In life, we all appropriate in some way – whether this is retelling a joke or copying a haircut from some celebrity. But in the process of appropriation, often the thing in question becomes personalised simply in that in comes from you. Your hair with that haircut, the way you tell that joke with the incantation and tone of your voice.
Art is certainly no stranger to appropriation. We are always influenced and informed by other art, events and sights around us so that what we produce as artists is some sort of assemblage from these encounters. True appropriation in art is perhaps more recognisable when an existing piece of art is used as the basis or in the make-up of another piece of work. In my latest series of works, it could be said that I have used other people’s work to help make up mine.
On a recent holiday to France as I was walking around the cities of Nantes, Le Mans and Orleans, I took a number of photos of bits of my surroundings that I encountered in this urban environment. My new work focuses on the graffiti and bits of buildings, foliage, shadows and reflections that I zeroed in on.
The reason I chose them was because there was something about the detail or the texture that appealed to me. As I took the photograph, I deliberately apply a subjective framing (as we all do when we use a camera) as it is the focus of this frame which has inspired me in some way. It could be the movement of the mark making, the rich colour of the object or the intricate detail that is displayed.
Using these recent urban photos as a basis, I created a number of digital montages, cutting and pasting, digital scribbling and erasing – a kind of a graffiti of the graffiti. I had certain ideas in mind as I was producing them. I wanted them to be evocative, collage like, reminiscence of walls, rooms and close-up details of the buildings around us – the patterns, the surfaces, the dynamics between structures, suggestions of the elaborateness of bits of architecture and a cross over between design and fine art.
It’s not that I had exact ideas of how I wanted these to turn out, I did know however the areas I wanted to explore. Broadly speaking these are the artists Tomma Abts, Franz Ackermann, Sonia Delauney, Richard Hamilton, Albert Ohlen, Fiona Rae and Anj Smith. It’s a long list (and certainly not exhaustive) but these canvases allowed me the space to have a bit of a play with certain elements these particular artists use in their work – so yes, even more appropriation.
However the works themselves start to take on a life of their own and entice me to follow certain paths conceptually and visually. There is no doubt I am lulled into a different place, perhaps even a different story in each of these and I allow myself to indulge accordingly. Contours, colours, shadows, memories, literature, poetry, bits of films drip feed into the work, loading it up, pushing the flow one way or another. In a way it’s a bit like a meandering river in the way that each work collects and builds up along the way to its own conclusion.
The attached images of my graffiti pieces are all work in progress so may yet change considerably.