Leading up to our exclusive print release with James Joyce and the Tax Collection, we are pleased to share an in depth interview with the artist.
1) A lot of your work involves subverting familiar visual icons in popular culture and twisting them to evoke a different response. What goes into that decision making process for the imagery and phrases that you choose to work with?
I’m not sure it’s intentional I’m just picking up on the noise that surrounds me. It’s interesting that you can tweak something slightly and give that thing an entirely new meaning or feel about it. The yellow face icon that Harvey Ball designed in the 1950’s, how can I play with something as iconic as that and make it my own so that it becomes something else? It has an entirely different meaning than in its original state, yet you still recognize what it once was.
2) Can you talk a bit about physical execution of your paintings? What inspired the graphic element that’s prevalent in your pieces?
The first 10 years of my career I was a graphic designer and Art Director which I guess has informed the art work to a point, but even going back to when I was at art college in the early 90’s it was pop art that really got my interest. I’ve always liked to break images or ideas down to there simplest form only leaving in what’s necessary. The execution of these ideas looks precise and neat almost machine made but when you get up close you can see that they’re hand painted. The collapsed face paintings are painted with household gloss paint on wood panels and the Like paintings are acrylic on canvas.
3) What attracts you to specific phrases that you later implement into you work?
I think the title of a work can give it an extra layer, it can imply something that might not be apparent when looking at the work, it can add humour. I’m always writing stuff down that I overhear or read, phrases that might make a good title or be the catalyst for a new piece. I always like sentences that seem odd when you think about them or contradict themselves somehow.
4) Repetition seems to be an important vehicle for you. What makes specific images or text ones that you explore through multiples pieces?
I don’t think I set out to create ideas that can be multiplied and repeated, but I suppose I do like the idea of creating an ongoing body of work. The collapsed face pieces work individually but I can make many iterations of them for as long as I’m interested, it’s powerful when you have a large number of them grouped together. Conceptually the Like paintings rely on repetition in their various number groupings. There is a strange kind of freedom in setting rules for yourself.
5) Can you talk a bit about your experience with Dismaland? What was the process like from the conception of the idea of your piece to its actual installation and the reception the show received?
I received an email from Banksy asking if I’d show a piece of work at a contemporary art show he was planning that year. All he would tell me is that it was going to be held in an abandoned theme park somewhere, there would be about 50 international artists and the title of the show would be Dismaland. I didn’t know where it was going to be until a few days before it opened. Initially I think he wanted paintings but then we got on to talking about making the piece rotate. I looked into building s physical piece where all the parts would fall about but there were practical difficulties with that and time constraints so in the end I decided to make it a video piece. We built a massive circular panel almost 3 metres diameter and then projected the piece onto it which gave it the appearance of the disc rotating. Banksy thought the image summed up the event and so he asked if he could use it on the cover of the Exhibition programme, so in the end it kind of became the icon for the exhibition.