The launch of Black Rat Project’s latest multidisciplinary exhibition “The Fuse Is Lit” featuring works by painter Janet Brown and sculptor Simon Shepherd summoned all present to witness a contemporary twist on the Surrealist heritage of transforming the ordinary into the extraordinary.
Art-as-spectacle… erodes social conventions — a statement that finds truth particularly well with Janet Brown’s expressive and zealously evocative paintings. Her work is said to have been informed by her time as a CCTV librarian for the police, through this we see Brown’s motivation to create a consciousness of permanent visibility as a form of power, away from surveillance where her imagination is able to run raw and free.
Despite the distinction in medium, the works of both artists coalesce in harmony to place emphasis on the mysterious and the marvellous while pushing against the boundaries of the all-too-common and expectant.
Simon’s aesthetic, appears to be rooted in using elements of creativity and surprise to open up new frontiers of the imagination, blending the playful with the beckoning. His works “Skeletal Remains” and “Living Monument” highlighted a commonly overseen characteristic of just how extraordinary the impact of light can be if caught by its object in the right way.
In true After Nyne fashion, I picked up an overheard “How does he get a tire to look like that?!” (referring to Reinventing The Wheel) an unlikely sculpture rendered in (almost) everyday materials that riffs on a state of unlikely balance. Which leads one to an inevitable interest about the identity of the author of this work, I caught up with Simon post-exhibition chaos for an insight to his practice and his thoughts on facing practical challenges.
Simon, it’s great to have you on After Nyne. Tell us a little about your onset with art. Were you a child, or did you come into it as an adult?
I never considered myself artistic as a child , I enjoyed making things, but no more than the other kids. It was only later, as an adult, that I began to distill my ideas into what you would call contemporary art.
How does personal history work its way into your practice? Are there traits of who you were/are evident in your works?
I’ve always enjoyed taking the things around me and modifying them to develop new ideas. When I was young I’d build bicycles using old parts I’d found, later I’d modify cars or pieces of furniture. I see evidence of these things in my work now. These experiences also gave me the skills to work with a range of materials that I employ now.
What risks have you taken in your craft as an artist?
Every new piece I make involves risk. Risk of being misunderstood, criticised or ignored. But it has to be this way in order to create new and challenging work.
Your works are equally as playful as they are paradoxical, do you approach each new sculpture as a point of playful experimentation or do you have a preconceived idea of what you would like to create?
The initial idea is usually quite a loose one. My mind has to remain in a state of ‘playful experimentation’, as you say, in order that ideas are free to develop during the making process.
Is there any particular piece within the new body of work currently exhibited at Black Rat Projects that stands out to you as a favourite or has given you the most satisfaction.
Whatever piece I’m working on is my favourite at that moment, but when they are finished it’s like having children, I can’t single one out, they all have different attributes.
Has the response to your new works been as anticipated?
It has been even better than I could have hoped for. The feedback has been fantastic and that alone inspires me to go back and make even better work. Some people have been surprised by the breadth of work or range of materials, but this is something I was looking to demonstrate in my first major show.
You’ve never been known to shy away from using some materials other artists would consider stubborn or difficult. Tell me a little about how limitations influence your creative process.
Each material I use brings it’s own qualities and beauty, so rather than seeing them as stubborn or difficult, I look to develop these qualities. I’ll use the material(s) which I think are best suited to what I am trying to achieve and I enjoy the challenges this might bring.
Do you see your work as relating to any current movement or direction in visual art or culture?
I tend to ignore these current movements (and previous ones). I prefer to work in blissful isolation of these things.
What are you currently inspired or fascinated by and how is it feeding into your work?
I am drawn to the beauty of design in the manmade objects around me, some things we take for granted are crying out to be twisted into something new.
An outstandingly curated exhibition by the Black Rat Projects, The Fuse Is Lit runs until May 10th and is a must see by all:
15 Bateman Street
London W1D 3AQ
http://www.blackratprojects.com/ – http://www.janetbrown.org/ – http://simonshepherdart.co.uk
Reviewed and interviewed by Arts Editor, Luciana Garbarni. (@LucPierra)