Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Q&A With Contemporary Artist Steven Carson

Tell us about yourself, how did you become an artist?

My initial creative interest was in ceramics; as a high school student I thought that I would become a production potter.  I completed my undergraduate degree in ceramics, but throughout my early training I was more drawn to sculptural works with clay, with the first couple of solo exhibitions of my work comprised of hand-built sculptural clay and mixed-media works.  As a result of my study and early career working with clay, or perhaps in-keeping with this, I have been very focused on investigating materials and form, and have always valued the hand-made.  Certain limitations of working with clay led me to explore less conventional methods of construction and materials and this also permitted me to explore colour as I could gain a greater control over the palette of colours I chose to work with.

Which craftspeople, writers, artists, musicians, anyone do you find particularly inspiring and how have they influenced your approach to making?
I have been influenced by such a vast range of creative practices that I can’t identify single artists, however I have a enduring interest in contemporary visual arts, outsider art and marginal creative activities including handicrafts, the work of untrained makers and amateurs and DIY activity.  I am interested in pattern and ornamentation and find many craft and handicraft objects as well as mid 20th Century Geometric Abstraction of interest.      

Steven Carson, Casting and Weeding series. Loose Weave.   

Are there any specific quotes, ideas, places that influence this current body of work?
The current body of work is influenced by many of the areas of practice that I have indentified above, but principally explores the presence of creativity in many forms from a range of amateur and professional contexts.   

Welcome us to your studio - where is it?
Currently I am working between studios in Adelaide SA and Hobart TAS.

The work for the exhibition: Can you describe the specific themes reflected in this body of work?
I have been interested for some time in a perceived hierarchy of materials and this derives from my early craft-based work and my consistent use of craft and handicraft materials. 

The works continue my exploration of the use of non-traditional materials and simple fabrication techniques to make colourful geometric abstract paintings. Within the framework of hybrid and interdisciplinary practice the work seeks to question the dominance of certain art forms through the use of unconventional materials, the fabrication processes and a rejection of discipline-specificity or traditional technical expertise as a fundamental indicator of artistic integrity.  

Steven Carson, Casting and Weeding series. Loose Weave

Describe your method of production in this current work?
The source material for the works in my Casting and Weeding series is a PVC film commonly used in the sign-writing industry.  In its manufacture liquid vinyl is cast into thin sheets of workable plastic.  Weeding is the sign writer’s process of peeling away unwanted areas of computer-cut vinyl prior to its application.   The title of the series seeks to find connections between the industrial context and creative art, craft and design contexts with an emphasis on making.  

The works on exhibition at the Jam Factory specifically seek to establish a connection between painterly geometric abstraction of the Mid-20th Century and the process of weaving, jointly a craft and manufacturing technique for producing textiles, and utilize industrial materials which are not traditionally associated with either of these production contexts. 

The cast PVC film – the palette for these paintings - was initially sourced as off-cuts from digitally produced signs, many of which have been created for retail and fast food industries, although I have since sourced the material in larger quantities to ensure a greater control of my colour palette.  At the outset of the series I considered that specific colours suggest the corporate identities of a range of businesses: for example the pink colour used is reminiscent of the signage from a popular ice-cream franchise, and other colours suggest a range of consumer products from unleaded petrol to confectionary.   Whilst these are not the primary ideas that underpin the current works in the series I believe that some of these ideas are still present.  

The tacky plasticity of the adhesive vinyl refers to the synthetic quality of acrylic paint, and this is a specific reference to Mid-20th Century geometric abstraction.  Acrylic paint was itself a new commercial, manufactured material used by artists of the time and many artists since.  The choice of cast vinyl in the works can be seen as a critical alternative to both oil and acrylic paint as the medium for these paintings and asserts a connection between art, craft and industry but purposefully avoids finding too comfortable a position in any one of these contexts.

At close range the method of construction, materials and evidence of the handmade becomes apparent. The handmade gesture is evident in the exaggeratedly wonky scissor cuts and marks left by the hand-trimming of the sign writing film on its aluminium support.  These traces reveal the hand of the maker within the artwork and also highlight and shift the cast vinyl material from its original industrial context.  The vinyl used in the works has not been digitally cut nor planned using the digital software common to both visual arts and sign writing trades.  Instead intuitive combinations of colours have been overlayed and then cut by hand, making subtle allusions to craft processes as well as to spontaneous decision-making as a signifier of artistic creativity. 

The aluminium used as the support for the works suggests a connection to manufacturing plants and hardware suppliers and as paintings the works on aluminium are unconstrained by traditional frames or other conventions of painterly production and presentation.  

Thankyou Steven Carson for sharing this insight into your work.

Steven Carson joins with Adelaide based furniture designer/maker Senkki in an exhibition exploring each artist's unique approach to form, design and colour.
The exhibition can be experienced in the CollectorSpace at the JamFactory 

from 20 April - 16 June.