Have you always had an interest in technology?
It seems that when any ‘technology’ reaches a level of ubiquity or domesticity it stops being referred to as ‘technology’ at all and fades into the background, becoming just another mechanism of everyday life. There is an inherent link between technologies and the idea of the future and also a natural link between technology and illusion, as Sir Arthur C Clarke author of 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968) wrote, “any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic” and there is an element of trying to harness this in my work.
What appealed to you about Sculpture Shock award?
The focus on specific sites was really the thing that most drew me to the award. With so much of my work being a reaction to an environment, this project seemed to demand a quite interrogative approach to the exhibition venues and this certainly seemed to tie in with the way I had been working and the way in which I see my practice as progressing.
What was your inspiration for the Sculpture Shock commission?
To me there is something about underground spaces that has this sense of exploration, of seeking out something valuable, like a mine or a tomb. I wanted to consider underground light at its most precious and how living things are changed, blocked off from the sun, when they journey down beneath the surface.
Could you explain the process of creating one of your installations from drawing to realisation?
My installation works almost always begin as drawing on paper, in fact, the installations themselves are often attempts to further explore a process that has been carried out in two dimensions.
Revealing an underlying process or set of operations that make up the work is key and manifesting this as something that a viewer can physically or spatially experience is what progresses the work from drawing into installation. Thinking about the procedural properties of a 2D work that I want to explore, I create a three dimensional computer model of the specific space that I will be using and test out different approaches to realising the drawing in a sculptural form. This is then constructed within the space, replaying the system of the drawing across an environment.
You are currently researching for a PhD in Liverpool on a very sophisticated and ground-breaking area namely the use of new media technologies in the cultural sphere. Is there is a fundamental paradox in your work in your in-depth understanding of very sophisticated technological and scientific areas and the very low-tech use of materials?
I find the critical debates surrounding new media and its cultural implications very interesting, particularly the ways in which established notions of space and materiality become undermined.
For a time I did work entirely digitally, producing interactive video installation works, but I often found that the computer imposes very strict parameters. The screen has become such a ubiquitous means of experience that it can cease to challenge a viewer. Our senses are actually more receptive to a physical confrontation in real-space. I feel that my work does reference technology, the grids, planes and strict mathematical ordering - but this is perhaps on a purely aesthetic level.
What impact do you hope to have on the viewer with your new commission?
Site specific work puts the viewer into an environment that is unknown. When work is exhibited in a gallery, the space itself is always fulfilling its established function and I feel that this can cast certain preconceptions onto the experience of the work. Within a space previously inhabited for a different function, the installation of art objects strip the space of this previous role, it loses its utility; not an industrial site but not a gallery either. It hangs precariously between the two. I think this tension is interesting for audiences, and can allow a unique experience of a site.
Your installations are all temporary. How do you feel about their impermanence?
I like the ephemeral nature of much of my work, I see them more as events or interventions than objects. A set of procedures are played out within the space, it exists for a while and then it is destroyed. Then, in another place, at another the time, those same operations can be ‘re-activated’ the work coming into being again. Each time the work is made anew, dictated by the surroundings in which it appears; the system, the blueprint or its making surviving after each of the works are demolished.
The transient nature of my work is central to their numerical titles. As numbers can increase infinitely, it shows each work as part of an on-going system, cataloguing work that no longer exists. Perhaps the numbering allows a degree of detachment when it comes to dismantling a piece at the end of an exhibition. As my second solo exhibition, the title of my Sculpture Shock exhibition will be ‘00002’.
Could you explain the importance of colour in your work?
There is a blue that I use in many of my installation pieces and I think that has partly been influenced by some of Yves Klein’s writing. Discussing the different associative properties of colour, Klein wrote that in nature, blue represents that which is most abstract, hinting at the sea and the sky, entities that exist on a scale that defy physical comprehension. On a less lofty note, I tend to draw in blue ball point pen so the colour further references the drawings that inspire the installations.
Who are the artists you most admire and which have had the greatest impact on your thinking and your work?
The work and writing of Sol Lewitt was a big influence when I first began working with serial systems and processes. The sets of instructions used to create his wall drawings have had a big impact on the way I think about my own work. West Coast light and space artists such as James Turrell and Robert Irwin have also had a big impact, as well as younger light artists such as Carlo Bernardini who makes fantastic architectural light pieces. I am currently interested in Haroon Mirza. He makes kinetic sound sculptures from disparate sets of objects.