We picked five artists from “Make_Shift”, Collyer Bristow Gallery, London and asked them five questions about their work on view.

 

Make_Shift” at Collyer Bristow Gallery, London combines the works of 22 artists who manipulate and modify different mediums and processes; assembling, layering, and collaging both literally and conceptually to disrupt our expectations of objects and images.

Could you explain this work?

“Matt Monkey” is one of an ongoing series of portraits of antique soft toy monkeys and apes which I collect for the purpose of painting. The monkey in this painting is both a still-life object and a portrait subject. The monkey paintings were originally conceived as traditional symbols of primitivism and amorality, and as such evolved into metaphorical portraits and indeed self-portraits too.

What does this piece deal with? 

The monkey in this painting is resting his head on the ground with his visible ear prominently alert. The narrative potential implied here is disconnected from vanitas still-life tradition, which is always symbolic of mortality. Additionally, the idea of painting a meaningful portrait of an old stuffed toy found on eBay, without known provenance seems an unlikely ambition to achieve. “Matt Monkey” represents lost friends, and distantly remembered friendships.

What medium and techniques did you use?

“Matt Monkey” is painted in oils on linen canvas which I always prepare with an oil primer tinted a warm brown or beige. Michael Harding’s are my favourite oils and hog hair is my choice of brush. I always make one or more preparatory pencil drawings on paper which I usually complete with coloured oil washes and it is from these studies that I compose the paintings on canvas.

What were the struggles of making it?

When I look for subjects to paint I collect only those objects which seem to suggest the most potential to be documented and/or transformed by painting. I have no interest in nostalgia, cynicism or sentimental kitsch, but these all hide unseen in the aesthetic mine field all artists paint their way through.

What is the purpose behind this work?

Art inspires and consoles. I also hope a smidgeon of gentle and wry humour is discernible.

Could you explain this work?

“On the Slide” is a still-life painting. I assembled a group of objects that were chosen for their ability to become part of an active group that alluded to an ambiguous and playful space. They include a toy plastic slide, a pencil, some rubber window wedges, some cut wood and a yellow ping-pong ball… the tableaux is lit with artificial light and painted variously from life, and then away from the objects. The title refers to a psychological state where someone might feel that things weren’t going too well, or of course, it can simply refer to being on a slide.

What does this piece deal with? 

This piece uses the still-life genre and its formal structures as a starting point to explore a number of interests. These include the importance of play in the act of making and engaging with art, the tension between abstract and representational painting, and the formal issues of colour, shape, light and form – the language of painting. I am also interested in the inherent spirit in places and spaces, the hidden life of objects, and the idea that still-life is sometimes seen as an underdog within the art genres.

What medium and techniques did you use?

The surface is an acrylic primed linen. There is a vivid under-painting which is then either tempered by other layers of oil paint, or allowed to remain untouched.

What were the struggles of making it?

The struggle is the same with every painting, hoping to make something that retains its material and psychological interest. Because I often use bits of toys, there is a danger that the work can seem twee or nostalgic. I want the work to go beyond these states to somewhere more ambiguous and perhaps darker. They are finished when this is achieved. From a technical point of view, you always want to find that “sweet spot” in painting, something that is well executed but not killed.

What is the purpose behind this work?

This work, like all others, tries to soak up all of the interests that I have, and leave something that is slightly open ended – both for myself, to take into the next painting, and for the viewer. Hopefully this also helps create a two-way dialogue with other work by other artists.

Could you explain this work?

My paintings begin with the highly rationalised and objective geometries of architecture. This painting is based on two architectural sites; Quai Branley in Paris by Jean Nouvel and Caixa Art Foundation in Madrid. I photographed the exterior spaces of these buildings, then dis-assembled its geometries and collaged them together to re-create a new and multifaceted space. The resulting environment probe the relationships between both the physical and psychological aspects of space, and the way these are navigated.

What does this piece deal with? 

The piece deals with a number of subjects. I am very interested in how we navigate space and form, as well as boundaries between and within spaces. For example, how to move through a space, what can be located in a space, the meaning or rationale in a space. I want to create a sense of both interior and exterior space at the same time- or collapse those two elements so that we are uncertain whether we are in a building or outside of it. Interior space represents the psychological, and the exterior space is the publicly viewed space. In this painting you see the architectural reference off centre- a doorframe- or portal like opening that alludes to the boundaries between these spaces. At the same time, the size of the canvas (100x100cm) is a square window size, so you are looking through a window space into another space. The composition and form of the painting means that there is also the illusion of a 3D space whilst you are looking at a 2D painting. Incorporating both 2D and 3D models of space within the work engages the viewer in a process of looking, interpreting, and constructing space for themselves through their own individual experience. The subjective and dis-orienting nature of the work establishes relationships between the personal and the systematic, highlighting a disparity between the imagined and the real. This seeks to re-claim the failed ideals of modernist space and intimate a more personalised space of one’s own creation.

What medium and techniques did you use?

Initially photographs- many photographs of each building I research! I then use photoshop to visualize different possibilities of the spaces together, and which configuration works the best for my intentions. I then print this and use it a reference point to make a drawing, and then use oil and build up the colour in glazes. In this piece there are only 3 colours used: carmine red, lamp black, and lemon yellow that are combined to build up a very sensuous colour palette. Threads also always intervene in my works; their tautness dissects boundaries and creating shattered geometric planes, the imagery often being literally pinned down, sewn up and threaded together. In this painting it is the orange diagonals as well as highlights across the painting, which require you to come close to the canvas to identify. The use of thread often traditionally is used as reference to the feminine and domestic activity of making, repair, and creation, but here I use it to symbolically puncture the predominant male domain and hard edged aesthetics of modernist architecture, geometric abstraction, and design. You can also see another painting in the exhibition Make_Shift with another version of this composition, it’s a much more threaded piece and different colour systems. Again, a slow building up of texture, paint, and form.

What were the struggles of making it?

Originally, actually this was another painting, and one which at the time I had been very happy with- it was the same form but very minimal. And one day I just looked at it, and felt it needed to evolve and become richer and bolder in its materiality so I started repainting. When I make paintings, I tend to work very slowly building up layers, looking and re-looking before deciding on the depth of the colour or thickness of thread. I always use my hands a lot to smooth and drag the paint once its applied, and to take away the brushstroke. There is always a struggle when you make work; intellectually, aesthetically, practically, I think that the joy you feel as an artist is when you perhaps win those struggles, and make a work you feel satisfied or you feel you have achieved something with the piece, and that you have also, hopefully surprised yourself a little!

What is the purpose behind this work?

To develop the work and to illicit a response from a viewer, to hopefully share a different way of seeing things. To get people to ask things of the work or question things about the work. I find conversations about the work to be of great interest in the development of new works. Ultimately, the purpose of each work is for me to explore new territories in my practice.

Could you explain this work?

Phenomenology underpins the way this assemblage is constructed. The sense of history which encompasses the work comes from collective and individual memories. In that the items in the work are found (in this case in my father’s garage when I moved him a couple of years ago). The garage contained hundreds of tools, old packets, washers, restaurant menus, countless books and photographs. The selection, collation, and assemblage of objects and memorabilia activate an open system reliant on the environment and the constant experimentation with materials. The elements are initially placed together in an intuitive very fast manner. The architectural elements within the paintings construction and composition create a kind of an industrialisation of memory, which refers not only to elements such as the steel semi circle (in which the viewer sees themselves) but also a long term interest in the “Bauhaus”, particularly Moholy Nagy, Josef Albers and Paul Klee.

What does this piece deal with? 

I have been interested for some time in the elongation and compression of an image, particularly in the way in which some systems painters use a more intuitive approach to geometry and the retinal orchestration of space (Malcolm Hughes, Michael Kidner, Colin Cina ).The multiple views and displacements that occur draw the audience into a peripheral world of imperfect geometries. The widths and relationships of the bands and the constant painting and assembling of constituents, such as the circular wood elements, introduce a differentiation in the dynamics of colour or tone building a system of references and visual incidents. “The structure of the concept cannot be divorced from the structure of the langauge in which it is expressed” -Malcolm Hughes.

What medium and techniques did you use?

The starting point for my work comes from a system that is operational; the work is developed by assembling hand-cut collage and then incorporating materials such as acrylic, wood, steel, powder pigment, and varnish. The unpredictability/predictability and pitch of colour arrangements bring into play a contrast with the reductive position of the work. The colour or tonal variation is applied with the aim of disorientating the viewer, often disbursed or used in compartments to create an odd depth of field. Perhaps challenging the possibility of order and disorder, and building a highly saturated, optically expansive surface.

What were the struggles of making it?

The struggle comes from trying to keep the work open from a perceptual /psychological angle. In terms of a dialogue with an external reality and a very personal relationship to my own history within the work. The choice of elements such as the shadow of the house refer to the imprecision of our memories never quite dissolved. This idea is developed by the overtones and undercurrents that perhaps express a kind of world view, orchestrated by the inclusion of the Bauhaus symbol (construction house), and its relationship to architecture, with its shifting of focus, and radical experimentation that the school developed.

What is the purpose behind this work?

In this work, I am interested in combining a personal sense of history with an industrial/geometric aesthetic. Allowing the regulation of memory to develop through the traces or residues that occur within the layering and assembling (both temporally and spatially). Through the composition, I am trying to deliberately pull the viewer into different scales and surface implications, perhaps eliciting a human response to the mysterious and forgotten elements, and its poetic sense of history.

Jake Clark

Could you explain this work?

This painting depicts a women playing crazy golf. It is tightly cropped, just showing her legs and feet on the right of the canvas. On the left is a section of an obstacle from the game. In the background there are coloured balls suggesting the golf balls, but painted in the wrong scale. They are meant to show movement, this is emphasised by the stylised brush marks. It is a bit like a memory of looking down at your aunties painted red toenails, melting in the heat of the sun.

What does this piece deal with? 

It is about abstract-figurative ideas of painting. A figure on one side, and a structure on the other. It also deals with languages of painting. There are different styles and speeds of painting all jostling for space. It is as if all these different elements have been thrown up in the air and landed on the canvas. The representational narrative could fall apart at any minute. Colour is also important. The palette is mainly made up of saturated bright colours. This is contrasted with dull colours, like the background.

What medium and techniques did you use?

The medium is oil paint on canvas. There is also some old vinyl collaged on the top right of the picture. This blends in with the dress pattern. The vinyl was glued down first, then brush marks were painted over a dark ground. The painting was then built up from this.

What were the struggles of making it?

Getting the colours right was the biggest struggle with this painting. The dress pattern changed a lot during the process. Also, the colour of the concrete golf structure went through quite a few changes. It was also trying to get a sense of realism but allowing strong abstract elements to dominate the image. It was part of a series of “feet” paintings. This was the only square one, so the shape provided different challenges.

What is the purpose behind this work?

The purpose of the work was to depict a holiday scene but with some sought of shadow of doom being cast over it. Like a familiar image of a family snapshot of an over cropped photograph. It is meant to represent the psychology of the situation. The sudden flash of a vivid memory, for example. There is also a clarity with the paint handling, yet the image is made up of separate components.

08.01.18

Words by Martin Mayorga

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