OPEN FRI/SAT 12-5 PM
12 - 13 October
I can see crosses as a recurring theme in your paintings, can you talk a little about what you find interesting about the cross?
I spent some time living and painting in Antwerp and I noticed whilst walking around the streets was the abundance of large, Catholic icons depicting Madonna mounted to the sides of the back street buildings. It turns out that when street lights first came to the city in the 1800s the city would make sure that every street with an icon would be provided with light to illuminate the shrine. The people of Antwerp fast started making their own “fake” icons and attaching them to the sides of their homes so the city would fit street lights and run the power to that street. Families would then tap the power from the street lights and run their homes with it. I found this exploitation of a religion amusing. This is an easy comment for me to make so flippantly as I’m not religious, but I think this sense of a sign, religious in this case seeming so definite, actually has this whole other purpose and reasons for existing.
This dislocation between image and reason was even more apparent after I’d been living there for quite a while and integrating into Antwerp life. I didn’t feel, and couldn’t see that Catholicism played big part in anyone’s lives anymore, on the other hand yet it’s impossible to find a shop which is open on a Sunday. Originally in the name of religion Sunday was taken off as a day of rest, but now it’s the day where the techno clubs stay open longer from the night before.
It’s also amusing how Belgium’s hunger for the street light has grown to such a beast that they are now Europe’s most light polluted country; even the motorways in the middle of nowhere are illuminated at three in the morning.
I guess I adapted the cross in some of my paintings as a sign of this double meaning, or to show something for not what it may initially seem. For me the cross is also the symbol of the Drones Club, a dance outfit, which is a collaborative project I’ve embarked on with my friends. The cross that the we use is a structure seen from an isometric point of view, it’s meant to represent a new way of thinking - I guess with the sensibilities of the left. I paint this cross much more than the cross of Christianity, I made a body of work in response to our EP, White Crocodile.
You also often have this demonic looking characters, that have that look of those morphing demons you might get in a cartoon from the 1920s, where does this element come from?
What the characters look like are slightly unimportant, they are merely vessels for the narratives in the paintings. Like the cross, initially they have the sense that the cross can only be read in relation to religion, these characters also have a certain feel, that you might associate with a specific era, but actually they are an amalgamation of my experience.
For instance, I was forever drawing monsters, ghouls and cartoons as a kid, I would read a lot of Dan Dare, listen to Polish folk stories being told to me by my imaginative parents. All of these characters and hybrids of alien animals have bled into my work, for sure. I guess I never stopped drawing; for me the stories were the epitome of a future a world away, or a distant place.
And so what my characters look like depends at what point in time I make them, they change with my inspiration, right now they look a bit lunar; I fell for George Melies’s film To The Moon and back last year. George's depiction of what it might be like out there was beautifully imagined. This naive vision is easy to build on as anything is possible in the world of Melies - there are no right or wrongs, it’s all still to be explored. Which is an exciting start for a painting, right?
You also often work sculpturally, which comes first? I have a sense that the sculptures come from the paintings, is that right?
Like with many painters the sculptures are just further extensions of my paintings, which have a sculptural feel, but sculpture is not something that I feel like I know enough about, it’s almost a bit embarrassing that the sculptures have been noticed and I’ve got to talk about them!. Having said that making 3D works is something I’m doing more and more of. It’s hard, and exciting, and unknown.
The spikes in the show almost act like large nails, is it the sculptural feeling that these create that is important, or do you see them as staging? I mean, does it function in the similar way to how a plinth 'stages' a sculpture?
That’s a good question. I originally made them with the intent of building a set, like Melies had done, but quickly different components started to come together in the studio; a ceramic sculpture, a series of paintings and then the spikes. They all felt like they belonged to one another and existed as one work, in their own installation ‘world’, this is often the case with my exhibitions, that the space has its own logic.
Specifically, the spikes help to create a hostile environment, 'Welcome to The UK!'. I think the spikes help set the tone for the paintings, creating tension, caution and tentative humour that the paintings are to be viewed with.
Exhibition Supported by Arts Council England