The materials and images I use end up making the same gestures, one towards matter or structure, and one towards illusion, or non-matter. I was interested in the tragedy of this scenario - the illusion that there are two people close enough to each other to have an intimacy. But there is a flaw in this image - the way I have processed the Frantic dance sequence reveals for me a gory tragedy: the reality that two people can never be the same person.
JS Technically, they look like very challenging works to make. Can you explain a little about the process of discovering this method of printing?
APW Yes they are. For these works I stretch fabric over a large flatbed printer—a technique the printers and I have developed. We started working together six years ago and have tested a lot of materials! I have early works that were printed on marble and engraved slate. I also experimented with colour and with the amount of ink put down on the surface.
In terms of fabric, I now have sponsorship from JRC Reflex in France, who provide industry-only materials. I could never get hold of some colours otherwise—the super black reflective fabric in this exhibition is one example. I really love the hunt for new materials and seeing how they can collide with ideas. The technical side of my work is important but it is not isolated—working methods and the fantastic technical fabrics feed back into a conceptual approach to my artwork.
JS On leaving the Schools, where have you continued to make work, and how has this environment supported the production of the work?
APW When I left the RA Schools last year I was asked to start the first artist in residence programme at Unilever. I was researching areas for artworks including ecological language, viral language, epi-genetics, neurofeedback, neurolinguistics, optical brightening and disruptive colouration. I approached these research areas to open up my aesthetic language, and focused on how experience affects the body and brain. At the end of my residency Unilever acquired a large silver reflective fabric work printed with photographs selected from the time with them. In November later this year I have a solo exhibition at Chandelier Projects, a project directed by Karen Knorr and Daniel Campbell Blight.
JS How does an artist like you fit into the corporate structure of Unilever?
APW: I don’t think I did — and that was the idea! I was involved in the workshops happening at Unilever and had amazing discussions with scientists and the R&D department on their most recent and future research. I found it interesting to talk with them about what was perceived as ‘natural’ or ‘un-natural’ for example - especially mediated through technology or science. I think it would be a great project to help instigate more artists in residence to work with the research side of companies or businesses. It was definitely a reciprocal relationship for me and it would be fantastic if there were more opportunities like that for artists.
JS Finally, it would be good to hear a little bit about the RA Schools and your time there.
APW At the RA Schools we have very in-depth discussions about everyone’s practice. The effect of working and thinking as close-knit group is palpable — there is constant re-adjustment from the force of multiple agendas and vibrant, often conflicting voices. I always wonder how many voices there are existing in my work!
The RA Schools is a tough place. You are tough on yourself and others whilst trying to figure out or blow-up your practice — getting a developed understanding of what artwork you are making and learning how your ideas stand ground. But it’s tough love!
YOU LOOK SO GOOD IN STEREO is in the Gallery Café at the RA until 2 July.
Jonathan Stubbs is Patrons Manager at the RA.