This is an exclusive interview that the Unlawful Art Team organised with up and coming artist Giles Curties, He is currently showing his “Post Art” series at the Hartnoll & Daughter Gallery (http://julianhartnoll.com/) on Duke Street St. James’ (London.)
Anyway check out the interview below, and find out what inspires Mr. Curties and why and how he creates his wonderful and wacky imagery:
So this is a new body of work, for your new exhibition coming up next week at the H&D Gallery, and hasn’t been seen before, what inspired you to create it?
All of the post I get when I wake up in the morning is either bills, or promotional letters from faceless companies, and I felt with the arrival of social media, and emails, people don’t receive, or rather I don’t receive letters anymore, and what’s been a big influence at certain times in my life, is receiving letters of support, or love letters, and it’s something that’s tangible and something that you can hold, and can keep. I felt there was a certain romanticism to that, and it harks back to another era almost, and what I wanted to do with my paintings is try to put as many layers of interest as possible into the paintings and what i found was rather to go straight onto the canvas or a piece of paper was to arrange a series of envelopes together, and then put an image on top of them, so when you separate the envelopes, each envelope becomes abstracted, it goes through the postal system, and then arrives at the gallery, where it is then put back together, and I found it an interesting format that I don’t think anyone has been doing, however I suppose it does relate to the exercises the Surrealists and Duchamp used to perform using letters.
So the concept of the work being separated and placed back together could almost be viewed as a form of action art, do you want the whole action of putting it through the post to be a part of the piece of art?
Well yeah, it’s a part of the process, and like you say, I wanted to put as much “process” into the paintings as possible, with different layers and different depths, so the initial layer, if you like is the letters being stamped and franked, which gives it a place and time, which is quite specific, so it will say (as an example) May the 24th, at, 8:30am which is exactly when it was franked. I like the notion that; as the years go on, there will be a greater sense of provenance toward the piece.
So how long have you been experimenting or working on your idea of Postal Art?
I started sending pieces through the post about 7, 8 years ago, and it was very much a way of communicating with a friend, but what I found out was, in the same way that I still have letters that were sent to me 10, 15 years ago, what I found was friends of mines were also holding on to the letters and drawings that id sent them, and then the concept started to galvanize and evolve into a project, so in the most traditional forms of being a fine artist, I realized it could become a format (to create my work). In the show that’s coming up at Hartnoll, There is also this sense of communication, and it warrants a show in itself. So like many creative processes it starts as something, and then kind of evolves and changes, as you work on it more and more, and now I have something more solid; I believe. So the paintings for the show, each piece is done on six envelopes, and are quite uniformed in terms of layout, it creates a real sense of a body of work, or a collection if you like, and helps produce a sort of, identity for me, or even my work.
So you mentioned; a minute ago, the Surrealist movement and Marcel Duchamp, who would you say your biggest influences are, when creating your work?
Definitely the Surrealists, and also the Dadaists hold a big place in my heart, because they were basically ripping up the rule book, and sort of, starting again, if you like, using object trouvre, and the ready-made works by Duchamp, and putting two inanimate objects together which would then create a piece of art, I like to think that concept also resonates within my work. You know, the postman sees them; it has happened a couple of times, they may not realize it’s a piece of art, its only art by the time it’s gone through the post and put together at the gallery and then it’s much clearer what this thing is, if you like. People quite often try to open the envelope, but there is nothing inside, the art is the envelope. You know, galleries in the past have called me up and said, “they don’t understand, where is your work?” But once all of the letters arrive and are pieced together, they get it. You see that’s another reason I like the postal process, because it involves the viewer, and the viewer, or receiver of my letters, if you like, also performs the creative process with me, by reconnecting these envelopes, to recreate my work, and this further highlights my idea of communicating through my art. Hopefully the viewer can find out where I’m coming from with it, and each person has to create their own connection with it. You could say this idea is true of the lot of surrealist works also.
Through the mediums and materials you use (spray-painted stencils) many people would categorize or place your art under the Urban Art genre, how do you feel about that?
I think the Urban Art scene is a bit like a bubble, and bubbles tend to burst, whether it will burst in a matter of months or years, I don’t know. I don’t consider myself an Urban artist, per say, I would rather consider myself a contemporary artist. You know, I don’t want to be pigeon-holed, in as much as, to say I was an urban artist, would mean I would hold myself up to the likes of Banksy or guys like Inkie, and personally I feel my work is saying different things, and I don’t really relate to those works. Having said that, to draw on the walls of the street, in any sort of urban area, just because you draw on a wall, I don’t think artists should be typecast into this urban kind of niche, if you like. I feel there are many amateur urban artists that speak loudly, but have nothing to say, and there are a couple of exceptions that create great works, but that will always be the case. But no I’d rather be viewed as a contemporary artist overall.
So this body of work involves a lot of stencils, have you always used stencils, your whole career?
No, not at all, I’m working with stencils for this project, yes, I do use stencils for these envelope pieces, but that’s not what I want the viewer to extract from the work entirely, I want the stencil work to be viewed as one of many elements, or layers that are a part of the pieces. I am trying to approach the image in a more kind of painterly way, putting stencils on top of stencils etc. I feel it is quite distant from the process used by more traditional stencil artists such as Blek Le Rat and Banksy. I am trying to produce a greater sense of movement and abstraction within the images, whereas you could say the pieces by Blek (Le Rat) and Banksy are more clean-cut, clinical and static, which isn’t a bad or negative thing, it’s just a different aesthetic from my work, in my view. Going back to my influences if I may, I’d also like to create a kind of homage to the great modern painters in my work, such as the London art school painters, you know, the likes of (Francis) Bacon and (Frank) Auerbach. It may not seem clear, as my works are stencil-based, but I like to think, that my work tries to capture that kind of movement within the image. Also many urban artists use on stencil and finish it up there, whereas I use at the least 6 different stencils layered on top of each other, to create an abstraction of anamorphic creatures and maybe stencil the face of a cobra snake, over the top of a face of a man from the turn of the century, creating these layers where you can see strange raccoon or bear faced creatures, with human teeth or scaly snake-skin, or even a botanical study of a bee.
So Hartnoll & Daughter Gallery, why not a more contemporary East London-based Gallery, what attracted you to showing at this particular gallery?
I have previously shown works at places like Pure Evil Gallery, but I felt I wanted to change the scene or setting my work was in. Hartnoll & Daughter are not entirely associated with the Urban art phenomena we have been discussing, and I think I would almost like to distance myself slightly, from my previous works and shows and what they represented, and also disconnect myself from a group of artists I don’t really feel my work connects with. You know, The Hartnoll is a great Gallery, it’s been around since the 60’s, and was started up by Julian Hartnoll, it’s got a connection to a real great contemporary collection of artist s at the minute. I also like the fact that it’s quite a small intimate gallery, as I feel it will benefit the detail and richness of my works, and people feel more comfortable getting up close and viewing my works. I also like to think I could somehow make a similar transition in to a much broader scene, such as urban-style artists in the past like Adam Neate and Paul Insect. I thought it would create a good reaction between some street art galleries, that assume that I would go for them, I mean, many galleries such as Lazarides Gallery and the Signal Gallery are starting to broaden out their collection and exhibit works that you wouldn’t specifically label as “Urban”.
Lastly, what would you like viewers to come away with after viewing the works in this show coming up?
I’d like to think that people have viewed something which bears a good amount of originality and uniqueness, with a merging of influences that may not have been expected. I hope they are interested in the creative process, and more so the postal element as I feel that is integral to separating my works from many others, and I also hope many people walk away asking more questions that receiving answers, such as, you know questioning identity, and even questioning what makes art, art?