Hamish Young is currently studying Sculpture at Edinburgh College of Art, University of Edinburgh.
a-n Art Student: Are the choices you make in your visual practice the same sort of choices you made in your dissertation research?
Hamish Young: There are similarities but you have to acknowledge the differences between research for theoretical discourse and an artists’ visual research: the requirements are very different. The expectations of an artwork are different too.
a-n: How are they different?
HY: When writing a dissertation you have to prove your theories and ideas in a formulaic and comparative essay form. I am not sure you can approach an artwork in the same way, there is a different logic.
a-n: How did you think about logic when writing your dissertation?
HY: In essays you are using words and structure to make a reader understand certain logic. You are threading together published ideas from theorists in a transparent way – everything has to be proven and validated. You can only give authority to your voice through the voice of others.
a-n: So, how does this work in making visual art?
HY: On some level it’s a similar process as there’s a form of ‘borrowing’ references when constantly looking around, within your peer group and from within the discourses of contemporary art. This is less acknowledged. But going back to logic and its requirement in, say, an academic essay — discursive ideas and theories can be fixed together to communicate a new logic, to suit what the author is trying to say. There is a similar process within art making, I think, of trying to communicate a type of logic effectively.
a-n: How does this ‘communication of logic’ happen within the making of your own work?
HY: I’m interested in how you can play around with a logic that is formed through engaging with materials and the idea of it being formulated by observing a process. In relation to a specific work, my adventures with clay, a film that reimagines the production of China clay in the South West of England — this came out of a basic awareness that when trying to work with the clay, to cast objects and produce a series of screen prints, it got everywhere: over my clothes, on books, paper. The material itself and its disobedience became an idea for a work that explores its materiality.
a-n: This is interesting in terms of work that is process-led and there are correlations between essay form and visual practice here too; other ideas and references flood in during the course of putting work together. You have to consider where these ideas fit whilst editing down initial thoughts. I can imagine your work, when shown, is a sort of ‘edited logic’, or a selection from a large array or bulk of material…
HY: I do contemplate how to display the work to represent an initial thought. I didn’t simply re-make my studio when thinking about my adventures with clay; it was edited to that extent. Process-led work has the potential to impose its own logic. I think Rosalind E. Krauss said something about Richard Serra’s process work: of its reason being its very “unreason”. My art gives into this material logic too; I let it shape the work to some extent. I am interested in pushing this further.
a-n: It’s an intriguing thought, letting the material taking over with the artist’s role being a close management of its behaviour, before handing the work over to an audience. Does actual research become a part of the process too?
HY: Research becomes an investigative process, you discover something overlooked or reimagine how something came into being. The ideas you discover through researching and writing an essay can re-shape your original intent. In a similar way the material you work with when making, its historical or theoretical sources become a material too and these will determine new outcomes.
a-n: It sounds like you have backed these ideas quite thoroughly and that your research methods have given your work more of a backbone. Can you explain what your dissertation was about?
HY: It was about authorship within the production of an artwork. To what extent can a work be attributed to the artist and, conversely, what are the grounds on which the opposite can be said – that a work can exist independently of its creator.
a-n: How is all of this shaping what you have planned for your degree show?
HY: I want to keep part of myself present but I also want the material I am working with to shape the work’s outcome. It will be a material narrative that reimagines the objects I use, which becomes a strategy for the work’s creation to be visible within the end product.