of the Kardashians because it shows them dealing with the beginning of covid

Are there specific visual reference to paintings that I might be missing or other art historical references , like the drawing of the sword swallower

Weep not!,  2020, acrylic and ink on paper, 42cm x 29.7cm

 

I went to a vocational high school in italy and we were trained to do frescoes, decorating and some light art restoration .So I had to paint a lot of early renaissance and medieval reproductions.

The Judds, 2020, acrylic and ink on canvas, 107 cm x 72 cm

 

That imagery is my main influence, medieval concepts of space ,weep not, a lot of the phrases I use I steal from religious music, country music.

Two final cheesy questions; is there anyone, could be a visual artist, or someone else, who you think is underrated and due to be rediscovered, someone who is forgotten who you would like to bring back and the other question is, can you share with us a “guilty pleasure” something that you think is lame or stupid, but nonetheless love

Gosh the first one is hard , I think there are so many artists that are underrated or just don’t get that much exposure I really love the artists Keijuan Thomas and Sandra Johnston ,They’re both performance artists who make incredible work and definitely aren’t known enough, I saw both of their work in Birmingham last year and really changed how I think about performance As for the guilty pleasure, This is really boring but I love ambient TV.

like the fireplace video?

TV that’s in the background, but a specific kind of TV that you don’t have to follow that much, Like reality tv – just always playing and everything is very horizontal

Real housewives?

Real Housewives, old ones too, like Anna Nicole Smith ,interior decorating shows.

Thank you for speaking with us

Thanks for the chat!

interview by Ben Duax, December 2020

Megan Chapman

Yesterday’s parties
mixed media on 200gsm acid-free paper
42×59.4cm/16.5×23.4″ ©2020 Megan Chapman

Edinburgh based Megan Chapman spoke to us about shifting the scale of her work during quarantine, choosing an audience and the three dimensionality of her work. Please keep reading for a short interview.

Hello Megan! How are you?

Hello, Ben! I am well thanks. How are you?
I like the concept of being interviewed in a chat. It’s how so many of us communicate these days anyway.

This is How We Tell The Story
mixed media on 200gsm acid-free paper
42×59.4cm/16.5×23.4″ ©2020 Megan Chapman

It’s nice because there is more of a vernacular affect, last month the interview (with the Kirkwood Brothers)  has some “aye” and “wee” that probably wouldn’t have made it if it was an email interview.

Yes, I saw that. Yes, had a nice feeling.

Megan Chapman and Ben Duax in conversation

I was wondering how you have been looking at art these past six months or so, if any online shows that you appreciated or social distanced shows?

Well, I feel inundated with art online. I get quite overwhelmed with it all on social media. Facebook, instagram, twitter. I have seen at least one or two formal exhibitions online. The Paisley Institute exhibition was online and done quite well. I had a couple of pieces in it and I was very interested how they would create an experience. I think they really succeeded. I also caught one exhibition in person when the numbers were lower this summer by Edinburgh artist and friend Karl Macrae and everything was socially distanced and very well run and it was lovely to be out and see art again.

Resilience factory
mixed media on 200gsm acid-free paper
42×59.4cm/16.5×23.4″ ©2020 Megan Chapman

Someone told me that we had to learn to look through screens instead of at them. The work you sent us, all from 2020? It has a real sense of depth, of layers, almost like animation frames or collages.

As far as how I am processing images, while overwhelming and different online it is still wonderful to see so much work, it seems to me many artists have been quite prolific during this time. Yes, all the work I sent you is from 2020 and is part of a 13 piece series called “This is how we tell the story” all on paper done from the corner of my living room as I have not  been working in my studio in Leith. I have had to adapt my work to my surroundings, so the work has become more drawn, using conte crayon, charcoal, pastel, and paint. Thanks about the layers. Yes, there was a sense of depth created in the layering of the different media as I worked.

It also looks a bit “lighter” , not it terms of colours but in terms of how dense the images are, compared to some of the stuff on your site. Some of your work from around five years ago is a bit more anthropomorphic these look like faces to me.

I like how you see the works, collage and animation. Ha! Yes, good catch- much lighter. Enjoying working on paper, feeling less pressure, less precious. When you visit my site you see my paintings on canvas from my larger bodies of work more likely to be shown in galleries, I don’t often put my smaller works or works on paper there. I have two worlds for my art in a way. Yes, the 2015 work, quite hot in colour – a delicate balance – finding my way back to colour after turning my back on it for a while during my “white series”days in the years previous.

The new works are more drawn, illustrative almost – they look good flat (on your screens) but then they do have places you can wander into. I love to create spaces that folks can go into and hopefully let go of the world for a bit.

False dynasties
mixed media on 200gsm acid-free paper
42×59.4cm/16.5×23.4″ ©2020 Megan Chapman

You also  sold a painting to be used in a television show?

I sold 3 prints from a body of work that was done on paper and was not be viewed by the public due to the fragility of the paper and the work. It was more of a personal exercise for me. But, then I ended up really enjoying where some of the pieces went and prints were made – The HBO show True Detective bought the three prints to use in the last series of the show. I only clocked one of them on the tv but I must say it was a thrill.

A bit of an interesting thing to see them inside someone elses constructed reality, no?

Constructed reality – yes. I think this is something that is needed. For me the benefit of art is where it takes me and what it shows me and how I can feel new states and learn about myself and the world. I want to share that feeling with viewers of my work.

How important is context for you? What do you want the viewer to come to the work with? for example, Would you rather the viewer not read your bio?

Under the surface
mixed media on 200gsm acid-free paper
42×59.4cm/16.5×23.4″ ©2020 Megan Chapman

Well, I want the viewer to be as present as can be in order to receive the work but I know that is often not the case. I know that often viewers spend seconds looking at a painting. I find this a bit heart breaking, so I try to make it easier for them. I might lead them into the work with a title. Like a bread crumb trail. I will give them things they understand first and then hopefully they can relax a bit and feel safe enough to come into the work and stay a while. I don’t mind if they skip my bio. I really want them to come into the painting. Read that later if they want more.

Right- A bread crumb trail

I love making the work but then I really love when people connect with the work. Especially abstract art. I want to level the playing field and make it accessible. There are things to go back and look at, like more identifiable shapes.

Bowls or objects

Yes, there are these organic shapes that they will recognise. Brains can make sense of if need be. I know that abstract work can be hard for people to engage with so there are these little anchors within the painting. There are plot points, or notes like music to help pull the viewer along.

To be left untethered
mixed media on 200gsm acid-free paper
42×59.4cm/16.5×23.4″ ©2020 Megan Chapman

Yes, Entryways.

Yes, exactly. I think because most of us are comfortable with the written word from an early age. It takes our guard down where as art can feel confrontational to some. I am happy for that to happen too, but really I want people to have an experience. I know many don’t have the time and won’t allow themselves the chance to feel the work.

I asked you earlier about what you’ve seen recently. Are there any visual artists who you think are due for a critical revival. The other question I wanted to ask was if you could share with us a guilty pleasure, something you think is lame or stupid that you nonetheless love very much.

Well, I think women artists are underated. I know that is a blanket statement and I know that many museums and galleries are doing better and giving more exhibitions to women and people of colour. I think that’s well deserved and about time. I don’t even yet know the names of the artists that are due for a critical renaissance, but they are out there, and I want to see their work. All the artists I could name drop are doing pretty well in the exposure department at least.

As far as guilty pleasure… I am no royalist but I devoured all 4 seasons of The Crown in a very short period of time and was sort of shocked at myself but enjoyed the hell out of it.

Fair about women artists, and perhaps especially women painters

Yes, as a painter. I think it is very fair. Painting is still considered a man’s world in many respects.

Anyway, thank you Megan.

Thank you. Take care.

Kirkwood Brothers

Selected Small paintings by the Kirkwood Brothers

Our artists this month are Brothers from Glasgow, Jonny and Jordon  Kirkwood. Working collaborativly, they make paintings, sculptures, zines and posters about mental health, scottish identity, japanese cartoons , and other interesting things. Jonny Kirkwood agreed to meet me for an online chat to talk about the work they make.

 Jonny met me at http://www.lite-of-worlds.ca/
Ben Duax and Jonny Kirkwood in Conversation

Thanks for joining me

No worries! Thanks for having me

 I was thinking I could ask you about a few specific pieces you’ve posted or included in your email, but first i was wondering if you’d talk a little about your process as a collaborator

Cat in a bucket

yeah sure, just fire the questions over. Our collaboration started quite a while ago. Obviously Jordon is my brother so it’s been life long but I started making art about Autism way back when I studied at college. Then I sort of started going off in another direction during art school at first. Before long though I realised there was something there between me and my brother where this pretty rich work was getting made. So it just turned into a really natural way of making work while chatting away in the studio.

its interesting to collaborate on a physical object, or a specific visual project, its less as opposed to an installation or a narrative piece

Yeah we quite often work on the same piece of paper or canvas at the same time. Right now there’s a bit more going back and forth, but we’ve weirdly been making even more work than usual.

the same canvas, like on opposite ends? have you ever looked at the work of the CoBRA artists? they worked on collaborative paintings as a sort of marxist gesture, but there are a few examples the basquiat and warhol collaborations for example,or those twin brothers from “spring breakers”

Aye well we done that once, like sat a big canvas down then kept rotating it till it was covered ha but mostly we just lean over each other or take turns. Yeah, I looked into it a lot while in my last year at art school. There’s also these Dundee based brothers that I liked a lot too, I think it was Brownlee Brothers? And Basquiat is definitely one I always come back to for a little inspiration

Brownlee Brothers, I will look that up

They deep fried a sword, that was me sold on them.

 Something like the lady in the lake giving king arthur the sword? or like the inversion of the sword being forged Kind of something to do with Scottish identity? 

Yeah! they fried it in batter. I guess I’ve always liked playing on that Scottish identity theme too so I’m drawn to work that works with it.

I saw the photo of your Maw with “Maw” written in sharpie

like not “mum” not “mom”

haha Aye she was surprisingly really up for helping us with that photograph. Less than impressed when she found out we were using it for an exhibition

A Portrait of the Brothers Mother

I also wanted to ask about dispersion, your  work is kind of suited to social media, I guess because of the scale and also the content has sort of hooks for the audience , pop culture references.

Aye I used to be quite naive with social media but I’ve really looked into how platforms like Instagram work, it really suits our work. There’s usually so much of it that it sort of needs condensed, it also fits nicely with that fast and furious finger swiping. Quite often I’ll try and tie the posts in with what’s going on in the media or other times I just throw it out there.

Work by the Kirkwood Brothers

You’ve also made zines and done zine workshops, which is kind of a similar way of prioritizing content or the speed of dispersion?

Zines were a way for us to filter our smaller drawings, the ones that might be cast to the side. they also really help us to understand narratives in the work

More Narrative Work

What about the missing parakeet poster?

That’s actually based on our Mum “accidentally” leaving our veranda door open when we were wee. We had a budgie called Dude who was honestly possessed by Satan, One day we came in and he was sitting on the tree outside our flat. My mum swears it was a mistake but I’ve always had my suspicions..

painting of the Brothers pet parekeet Budgie

Are there any  exhibitions or publications that you’ve seen recently that really impressed you? like in glasgow or anywhere, people are looking at art online a lot these days so could be anywhere really

I’ve not actually been to an exhibition in a long time. I guess it’s mostly been online that I’ve been looking at work. I always come back to artists like Kentaro Okawara and Misaki Kawai. Okawara tends to have symbols or characters that appear in his work a lot and that’s something I’ve come to realise about our own practice. There’s a lot of repetitive patterns

I’ve actually really enjoyed seeing all the murals that keep popping up in Glasgow. There’s a real street art scene coming to fruition

Do you have anything else on the horizon? 

We’ve got a few things in the works, an exhibition coming up in England that’s really exciting and then some work showing in SaltSpace in Glasgow . Then a few other wee social media features here and there.

Great one last question i’ve been asking everyone, is can you tell us about a guilty pleasure something you really like, but think is dumb/embarrising

There’s so many! We still watch a lot of cartoons. Like this morning I watched Pokemon while eating cereal in my boxers. It’s definitely a guilty pleasure at the age of 28. I also try my hardest not to care so much about football. But it almost feels ingrained, it’s something I’ll often say is really daft but can’t shake off.

haha great,

Well thank you for joining me

Thanks so much! This is a great way of interviewing, was pretty relieved when I realised it was this and not zoom!!

yeah i can’t handle zoom, it removes the elegant thing about text based interaction which is that either party can pause it to some degree

Aye I definitely need pauses. Not the best at articulating my thoughts when I’m speaking on camera. 

Check out the Kirkwood Brothers on Instagram

interview by Ben Duax.

Angela Kincaid

Quite a bit of what you sent us seems to have been produced in recent months, so I guess you’ve been productive in a generative sense during lockdown, I was wondering if you’d tell us a bit how you’ve been looking at art?

You’re right I was extremely productive during lockdown as I was working towards the completion of my Honours Degree in Contemporary Art Practice. Despite the disruption to previously thought out plans, and no access to studio space, I had to keep working and stay focused no matter what.
I’ve always been fascinated by the geological history of the Scottish landscape, the way it’s been sculpted over a time span of billions of years, by a series of different plate tectonic events. So visiting All the lochs, mountains, and coastal areas of Scotland which have such a wide diversity of rock types was the initial starting point for my latest body of work. As lockdown progressed my concept became more philosophical and my thinking more metaphorical. I began to develop a deeper understanding of, what I wanted to communicate from my work and started to make a connection between the rocks I had been studying as a visual metaphor for the fragility of Human life.

Fragile LayersWeather Beaten Canvas. Mixed media, emulsion, acrylic, ink and pastel on unstretched canvasHere is a video element of this piece 

We were always asking people what exhibitions they had seen lately, but there weren’t really exhibitions for most of the year. Did you see anything online that you’d like to recommend? Or offline in some other way, murals for example?

Well since you’ve asked me that question, I would first like to recommend you visit the Degree Show of myself and fellow classmates. The show went live back in June but can still be viewed by clicking on this link, and hopefully a physical Degree Show will take place later in the year.
As soon as lockdown restrictions were eased I spent a few days in Liverpool and made a point of visiting The Tate Liverpool, which was really fantastic. One of the paintings currently being exhibited here and that really touched me is ‘No Woman No Cry’ (1998) by  Chris Ofili. The painting is dedicated to Doreen Lawrence, the mother of Stephen a strong matriarchal figure who never gave up hope that justice would be done. Each of the tears falling from the eyes of the woman in the picture contains a tiny photograph of the murdered boy.

‘Orithir Garbh’ (meaning rough coast). Mixed media painting on canvas, ink, acrylic, emulsion and pastel.

Could you tell us a bit about your process? You said that you’d leave paintings out of doors and let the elements affect the surface and that this was a bit disrupted by quarantine, would you talk about this a little, if there’s something durational or preformative about this kind of process driven abstraction?

 Getting outside and visiting the locations that interest me has always been an important part of my process. I think there’s a different energy to work that’s been created outside as opposed to work made indoors, with only digitally sourced images for inspiration. Through the process of visiting a location and submerging myself into my environment, I use my senses to fully absorb everything around me and it all emerges from there. I hope to communicate an awareness of place through my work sometimes as site responsive art installations, paintings or sculptures which yes do very often have a performative aspect to them. Leaving the paintings outdoors was a way for me bring the outdoors indoors during lockdown, allowing the elements of nature to interact with my work, whilst documenting the changes through film and photography as the days went past. I guess it was my own personal creative loophole around the restrictions of how far we could travel and how much time we could spend outdoors.

DUENDE’ 
 
Oil on canvas board

I wonder if you’d tell us a bit about titles, I noticed you used a bit of Gaelic for one of them. Do you suppose your work has a place in a specifically Scottish branch of art history?

I’ve never really thought about my work as having a particular place within a branch of Scottish art history. For me using Gaelic in some of the titles just feels more honest to what my arts about in terms of peeling back the layers of the geological history of Scotland and peeling back the layers of ourselves to reveal our deepest truths. I think the more time we spend outside and connect to nature the more we connect to our authentic self.

Lunderston Bay, oil on canvas 
 
30 x 24 inches 
 

My two last questions are both about things you’ve seen, I wonder if there is another painter who you think is kind of underrated? Like someone who is due for a critical reapraisal for example, and then I wanted to ask if you would tell us about a guilty pleasure, could be another painter, but could be some other kind of media, something you love that’s kind of dumb or silly.

Ok well I wouldn’t say he’s been underrated as he’s very highly rated but rather momentarily forgotten. The Artist I’m referring to is Anselm Kiefer, who’s work is some of the most honest I have ever seen. Always searching trying to uncover deeper truths, he is as much a philosopher as he is an Artist. His painting Margarethe, created 1981 was based on the poetry of Paul Celan, who was the only member of his family to survive a concentration camp during the Holocaust. In the poem “Death Fugue”he talks of the inhabitants of the camp drinking black milk and digging graves in the sky. Two figures are contrasted in the poem and act as the central metaphor: Margarete, with her cascade of blonde Aryan hair, and Shulamite, a Jewish woman whose black hair denotes her Semitic origins, but which is also ashen from burning which we see in Kiefers painting. Kiefer was never afraid of offending his fellow Germans with his paintings during a time when most would rather forget the sins of their fathers.
Ok well to answer your last question I’ll
Say this. Why should we ever feel guilty about a pleasure?
As long as you’re not harming yourself or anyone else then I say embrace it, enjoy it. Life’s too short to worry.

 

Interview By Ben Duax, 8/11/2020. 

Sara Sonas

We are pleased to present a short interview with Sara Sonas, Having previously studied in Seville and Zagreb, Sonas recently completed a Masters course in painting at the Glasgow School of Art. Paintings and sculptures which are monumental in prescence if not in scale, her work was among the last featured at Glasgows Tontine building before the school moved its painting department back to the main campus. Besides showing in Scotland Sonas has a show opening in Croatia this sunday at Galerija
Kazamat.

Hey thanks for speaking with us, 

Some of these titles have a fairly intuitive relationship to what’s depicted, Mosquito Andaluz for example, some of them are more like riddles, the Éire/Ireland had me thinking of a GPS route. Could you talk about the scale of the work and how it relates to the content? Because the images are singular or solitary the scale of the space depicted is a bit open ended

MEMENTO – MOSQUITO ANDALUZ Bitumen on hessian, 220x160x4.5cm, 2018

The series of works ‘In the tabernacle of memory’ are depictions of places I travelled to and lived in, so they represent a sort of mapping diaries of my routes as mementos. These works are time-based experiences on a large scale as a generated record. 

Mosquito Andaluz is a painting made of mapping my time of living in Spain, remembering its summer heat and mosquito bites well. The path was a deliberate sketch, a map I followed, and when tracking down my routes – it ‘coincidentally’ formed the shape of a mosquito. 

The size of each of the works is done to scale of each country, but they also capture the distance travelled. Metaphorically, the underlying theme is the connection between my travels and memories; it is also a trip into exploration of my inner nature. 

This series is not yet finished and will continue to expand as my travels go on, following my path through life. 

In part because of the use of Bitumen, there seems to be quite a direct relationship to architecture or construction, or a sort of laboured mechanical procedure of excavating forms, would you talk about your process and the materiality of your work a bit? 

MEMENTO – IRELAND Bitumen on hessian, 200x 170×4.5 cm, 2018

Material is a vital element of my practice. I think of it as a subconscious respond on my longing for natural environment in this more and more digitally connected world; giving emphasis on tactility, physical presence and its qualities. 

A continuous tread of architecture can be found in all of my works, as that was a part of my former education. Therefore, I tend to construct my works as geometrical games, utilising and interacting between various textures and forms of materials. 

In this particular series, a natural texture is selected and juxtaposed with bitumen to meet a symbolic and visually tactile expression of an experience. Hessian was always related to transportation, often associated with bags in which potatoes and other agricultural products were carried and delivered. Hence, in hessian there is the element of translucence. In a way the hessian is me, acting as a view finder – of little snippets of memories. 

On the other hand, bitumen, as a heavy polymer road paint, acts as a signifier to the movement I made through that particular chapter in time, which is now a path inside of me. It is a symbolic representation of the land we all walk on and leave a trace – a path that marks and remembers. 

UP THERE THE MOUNTAINS BURN WORSE

We’d also love to know what you’re reading lately? 

I have read quite a few books lately. At the moment I am finishing up reading John O’Donohoe’s Anam Cara, and in the same time reading Thich Nhat Hanh booklet on How to See. Both books perfectly capture a poetical essence of spirituality which always gives me a lot of inspiration for the further development of my works. 

The previous interviews we did, before quarantine, we were asking if people had seen any recent exhibits they really enjoyed, but with things closed I wonder how your viewing habits have changed? If there are any online events, ones you’re involved in, or just ones that you’ve seen that made an impression. 

This worldwide challenge have had a lot of effect on my viewing habits, as I usually love wandering around galleries and museums to absorb the ambiance and physically experience artworks. 

At the moment, I am in preparation for an exhibition which will take place in Croatia this July. Some of my works were and some still are exhibited in couple of online shows. Particularly, I would like to mention RSA’s Annual exhibition for which I am so grateful that they have decided to continue with their programme in form of virtual exhibition to support and promote artists. 

I find it of vital importance that cultural and artistic programmes have found a way to continue with their work through these times, and bring the uplifting aesthetic experience through the online medium. 

The last two questions, Can you think of an established artist who’s due for a critical renaissance? Someone who’s either unfashionable now or not very well known to begin with who you think deserves a second look? 

In my view, many artists are being overlooked, but everyone should be embraced for their individual differences, without being subjectively criticised. After all, what is objectiveness of someone’s creative expression? It is either perceptive opinion of one’s taste or opinion set by current trends. 

With that being said, I could not pinpoint to one specific artist, as my appreciation goes wider than individual admiration. What I do find the most important is to love and truly enjoy in the process of creating. I believe a work with a ‘soul’ can always be felt and drawn to observers, as well as to the artist who has created it. 

And also if you have a guilty pleasure you’d share with us? 

I love to go for a hike with my friends and occasionally do something that is part of my tradition; on each conquered peak, we have a sip of rakija (a brandy from Balkans) to celebrate our immaterial success before returning back down into ‘reality’. 

More work by Sara Sonas can be found here.

Inteview by Ben Duax, June 2020

Sam Tahmassebi

Our Featured artist this month is London based Sam Tahmassebi, previously a reciepient of the Road to Rio Award, Tahmassebi’s paintings use images from pop culture to describe how our social selves are represented online. Please keep reading for a short interview.

Juncture, 2018, 60 cm X 100 cm

Hey Thanks for speaking with us, I’m interested in your use of the same characters in multiple paintings, if you see an implied narrative across paintings, or how specific the signifiers are. Wile E Coyote is a figure that it’s pretty easy to project a narrative onto, I was struck by the painting where he’s pixelated out, looking at the plate of thai food.

The use of characters is very specific. Minnie Mouse, made by Disney, is an American company and encoded within that is its significant market and global cultural dominance. She signifies that partially, but also normativity, orthodoxy and hegemony. Wild e Coyote, on the other hand is the product of Looney Tunes and Warner Bros., a company of Polish Jewish migrants who fled to the U.S, in this sense, Wild e, signifies the Other. There’s a narrative or perhaps, a dialogue between the characters on both a micro and macro level throughout all the paintings in the series.

The pixilation I hope his easy to understand – the moment when you become your digital-self IRL – the idea of two identities, the online and the ‘real’. Context is everything, right? Context shapes us, and our experiences, so in this way, it’s crucial to fully experiencing this series of paintings and the ideas within them. I plan for there to be around 20 and hopefully a couple of sculptures and an interactive installation element, too.  

As an aside, what you’ve been reading lately?

Reading is a great passion of mine but it does take up time, so I’m quite into audible books. Still unsure if that’s reading to the reading aficionados or intelligentsia. Nevertheless, I’m a huge fan of Blinkist and most recently I’ve listened to On the Origin of Species, Charles Darwin and Capitalism and Freedom, Milton Friedman. My actual reading of late has been Simulacra and Simulation by Jean Baudrillard and Nobody Knows My Name, James Baldwin.  

We were always asking before, what shows people had seen that stood out to them, focusing on UK painting, typically. Because most things are shut down, how have you been looking at art? Or did you have any projects delayed by quarantine that you’d like to share, either how they’ve been rescheduled or if they found a new form?

I mostly use Instagram to experience art or mailing lists from galleries. I would still rather stand in front of an artwork, but adaptability is the key to survival. I haven’t had anything delayed, but with everything that’s going on, I’ve felt compelled to make different work in response to it. My practice has always been socially and politically directed, so I should have a video piece or two coming out soon.  

Speaking of work presented online, I was wondering about the photographs printed on aluminium, which I saw on your website, images which in many cases I was quite familiar with, the Two kids in Mcdonalds, the Syrian Boy in the Ambulance, but also some images whos provenance was unclear to me, The Vegan Donut for example, or images that look like they are from social media or the New York Times.

I have been debating whether or not to still include those photographs in my practice. They were a failure; sometimes it’s good to keep those as a reminder. They were a response to another book, Camera Lucida, by Roland Barthes. I think he missed the exploitative nature of photography and now with social media we can see that more clearly. Everything’s being exploited and then organised by people of their own volition for consumption through hashtags. The process was just searching the most random hashtags I could think of and seeing what came up if anything. As with my paintings, the majority of imagery is taken from the Internet, and throughout my practice there’s a interest with how the internet is changing our relationship with images, reality, commodities, and more importantly, each other. 

The last two questions, Can you think of an older painter whose due for a critical renaissance?
I think Michel Majerus, made exceptional work that really drew attention to the complex relationship between media and landscapes. I hope he gets a revival.

And also if you have a guilty pleasure  you’d share with us?  

Guilty pleasures? I try not to feel guilty ever –  it’s kind of a redundant emotion. I like giving and seeing the look of surprise and joy on other people’s faces. They think it’s about them, but it’s all about me.

Interview by Ben Duax, June 2020

Sam Tahmessabi on instagram and twitter

Sabrina Choi

Our first feature post Covid is London based Sabrina Choi, who works in a variety of mediums and caught our eye in part becuase of the novel way that she presents two dimensional work online.

“HEADS UP!” (2019)
Acrylic and inked pen on cotton canvas

I was really struck by the presentation of the same painting in different edits, having been manipulated (presumably) in photoshop and then presented as the same work. I was wondering if you could expand a bit on how you see these different images, if one version is the “real one” or if there is a hierarchy? Your peice Nuison is one example. 

Binge, From 2019

A: In my portfolio, the first image of each project is what I considered as the original work, and the final representation of the image that been somewhat repainted or redesigned. I have the habit of putting a work aside for some time and coming back to it after months, just to see whether there’s anything I can do to elevate the painting itself, and ‘Nuison’ was the perfect example of that. No photoshop or any digital editing, just the good old splash of paint here and there to spice it up even more. 

When I looked at, Binge, For example, it took me a second to find the differences, And then to think about why both are presented? 

A: ’Binge’, in the other hand, was simply the first ‘draft’ and the refined version. As a perfectionist myself, I never know when to fully consider an artwork as ‘truly completed’, and that was shown in ‘Binge’. Personally I repainted ‘Binge’ to give the painting itself more depth while experimenting with the blend of pastel colours (e.g. shadows) as a dreamy and feminine touch , while the original version lives up the style when I started experimenting with this 2D superflat painting technique. I put both versions together, hoping to let the audience have a look and follow up with the thought process while I was making art. 

Could you tell us a bit about how scale factors into your work? You wrote that “Jizzed” for example, was originally a kind of maquette for a sculpture, but these divisions seem kind of subsumed into an online experience. Looking at “girls Girls Girls” the visible canvas tooth kind of blends into this different physicality that is specific to a computer screen, where these things that seem like imperfections in person are emphasized through photography. 

A: Personally, I’ve never even thought of editing out the imperfections of my paintings, no matter what surface I was painting on or how ‘rough’ it looks. To me, imperfections, bits and cracks of each painting is what makes it more realistic and relatable to the audience, and I have always find myself being attracted to art that openly embraces small things like water patches and blending streaks. At least that was what I wanted while painting ‘Girls Girls Girls’ years ago, when I first entered Goldsmiths for my Foundation Course. ‘JiZzed’, on the other hand, was a completely different story. I was more experienced and confident when I painted this. Originally, it was supposed to just be a sketch on my notebook highlighting the key points of my ideal sculpture, yet when I saw this extra canvas in my studio space I couldn’t help but 

think of what it would look like as a painting, where I will have even more freedom to express myself through colours that I’m familiar with. While I was planning out ways to present ‘JiZzed’ online, I really didn’t think too deep into anything. I simply wanted to show the audience the closest representation what the actual work is like in real life, and the only way to do it is to separated the art itself into different close up digital images, ignoring the flaws and textures that would be seen on the canvas and present it as it is. Nothing else, nothing too complicated, nothing too fancy. 

I also was struck by how you incorporated text into the portfolio you sent us, that it sort of became a gestalt work, 2 dimensional artists sort of have to navigate how work is framed online, or if a portfolio should be framed as a print object, but you kind of sidestep that, could you maybe talk about that process? Curious also about your use of text in multiple languages, if this creates a barrier to perception, or functions as a kind of self selecting tool for the audience. Or if there are any signifiers that seem specific to living in london, any way your work reacts to living in the UK. Even though they are paintings, they have a relationship with comic books, or the text around the edge kind of reminds me of that old crust punk typography, like CRASS album covers for example. 

A: When I was working on my portfolio, the one thing that come into my mind was how will I be able to elevate the digital form of my artwork just so that it would catch the attention of others. Personally, I do not have a lot of experience with photo editing apps or anything, hence all I could use was my limited knowledge of Pages and make the most out of it. Being born and raised in Hong Kong and coming all the way to London to further pursue my studies, career and dreams certainly has a huge impact on me. Not only am I bilingual, but I’ve also learnt to embrace the beauty of the cantonese language, and I wanted to share it through my art. I included elements of my background and culture in both ‘Nuison’ and ‘Oct1”, hence Chinese Characters were used. Personally, I do not think that It is necessary for the audience to understand cantonese in order to fully appreciate the difference pieces, for I do believe that my work will be able to speak for themselves, emotion-wise. (Also, I enjoy giving the audience some space to let their imaginations go wild when it comes to experiencing my work. What’s the fun of making art when I’m the only one who is allowed to talk?) And yes, comic books does have a huge influence on my art. In fact, Japanese Comics (Manga) has always been one of the main reasons why I became interested in arts as a child. Also Pop Art and the SuperFlat Movement, which I’m sure is quite obvious in my paintings. But when it comes to design, not gonna lie, I just did what looks good to me, and tried my best to make it work. 

Everything is closed right now, I was wondering if there were any really good shows you saw before the quarantine, or even better, if there were any exhibits that got cancelled that you were really looking forward to? 

A: I was so excited for the upcoming exhibitions that were supposed to be held in spring/summer! I was really looking forward to the Andy Warhol and Yayoi Kusama exhibition in Tate Modern, and of course, Alice: Curiouser and the Curiouser exhibition in the Victoria and Albert Museum. Oh and the degree shows across London. I was so excited to see the works of graduate students this summer, just like the past few years, and learn a few things from them. 

Or if you’d like to talk about how its disrupted your course or any of your personal exhibition plans. If youve been productive at all since everything went bonkers, what you feel the impact on your practice will be? 

A: This term, Goldsmiths has officially decided to try online teaching, hence a lot of students have flown back to their respective countries. To be honest, I don’t think that online teaching will be anywhere similar to the teaching we’re used to, hence we cannot show our working progress to our tutors directly. Also, I was supposed to have my first solo exhibition in Cambridge, and sadly it got cancelled too. A lot of plans have been either postponed or cancelled and it was certainly upsetting and frustrating, but it’s definitely for the best. We’re living in a strange time right now, but I’m sure this period of time also give fellow artist time to come up with new ideas in our practice. Is there anyway we can help the world a little through art? Is there any way we can spread positivity or hope? That’s what I think about every day after I started my home studio work. Luckily, I’m a painter, so the lockdown has not stopped me from working, but from time to time I still miss working in the studio with other students while joking around day to day things. 

Outside of work that you were hoping to see, would you tell us about an artist (could be painter or not, could be British or not) who you think is underrated? Someone from the past who you like who you feel like has either fallen out of fashion, or never got the due they were warranted? 

A: There’s soooooo many underrated artist out there but please I really hope that more Asian artists will get the kind of exposure they truly deserved! Do check out artist like Hikari Shimoda, Jonathan Tsang and Roby Dwi Antono! They have been around since long time ago, and honestly deserve recognition all around the world, since they’re just crazy talented and managed 

to blow my mind every time they produce something new. 

Also as a last fun question, I was wondering if you would tell us about a guilty pleasure, something you like that you don’t think is very serious. Could be a TV show or Movie. 

A: Anime! Personally I’m more of a comic (manga) fan, but there are just so so so many nice anime on Netflix right now that i’d highly recommend watching. As long as you like cartoons, don’t be afraid to give it a go! Try Naruto, Haikyuu, Fate: Stay Night etc., I promise you won’t regret it!

https://www.sabrinackt.com/

Interview by Ben Duax, 2020


Jeremy Wolf

Jeremy Wolf works in Acrylic and Oil stick, creating readable narratives with mostly featureless figures. Motifs from the history of painting reappear at different resolutions and physical angels to create a a sort of foundational mythology. Click through for some recent work and a short interview.


Denialis a river in Egypt- head of St.John-the-Baptist 36x48_-2018

Relativity in Values. 25×36″. 2017
Saturn Devouring His Son Fearing a Loss of Control in an era of Great Uncertainty. 40x70_-2017

1. First, Have you seen any really good painting shows lately? Along the same lines, I was wondering about a painter you’ve been thinking of who maybe isn’t on many walls. That is, if you could think of someone due for a critical renaissance, someone you think is under rated. 

I’m always hunting for good painting shows, and I happen to have seen a number in the past few months that stand out in my mind. I accompanied my wife to Copenhagen maybe in October (she had a work conference and I just tagged along to screw around) and got out to the Louisiana Museum where they had a retrospective of Marsden Hartley’s work. I think that kind of hit on both parts of your question for me as he’s not someone really talked about with the giants of American painting, but the work was really phenomenal and kind of a revelation for me. I also got out to the Felix Vallotton show at the RA when that was up which is another name I wasn’t too familiar with and was kind of blown away by. Another at the RA I enjoyed was the show of Lucien Freud’s portraits. He’s kind of a complicated figure for me because I find him to have been a pretty big scumbag in his personal life, but the work is undeniably amazing. I’m a big fan of bits of texture and impasto and he definitely used those devices a good deal. 

Guerra. Acrylic and oil stick on canvas, 60×70 ” 2018
The-End-Is-Nigh.-Oil-acrylic-on-canvas.-36x24_.-2018.-JEREMY-WOLF.jpg
The End Is Nigh. 36×24. 2018

2. You have a degree in economics, would you talk a bit about how you came to painting, or how it informs your work to be mostly self-taught? I’m reminded of a bit of TS Elliot, writing his poems during his walk to work at a banker’s office. 

You know, it’s funny because the degree in economics is probably more random than my interest in painting. I had always drawn and been encouraged creatively at home as a kid, but it was never really pushed on me or structured in any sort of way. When I was looking at college as a high school student I didn’t have a strong direction. I had been a fairly well regarded musician on the trombone and thought I might go into a jazz studies program or something like that. However, I was also very lazy and while I had some talent I just knew deep down that without the work ethic to back it up I wouldn’t amount to much. I was also terrified of auditions, so that didn’t help. As a result I just picked a major that sounded sort of specific and challenging but in reality was fairly general and hazy in terms of curriculum. I thought I would figure things out and switch majors after freshman year or something like that. But by the time I realized I really enjoyed painting (and would be willing to put in work to get better) it was junior year and I would’ve needed to add a year to my education to graduate with a degree in art. So I just stuck with economics and here we are. 

American Daydream 68×50 -2017

In terms of how it informs my art, I feel like it has a double-edge effect. In the first place, I feel very free to explore whatever I want in terms of subject matter, medium, style, etc. There really aren’t any boundaries for me in terms of idea generation when it comes to my art. It also leaves me with a lot of rough edges in terms of style that I kind of enjoy. However, on the flip side, not having that education background can leave me a bit unfocused, and I don’t necessarily develop a narrative with the work. I’m not great at speaking about my work either, maybe because I’ve never had to sit through a critique with other artists and explain myself. So it works both ways, but at the end of the day I think it’s probably a good thing because it makes me me, you know?

3. Cooling towers are a reoccurring motif – Is it sort of a stylistic nod to (for example) pictures generation artists, or is it kind of a narrative device, a stand in for other anxieties? 

I’m definitely interested in nuclear energy, bombs, the atomic age – all that sort of stuff. I think it speaks in microcosm to a lot of the other issues facing the world today. In all honesty, I had never even considered the reference to Picture Generation artists, but that’s a very interesting thought. For me, though, it was definitely more of a narrative device, like you say, about anxieties in today’s world. I want my paintings to feel uncomfortable or unsettling and there’s something about cooling towers that does that. Like, who wants to live next door to a facility that has those things?

Blue Room-Leda and the Swan. 36x48_.-2018

4. Tell us a bit about Leda and the Swan painting. Some renaissance versions of this story include an audience, which is perhaps represented by the video camera in your version. Paintings based on Ovid tend to show the encounter as more tender, and paintings based on Fulgentius more violent. Yours is a bit ambiguous. There you go with that mushroom cloud again. 

Greek mythology has always been one of my favorite topics. I always found it fascinating when we studied it in primary and secondary school. I think they’re really interesting stories just on the face of it, but when you consider that it was all a part of the foundation of what they believed I think it takes on a whole different connotation. I’m very critical of religion in a lot of my work and this is really no exception. I find it interesting (or perhaps disconcerting?) that whether you look at the Bible, the Koran, or Greek myths, so much of it we’re told is prescriptive and a guide as to how to live our lives. But at the same time there’s just so much senseless violence packed into those stories that it’s hard for me to look at any of that and view it as a pathway to a higher existence. Obviously, the Leda and the Swan story is no different. I know there have been more sympathetic takes on the encounter, but I’ve personally always imagined it as more of a violent scene – I mean if an animal was about to try to enter me there would be a serious struggle. What I wanted to capture here, though, was that false feeling of ambiguity around the story and how to me that could really represent being desensitized to that level of violence and abuse of power. So, the female in the image is rendered in such a way that she looks almost disconnected from the entire experience. She even nearly has the appearance of being a blow-up sex doll, which would obviously provide no resistance to the advances of the swan, but in my view wouldn’t make this any less of an unsavory scene. I felt like the strange devil-man filming the whole thing just made the whole image even stranger and the viewer ask more questions – Are these willing participants? Does that even matter if the whole thing is just wrong? I think the mushroom cloud again adds to the uneasiness of the image – What’s happening outside? Why aren’t the subjects in the room reacting? How close is that bomb? Are they going to die?

Here we are with what we have done. 60×50 2017

5. Do you worry about finding an informed audience? Have you found you get a different reaction to similar work when you’re in the UK versus stateside?

In all honesty, I don’t worry about that. I really do this because it’s who I am and I can’t imagine any other way. If people are informed and they bring that to the table when they see the pieces, that’s great and it’s a bonus to be able to talk to people about the work on that level. But if people just find them visually striking and interesting to look at, then I’m ok with that, too. I’m able to say what I want to through the work and that’s what’s important to me. 

I definitely have received a stronger reaction to my stuff over here in the UK. I think the scene in general is a bit less cutthroat here – not that it’s not very competitive in its own right, but I don’t think other artists mind seeing you succeed as much here as in NYC. It’s a bit more collaborative in my experience and so I’ve enjoyed being able to participate a bit more now that I live in London. I’m sure there’s also a bit of a novelty element with my being an American and having that perspective in my work, but hey it’s working for me right now, right?

6. After asking about painting and audiences, how about a lighter question, I was wondering if you’d be willing to share a guilty pleasure with us, something that you really love that you think is truly dumb.

Oh man, I love this question. I have so many, so I’ll try to give you a nice variety across categories. I’m a huge fan of bad action movies, whether it’s a big budget one like the newest Rambo, or a B-movie like the more recent Steven Seagal stuff, or even lower end than that. I saw this really bad movie with Vince Vaughn where he’s playing this truck driver with super human strength who goes to prison for trafficking drugs. It’s called Brawl in Cell Block 99 – definitely one of the shittiest best movies I’ve seen in a while. He’s just punching through skulls and stuff like that.  The Steven Seagal flicks are really weird because he has this strange love affair with Russia going on in his real life and that all plays out on screen in the new movies. He’s also like 70 and fat and can’t move anymore so the fight scenes are disastrous. I remember I watched a movie called Assault on Wall Street with my old roommate a while back where this guy basically has a Job-like experience in his life where his wife and kid die, he gets fired, loses his house, etc. And he just goes nuts and goes to a firm on Wall Street and shoots the entire place up. That one was pretty wild. I would consider myself a true connoisseur of the genre.

I also love Professional Wrestling. The WWE kind of sucks these days, but I’m into some of the new promotions that they have going like AEW and NWA. There will never be anything like the Attitude Era in WWF ever again, though. I’m a massive fan of Stone Cold Steve Austin. But I think probably the most overlooked character in the entire thing is Vince McMahon himself. He’s the epitome of being an over-the-top moron and I just can’t get enough. 

I’ve got loads more like pop music and stuff like that, but we’ll leave that for another day.

Interview By Ben Duax