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Saturday, 26 October 2013

GarconJon meets...Charlie Anderson

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Mr Charlie Anderson, Artist

When I first heard of the formerly Edinburgh based artist, I was instantly drawn to his energetic, bold imagery. As Scotland's creative community is such a niche group, I felt certain to meet Mr Anderson at some point. It wasn't until a years later, after we'd both moved to London that our path's crossed. Working together on the Dr Marten's 'Stand for Something' campaign in August, we took some time out to chew the fat in Glasgow and take some photographs in my old neighbourhood, Merchant City.

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Where did you grow up and where do you live now? I was born in New Zealand and grew up around the world in Taiwan, America, the Solomon Islands, then mainly England, France and Scotland; where I lived for 10 years before recently moving to London.

How would you describe your job title? I’m a painter.

What's your star sign? Aquarius.

How would you sum up your work in five words? Documentary pop satire postmodern painting.

What music are you into at the moment? Been getting into a bit of minimal electro recently.

When you were a child, what did you want to be when you grew up? In a band.

When did you realise art was your calling? It was halfway through my fourth and final year at art college, it kind of clicked for me all of a sudden.

You told me you felt frustrated in art college as you were forced to take classes that didn't relate to painting - your preferred medium. Did you always have a strong focus? Was it always painting on canvas that peaked your interest? No, when I left school having completed a portfolio of painting for art class the last thing I wanted to do was paint. In my first year at college my painting tutor told me I’d never get into the painting course in second year. That was fine by me until I didn’t get into the illustration course, the animation course or the sculpture course. After a meeting with the head of year I managed to talk my way onto the painting course which had a few spaces left. I failed painting in second year and had to resit, scraped through third year and then in fourth year it clicked.

I feel like your work should come with it's own chair. When I see it in person, I get the urge to sit down and just take a moment to absorb all the detail. How long does it take to create one of your more complex layered paintings? It’s difficult to measure. The ideas are developing in my head constantly, then the process involves painting one layer at a time, and then painting over sections of it with new layers, then painting over that until the painting is finished. I use a bunch of hair dryers to dry the paint which saves a bit of time, so once one layer is dry I can immediately paint on top of it without the paint blending. Sometimes I’ll finish a painting then a week later paint over sections of it because the idea has changed. It’s spontaneous and each painting tends to resolve itself, so sometimes that happens soon into a painting and sometimes it’s a period of weeks.

See the full interview by clicking here:

I can see so many influences in what you do - who are your idols? I really admire Mark Bradford, his attitude towards making work is very inspirational. I also love Sigmar Polke’s work, the way he painted life and his personality within the paintings. Ross Bleckner is another artist I’m looking at a lot right now, his paintings are beautiful.

You've just moved to London but have also been traveling a lot recently. Why London and where else in the world would you love to live? There’s a great audience in London, it’s a world capital for art. Sometimes I’d love to be living in the countryside to have the solitude to focus on painting, somewhere warm like France or Spain.

I studied Marketing so have a heightened awareness of the huge number of visual stimuli we encounter on a daily basis. Your work often reminds me of the Paris Metro posters which haven't been removed for years and have layer upon layer. Are you interested in advertising as art? How do you feel about "art" that isn't confined to the gallery or frame? I love a good bit of advertising. Advertising and art are both to do with communication. As a painter I draw a lot of influence from traditional advertising methods, sign painting, using text and image etc. When I look at something I look at it in it’s context, I love public art that uses the space it’s in specifically or communicates something that relates to the context in which it is viewed.

Your work is very bold which is almost the antithesis of how you come across in person - is that a conscious decision? Those are very narrow parameters. The work is created in a private environment, where my considerations are entirely personal. On another level as I assume the role of observer I am subconsciously drawn to certain subject matter. As far as personality is concerned the paintings are the manifestation of my practice (a practice which ultimately directs my existence), I wouldn’t consciously or subconsciously go against my own personality in their production.

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We live in a time when self-promotion is not only easier than ever but almost a pre-requisite to being an artist. You make great videos of your work being created - how did you come up with that? What's your approach self-promotion, something that many artists from Picasso to Warhol were great at? For me it’s about documentation, and looking at my practice as a whole instead of a series of finished paintings. Process is important to understanding the work, so showing the production extends the narrative. It’s also another way of seeing art. A lot of the art I see is online because it’s physically inaccessible, so simply I’m making it possible to experience my work if you can’t see it in real life. Usually a series of paintings are the culmination of an idea, and their lifespan as a series tends to last the length of an exhibition so it’s important to document them how they were intended to be viewed.

You recently did an installation in the new Dr Martens store on Princes Street in Edinburgh. Their latest campaign is 'Stand for Something' - what do you or your work represent? I feel like if I could answer that I might as well stop painting. It’s an ongoing motive to explore new ideas and ways to communicate those ideas. I’m constantly undergoing new experiences and that affects my view of the world and of myself, which I channel into the paintings I make.

I heard you've been punched in the face by another artist - what happened there? Scotland and free booze happened.

You often use repeated images in your paintings. Are there any themes your revisit time and again? I like to explore parallels between art and entertainment, and the changing role of art in society. I’m also drawn to the throwaway nature of life. Things seem to change and develop very quickly, it’s hard to put my finger on it but I like to celebrate the remnants of discarded values, things I’ve come across that were once important enough to exist in the first place but are now just used up. I also like to paint female figures, the female form has been paramount throughout the history of painting.

What’s an average day at the office for Charlie Anderson? Recently I’ve been working on a new exhibition, so my days have been split into researching new ideas, ordering supplies and preparing the canvases, painting, and cataloging the work. When I have an exhibition or project deadline coming up I’ll work intensely for a couple of months, starting at 10am and finishing around midnight everyday until it’s done. After that I’ll do nothing for a couple of weeks until I’ve got to start on the next thing.

As I work mainly in fashion, I'm often drawn to what people wear. I love the organically paint splattered jeans and vest you wear when working - have you ever thought of creating wearable art? Do you keep all your old work clothes? I think they'd make a fantastic exhibition, showcased in a series of glass cases... For me they’re just tools of the trade like paint brushes, I keep them until they’re no longer usable. I suppose they do indicate to some extent the painting process, it would be more interesting for me to create something specifically in collaboration with a fashion designer.

What excites you in culture right now? Music, art, fashion and film all does. Art is a very sensual experience, and part of my motivation to make it is drawn from other such experiences.

What’s the most challenging thing about your job? Handling the work. I like to make big paintings, which means big stretchers and vans to move them, loads of tubs of paint, coordinating how to get the paintings from the studio to wherever they’re going. There’s a lot to consider when making paintings that are bigger than can be carried under your arm.

What do you like most about your job? I like being able to do what I want everyday. I also get to meet great people around the world.

I'm a huge fan of print publications - do you have any favourites? None in particular, I’ve got a bunch from the 90s that are machine screen printed I like those a lot.

What's on the horizon for Mr Anderson? I’ve got a show open right now in Epinal France, showing alongside Smash 137, Nasty and Rubbish. In October I’ll be creating a mural and showing some new paintings with Stolen Space Gallery at Moniker art fair in London.

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