Artwork’s Title: Bending Over Backwards (Triptych)
Materials Used: Oil, plaster, glue on canvas
Studio Based: Bow, London, UK
Can you tell us about the process of making your work?
Much of my recent work over the last few years has spawned through documented experience of the urban environment in which I live. I try to construct narratives in my work that pitch the fabric of cities against humans and their frail bodies. Through delivery and logistics work, I spend a lot of time moving around the city. I take photographs, make studies and combine images to form a plan for a preconceived idea I might have based on something iv seen or a feeling a particular place gave me. I then transfer what are often digital collages into a version on canvas, attempting to utilise paint and its appearance to convey a surreal and jaded vision of the metropolis.
How would you define your work in a few words (ideally in 3 words)?
Transition, Dérive, Metropolis.
Could you share with us some insights about your recent triptych painting ‘Bending Over Backwards’, (2020) ? Is there any particular story behind these artworks?
I made these works during the first lockdown in the UK. I was quite drawn to the widely circulated covid image of the free outdoor gyms being clad in an orange tape straight jacket. In the absence of human use, I was thinking of the structures as biological moveable bodies that continued to flex without their jockey. Also channelled into this image is the overall physical and more importantly, mental anxiety that the pandemic has inflicted upon the individual. I think I just wanted to convey an object under stress. An object that can also feel like a body or a kind of human struggle. The triptych is based on an outdoor CrossFit machine on Figges Marsh, Tooting where I was living at the time of making the work. I should probably have actually done more CrossFit however, other than just making artwork.
Your artistry spans a broad range of painting techniques from more figurative practices to more abstracted ones. Do some specific narratives or motifs finally guide you to decide which creative field you will be concentrating on or is it a more personal matter which is more related to your mood as a painter?
I would say it is the latter. I use what I would consider to be abstraction very little in my paintings nowadays in terms of raw brush work and expressionist painting actions. The abstraction comes more in trying to make the urban environment feel uncanny or metaphysical but in a representational style of painting. Alongside Dorothea Tanning and Max Ernst, I am very drawn to Giorgio Di Chirico’s Florence paintings and Metaphysical painting in general from the early 20th century. Using various degrees of realism in their compositions, they all presented an enigmatic narrative where a viewer feels that the recognisable or believable situation they are confronted with is warped. Ordinary awareness is shifted slightly and we feel like we have stepped out of time.
Are specific arguments created by random experiments in your studio or do you always come up with a particular concept or narrative in the very beginning?
I usually have an idea in mind before making a piece of work and I will mill over it in my studio to plan how I will make the work. Then, I tackle it step by step. I either use a drawing or a photoshop collage as a kind of prompt or partial instruction manual for a painting. My workspace isn’t too chaotic. I find working life outside the studio stressful enough, so within my studio I tend to be quite tidy and methodical. On a personal level it brings a nice balance to my mind.
Has this corona virus pandemic offered your inspiration somehow during all the extensive lockdowns?
Contrary to many who have been out of work and indoors due to the lockdown I have spent a lot if it outside and around the city. I work as a multi drop supermarket delivery driver and also an art handling firm so I felt lucky to still be In work. It was crazy to see how London became like a donut in lockdown. The periphery areas remained quite busy but central London streets in Soho, Westminster and Kensington were like a hollowed out ghost town. With so much closed, it felt very dystopian as probably 80% of the vehicles and bikes on the road were delivery based. Supermarket vans and the teal square specks of Deliveroo bags buzz around on the back of bikes. Although a little dystopian, the reduction of much city activity to the delivery and purchase of food during the lockdown felt quite primitive.
Is there any particular theme that utterly triggers you to engage your art with?
As I have mentioned in other answers, the city is currently the umbrella theme of my work. Rather than having a naked studio practise It is important to me to draw upon my everyday lived experience and particularly that of employed and labour. At the moment, processing my working life through a painting practise makes the employed work how somehow more meaningful and beyond just a fiscal incentive.
What would be the best way to exhibit your work?
The majority of my work is 2D and in the traditional scope of canvas painting, so it’s fairly easy to exhibit. Going forward however, I plan to try and morph into a more multidimensional practise, considering sculpture and installation too.
Can you mention any artists you, lately or generally, take inspiration from?
Alongside the metaphysical painters mentioned above, I’ve always been quite a fan of Futurism. Despite its leanings at the time of creation towards Facism and Violence, it’s unfettered and technocratic obsession with mechanical power, technology and revolution made for some great paintings. Umberto Boccioni’s ‘Simultaneous Visions’ (1912) and ‘The Street enters the house’ (1911) feel like a city imploding under its own bustle. Modern artists, filmmakers and writes who’s subject favours the dérive and psychogeography are also of interest to me. I love Patrick Keillers trilogy of films featuring his illusive character of Robinson as narrator. The films still resonate with many since the first one came around in 1994 in identifying the ‘problem of London’. Kiellers practise uses the world of this fictional character as mirror to real life in England and looks deeper at the landscape and city as it me slowly buries relics of the past. Writers on urban flâneurism such as Will Self and Ian Sinclair and urban photographers like Rut Blees Luxemburg are also big inspirations.
Do you wonder if additional work was needed, when an artwork’s making process is finished?
One of may tendencies is to over work ideas or try to include too much when making paintings. Within the scope of my life as a whole, painting is still quite new to me so I tend to pour so much into each work. As I get older, I can imagine this flow stemming a little and that I will convey my ideas in a more singular and less dense way.
What about the place where you work? What’s your studio space look like?
I work in a shared studio in Bow, London (Brickfield studios). My studio space isn’t too big but I share with two other lovely artists who were also at the Royal College of Art when I studied there.
What do your mum and dad think about your art?
They seem to like it I hope! They’re both creative in their own ways, my mum is really into gardening. My dad was actually my earliest memory of seeing art made by someone you know and wanting to replicate it. He used to make cute little chocolate box watercolour paintings of English villages.
Which are your plans for the near future?
I am contributing to a group show called ‘In Crystallized Time’ In October 2021 and will be doing a two person show at Filet, London with Damon Owen. I am also contributing to some upcoming publications such as ‘The Dark Preview’ and ‘Future Archive’. ‘Future Archive’ is an ongoing research based collective curated by Rut Blees Luxemburg which pitches artists against the theme of construction. There is a few other things in the pipeline which are currently taking shape. Aside from these, I intend to press on with my current body of work and see my grandma more.
All images courtesy of the artist