Grant Foster Installation View
April 19 - May 11
Exhibition launches 19 April
7pm - 10pm
9 May 6:30pm
Thurs - Fri
12pm - 5pm
Wed and Sat by prior appointment.
33 Seely Road
Grant Foster Installation View
Coloured pencil on paper
Coloured pencil on paper
Where are the images in the works generated from?
In the past I've worked from images in newspapers, then I collaged or adapted the image in some way. In other periods I've only worked from my own drawings, with many revisions, till I came to a piece that felt right. These revisions were more about investigating or uncovering an image. So, the images are generated from lots of different places. At the moment, I'm making much more specific drawings, perhaps more traditional in a way - I’m drawing usually with a view to making a painting.
Yes, it’s interesting that we are showing the drawings here rather than the paintings, how do you feel about that?
I think we’re really showing drawings and paintings – it’s just that everything is on paper and we arrive with a different set of assumptions around works on paper. Paper is more informal, familiar and maybe even more intimate – what hopefully remains is a sense of immediacy – Drawing – or working on paper, has a very special place for me because of this.
I’ve never had the opportunity to show exclusively works on paper and now feels like a good time. I’m becoming increasingly interested in approaching a painting with the same attitude as I would a work on paper. I think it’s easy to think that a drawing is simply a process to serve the production of a painting, however, that relationship is more nuanced, symbiotic even, than we might realise.
Some of the works seem to function almost like posters or propaganda, with big text statements along the bottom, could you talk about those?
Often when I’m working, I’m making decisions very quickly and words will drop in and out of my head which often shape the outcome of the image. I tend to write these words down, sometimes I write them on the work and other times I write them on bits of masking tape and stick them around the studio to remind me what I was thinking. It feels very natural for me to write. I think in words just as equally as images.
The text might appear authoritative at times, but it’s too oblique for propaganda. I’ve spent time building an archive from the tabloids – almost like an encyclopaedia of what is going on around us and I’ve allowed this to seep into the works. I’m fascinated by how atrocity can sit alongside an advert for a hair replacement serum and we accept it as part of the same package.
With the works I’ve been making recently, text is becoming more a feature. It can be difficult to handle formally but you can locate an image very easily with text. Specifically, I’m trying to make my relationship to the images more overt, direct and clear. Words in this context are more direct. I wonder if I’m doing this because our attention spans are getting shorter?
In some of the works there is a Cherub like character, or in others you have a ‘strong worker’ sort of look, can you explain a bit about those?
Many of these motifs that repeat themselves throughout the work are meant to be non-time-specific. On some level, I think I’ve intended this to be a warning against nostalgia. I’m trying to be more direct about that now – as I think a direct approach to image making is becoming an increasing necessity. However, I don’t want to make art that operates only in a temporary, meme-like way. The question is how can we make something of meaning that speaks directly to us today and that can also be more universal, to travel across time, if you like?
I’d taken an interest in workers since seeing Munch’s worker drawings many years ago. I also saw, although more recently, an image of a painting by Millet called “The Man with the Hoe”. A centralised figure leans on the what I assume is the hoe, doubling up as a crutch, supporting legs that may collapse at any point. It looks like he’s been worked to the bone. In the distance a group of hay-bales burn – they look like they could belong to a distant city. The image is really interesting to me as its both fatalistic and nostalgic.
I remember reading somewhere that the working folk Millet depicted, had lost their realism once the images were given over to reproduction and adorned the walls of city-dwelling homes. I guess this is what you could call chocolate box sentimentalism where working anger is soothed, even negated by this type of visual mushiness. This anger is something I’m interested in - there is still something revolutionary about the worker, which has been reactivated by current events, like the automation of industry.
I wanted to ask about the dog and the bum image? There’s a horrible bestiality scenario going on, but its dressed up in this seaside-amusement-carry-on style, but it’s unclear how this scene unfolded, or even what you’re supposed to do with this image of a man having his ass licked by a dog?
Ha. I guess when you put it like that you’re right, there is very little you can do with an image like that. The drawing is based from a photo of a ceramic figurine which I found somewhere online. The reason why I was drawn to it initially was because it reminded me of visiting my Aunt’s house when I was a teenager – she collects ceramic pigs and lives by the military barracks in Aldershot. It’s almost as if her whole house is a site of cultural resistance – her ceramic pigs I’ve started to think are the descendants of a pastoral classicism that can be traced back to Reynolds and Gainsborough. Today, however, these figurines appear almost as a form of anti-art, folk resistance.
There’s a gallows humour to it as well which partly comes from growing up by the seaside where there is a good deal of the grotesque and humour thrown into your day to day life. I’m interested in images that have a duality so to speak, like Millet’s “The Man with the Hoe”, yet in this case the duality is both silly and fun but also deeply sinister.
So, it’s the unresolved, or troubled nature of the images that makes them most attractive? I wanted to ask what is the role of the object in your work beyond the man and the dog?
A certain amount of ambiguity is important to me - that feels funny to say as I was speaking earlier about text and how that locates an image. But as I said, I hope that that the combination of image and text is oblique enough to redirect you somewhere else. I’m not interested in holding your hand through an image. There are just certain types of shapes and forms that I feel as if have the potential to double-up and mean multiple things at once. In my previous works, often you get shapes rather than objects, balloons and simple forms, an orb, sun and moon - different archetypes with different sets of associations.
I've this cranky idea that certain objects in the real world don't have a life force, is that a weird thing to say? I'm thinking about a TV, or a mobile phone, maybe it’s more that I’m not able to have the same kind of emotive response as I can with the bend in a leg, or the arc of an eyebrow - there’s not the same power.
Is that to exclude something contemporary? Are you interested in the exclusion of that?
It’s more complex than simply excluding manufactured or new things – I’m not interested in retro-fetish. I think it’s because nostalgia is very dangerous. We’re caught up in a situation now where there’s been this talk of returning back to the good days – I really worry where this logic will take us next, back to capital punishment? I mean, imagine the outcome of a referendum on the subject?
...it’s more than just this, there are certain objects in the world that I don't see as having an integral energy. The question of what has this energy is what I am drawn to - and I guess that this is a really difficult thing to articulate. For instance, a work of mine could suggest a phone, a hand at an ear, would be a simple way of doing that. In a basic way – certain objects move on too quickly, they fix the image in a way I’m not interested in.
Like when you see illustrations of mobile phones at airports, and they are forever dated looking...
Yeah! I really have no interest in the work somehow being bogged down by the wrong shaped mobile phone! I can't conceive of ever doing that, really.
Having said that about mobile phones, the other month I saw this guy dressed in this deep blue suit with a massive blonde-quiff riding a segway. He looked so stupid. So of the future and so already of the past. A truly temporary figure. There’s something quite medieval about a Segway - a plank with two wheels, there’s a timelessness and a temporariness to that image which definitely interests me right now.
Liar 2015, felt-pen on paper, 30x21cm
In conversation' 9 May 6:30pm
Exhibition Supported by Arts Council England