Can you tell me about your practice? How do you get started on a piece of work?
My works often start as sketches and manipulated scans, layer onto each other or collaged digitally until the composition is complete, but a lot of the works are made simultaneously as a response to the works that sit either side of it in the studio and as part of the wider body of work. Compositional elements are used and re-used and revisited to create continuous dialogue between the works. I always tend to revisit ideas and return to stuff, things will get stuck in my head and I like to return to them again and again to see how they work with new elements, and sometimes mistakes or old iterations of work become new important elements in later works in the series.
Who or what are your biggest influences?
I’d say in painting terms i’m really interested in artists that use simple symbology and text in unison to build up compositions, like Raymond Pettibon, Barbara Kruger, and more recently i’ve been enjoying the work of Sophie and Douglas Cantor, also currently working in Glasgow, and I also bring lots of influence from layout design from old print publications and print advertising.
This week saw the launch of a new online viewing room at Launch F18 showing Heralds, a new body of work by you. Can you talk a little bit about the context for this new body of work?
This body of work, created over the last 12 months, has been looking into Heraldry and the power of symbology, and the decline on holders of institutional power. It’s a kind of coded flirtation with the psuedo-seriousness of symbolism and branding, trying to discuss or undermine the impact of these historically significant symbols. Any given heraldic symbol signified safety for those ‘inside the walls’ and fear of feudal control, violence and death for those without. But looking back there’s something absurd or comical about these figures being unicorns or griffins, and there’s an element of superstition and mysticism which was essentially the backbone of the impact of these particular heraldic identifiers.
How important is the choice of material in relation to realizing the concept of your work?
I think i’ve always returned to painting as such a direct medium of communication. Imagery spends so much time fighting for space and attention and I think the language of colour and composition presented on a large panel still just has so much potency. Conceptually too it is a mirroring of the same processes of how all of these symbols would have been disseminated and engaged with in the feudal era, painted onto fabric or wooden shields. I like to work in acrylic so I can work quickly and on multiple canvases at once, but most importantly it allows for quick editing and overpainting on sections that aren’t working. I am alway interested in leaving this visual signifiers of on-canvas editing and decision making, very few of my works come from a single idea and a one-time execution— many of the works are the sum total of many layers, edits and selective removal of part or whole sections of the painting underneath.
What is your most important tool? Is there something you can’t live without in your studio?
Probably white household emulsion. As I say a lot of the works come from a process of editing all on the surface, so edits are done in real time and dry in an hour so I can continue to build up the layers quickly and crop, dodge and burn areas of the works that form part of the final composition. It’s a great tool for allowing to work freely and quickly and not being too precious, and allowing to change your mind as you’re working.
Can you give us a book recommendation that has been important in your practice? And tell us why it’s important.
Maybe no one book in particular, but something I always love returning to, are collections and complications of graphics, poster and advertising collections, stuff like that. Phaidon did a really amazing collection of North Korean graphic design, postcards, cigarette packets, sick bags from planes and every single surface and design choice is some form of propaganda. I think maybe heraldry is just feudalist propaganda, and so there’s something interesting about our constant need to return to simple, highly-charged imagistic symbolism to assert and maintain power and control. It’s the core of what propaganda is and so often we return to animals and mythical creatures as signifiers.
Finally, is there anything new coming up that you would like to tell us about?
I’ve got this show that you mentioned Heralds, an online viewing room with Launch F18, a NY-based gallery, that we orchestrated the installation and photography in a gallery in Glasgow, which was really good fun, and also I’m working with an exciting relatively new gallery called VOLT down in Eastbourne for a group show with some really really interesting artists in early 2022.