© Nicholas Bailey
> > October 2010
Still from ‘Daedalus’ © Rodney Dee
CP: Can you tell us more about the forthcoming exhibition at Core Gallery ‘Sisyphus: The Absurd Hero’?
RP: It was a case of a number of elements coming together at the same time and an attempt to articulate a general air of impotence and repetition in the art world. I was simultaneously researching the work of some absurdist writers, and revisited the works of Albert Camus and specifically
|'Chandelier' © Nicholas Bailey|
I had also just come across the work of Nick Bailey, a sculptor recently graduated from Wimbledon College of Art, whose work seemed to articulate this impotence and disappointment so well. From there I recruited the other artists, using the imagery of the Myth of Sisyphus as a springboard.
RP: Pleasantly surprised by the breath of interpretation the artists presented in relation to the myth, I came to view the notion of the absurd in a new light. But also how relevant they all believed the myth to be at this point time, the commitment and depth each artist had invested in their works and research was evident.
‘Life Pencil’ © Alexander Bates
‘Dust’ © Jim Bond
My personal interest in the myth lies in the physicality of the task without reward or meaning the action is for it’s own sake and Sisyphus his own master - this is an extension of my interest in the interplay between our physical and conceptual worlds, and that a work of art should strike a balance between the two. The work ‘Labour the Point (Water Torture)’ is essentially tautologuous, going to unnecessary, repetitive lengths to little conceptual gain. The work literally outweighs itself.
CP: What can we expect from Part 2 of Sisyphus: The Absurd Hero?
RP: Originally I split the works of the 12 artists into two parts as there was a huge distinction between: ‘resistance’ (retained hope in face of absurd) and ‘acceptance’ (almost celebrated futility, labour intensive) works. I later decided to present a more balanced view of these interpretations within both shows. For example: presenting Matthew Kay’s resistance of the notion of nihilism alongside Nick Bailey’s casual acceptance of it. I think in Part II this disparity is more pronounced. I think there’s a humour about this show. A device perhaps we employ in the face of the absurd.
CP: Would you say that this exhibition is a response to the continual ‘circular’ nature of an artist’s practice?
RP: It’s part of it, but more so a feeling of lack of progress or inventiveness in general, that we are recycling ideas. The circularity of art practice is inevitable, the more you work the more problems you face. No line of enquiry is ever concluded, it’s about feeding your own curiosity.
CP: You recently had a solo show with ‘Squid and Tabernacle’ that was held in a shipping container. What were the considerations and challenges of working site specifically? And how will you and the other artists utilise the space at Core Gallery?
RP: Squid and Tabernacle approached me at a good time with the challenge of this space. As a nomadic gallery they select their artists in response to a site, an extremely novel approach to curatorial practice. Artists should be able to contextualise their practice temporally, geographically and conceptually, this project forced me to do this. The Hartwell site was literally a hole in the ground when I arrived in April, the sea container empty and ready for me to do as I pleased.
The final installation ‘Planning Permission’ utilised reclaimed materials from the immediate area to recreate ‘unfeasible architectural models’ by means of both reflecting; the state of flux of the area, but also the boundaries we should push when re-thinking our urban environment. As part of the installation I tipped the container at an angle and filled a corner with concrete as to utilise the maximum potential of the space, something I never could have achieved in a gallery. The work of projects like Squid & Tabernacle that get contemporary art out in the public realm are integral in rethinking the way we present and view art.
In terms of Core, there’s an energy which I think comes from being slap bang in the middle of two rows of studios. The shows I’ve seen there so far have had a painting bias, but I relish a challenge to rethink the established conventions of a space.
CP: As an ‘artist working curatorially’ can you tell us how the collaborative process of working with the artists is enhanced? Do you feel that by working collectively in this way provides the artists with a greater autonomy?
RP: As an artist my concerns aren’t going to be that far detached from any other artist working now, so to provide a platform to voice those concerns is important. For instance I was struck by the response I received for my call for artists for Sisyphus, what I believed to be a fairly specific line of enquiry within my own practice was actually reflecting the feeling of quite a few artists at this time.
I think I decided to approach other artists with opportunities to show in response to quite restrictive themes to force the reassessment of the relevance of our practice. Something I think curators are failing to provide at the moment. Moreover because of the dire economic climate, especially with the further cuts to arts funding, the stance of individual artists and institutions can go one of two ways: The individual artist tries to make their practice more financially viable and ‘plays it safe’ or will look for ways of independently funding curatorial projects, free of the constraints of funding applications will have uncensored reign over their content, and that’s quite exciting.
CP: Previously you curated an exhibition at Lewisham Arthouse titled ‘Skinflint’. The artists deliberately used ‘lo-fi materials’ at a time where there was a ‘trend for an outlandish decadence in approaches to art-making’. This exhibition seemed to be a reaction to consumerism & the art market, but also highlighted a change in how we consider art-making. Can you talk about arts political potential through exhibition making?
RP: For me it was completely reactionary, I do believe it was the revelation of Damien Hirst’s diamond encrusted skull in the middle of an economic downturn that did it for me. To this day I still can’t understand where he was coming from with that work. So it was not so much about the dire situation of the economy at large more so the role of the artist in reaction to it. Hirst was case in point.
For me the role of an artist is as an inventor, and when means are restricted we are forced to invent, to rethink. The artists I included in this show were artists I admired for their unique utilisation of materials.
In addition I think the work of an artist is always inextricably linked to the environment it is being made in, either consciously or unconsciously. The job of the curator is to pick up on these trends artist to artist and make them relevant to the now. Individual artists tend to be so engrossed in their practice that they don’t see the immediate relevance or urgency of the work they are making. Exhibition making, in turn, is an excellent platform for the ‘feel’ of a time to be projected back out into the public sphere.
CP: What are you currently working on within your practice? And what is important to you as sculptor?
RP: My work on Sisyphus has been very research heavy, and has lead me down some disparate lines of enquiry. I continue to research the absurd but am also very interested in the nature of creativity itself in psychological enquiry, namely the work of Mendick who identified the creative object as ‘the union of two distinct and disparate nodes’.
In this respect the work of comedians like Stewert Lee and Mitch Hedberg are as important as any fine artist. I am taking this idea quite literally in my studio investigations and applying it to my image/form studies.
As a sculptor this element of experimentation is hugely important, both in material and conceptual investigations. I’m concerned that sculpture is becoming too language dependent, that the role of instinct and material investigation is becoming obsolete. A balance between head and body is important.
I recently revisited the work of Hermann Obrist at the Leeds institute and remember thinking ‘this is scupture’. Obrist invented form, new ways of negotiating and viewing our physical world – that is what a sculptor should do. The dance between abstraction and representation, somewhere between physical truth and subjective experience, but made with an empathy for the human condition.
A sculptor should favour experience over representation, this is particularly relevant now in the digital age and presents all sculptors with a dilemma. I myself am a self confessed luddite and worry about the implications of over over-reliance on images and digital reproduction and how it will effect learning and progress, especially at a developmental level in children.
CP: You reach new possibilities within your work by your liberal use of materials. Can you talk about how your choice of materials adds to the physicality of form and to the conceptual narrative?
RP: I use a lot of reclaimed materials that tend to be laden with their own preconceptions and assumed uses. I find it interesting how materials are often assigned a gender as a result of the above. In addition I find images hugely seductive, but misleading, in pairing image with form I attempt to highlight the disparity between representation and the reality of the physical world.
There’s a lot of destruction in the process – bending, impaling, snapping, and this is hugely important in the way I approach and rethink the use of materials. As I’ve mentioned before, the physical presence of the work should serve as a tool to affirm the conceptual narrative. They should be interdependent.
CP: Do you have any forthcoming projects / news to divulge?
RP: ‘Sisyphus: part deux’ is in the offing. At the moment my curatorial projects are taking precedence over my own studio practice. I’m also working on a research proposal for the upcoming residencies at the Henry Moore Institute in Leeds.
CP: You are based at ASC studios in New Cross, situated within a growing community of artists. How important has this been to you in the development within your work as both a curator and an artist?
RP: The New Cross/ Deptford areas are a great place to be for an artist. I find the freedom of the artist led studios and galleries highly conducive to an experimental and risk taking approach as an artist and curator, projects like Deptford X reflect the needs of the artist but are also sensitive to the area in which the art is shown. Conversely I also think that it is important, in a growing community of artists, not to become isolated from movements in the rest of London and the UK, and indeed internationally - that a dialogue should be encouraged both within the community and with the wider sphere.
CP: Thank you Rachel Price!
For more information, please visit: www.rachelpricesculpture.co.uk