Tuesday, 25 August 2009

Artist of the Week - Rod McIntosh

Rod McIntosh lives and works in Kent. He will be showing new work at the Brighton Art Fair in October.

One favourite living artist? Why?
Oh that is tough, it is constantly changing. This week, today… I think I would say the sculptor Kan Yasuda. As I have been pondering creating something for the garden, his work in Italian marble for sculpture parks has set about a chain of events in my imagination and garden planning ambitions!

One favourite historical artist? Why?
Frida Kahlo. I was introduced to her work whilst I was recovering from spinal surgery in a body cast, during my Foundation year in Portsmouth. I made a connection of personal narratives and the exploration of the personal being political. Her work was a comfort and inspiration.

When and where did you first want to do what you do?
To be an artist? This was early in my teen years. It was an escape fantasy, as I knew very little about what being an artist meant. It was a label to hang a set of aspirations that have become guiding principles, that of; being self-determined, hands on, working on own and with people, leadership, seeking excellence with the brutal honesty of a commentary on my thoughts and feelings.
To be the type of artist I am now? And have the type of business I do?? Would be about 10 years ago, when looking for the next step…. The number of jobs advertised in the Guardian, TES, [an] or other like listings that attracted me became fewer and fewer. It was time to create my own opportunities, assess my strengths and build a 3-way business offer.

What place in the world has inspired you?
Yorkshire Sculpture Park (YSP). I was fortunate to get a Residency for the City of Wakefield that placed me at YSP running workshops. I worked with schools, community groups involving the aged, the psychiatric secure and young people with disabilities. It was where I served my apprenticeship in arts education, working with some inspiring people in an inspiring setting surrounded by some great art. I started with the Joe Fiewless Bursary for 3 months and ended up working there for nearly six years.

Do you work best on your own or in collaboration?
I think my making art is a bit like a conversation. Sometimes it is good to talk to yourself and create great things; the luxury of being in the studio for a stretch of time. Other work is a result of bigger and multiple and varied conversations. With the work and me existing outside of the studio; in research, with people and navigating an ever-changing context.
I realised early on I was not the solitary type of artist and have attempted to engage others in the various aspects of my practice and career to date; artist in education, community/socially engaged work, residencies and public art commissions and within academia and the consultancy work I do. So I would answer I work best with people, it is all with people and it is the art of listening and observation and questioning that informs me.

At age 15 who influenced your style?
Not sure I’d say I was aware of personal style at 15, I was a semi-goth, thinking it easier to be a bit of a clone than an individual. But Rose Webb, secondary school art teacher influenced my decision making, which I know in turn has impacted style and the choices I make in art and everyday life. She was the one who first supported a natural aptitude and encouraged me to take risks. There was a moment that I was asked to un-assume what I thought I should do in answer to a mock exam paper brief, and to do what I was truly thinking and feeling. Liberation.

How much do you bend your 'vision' to suit the marketplace - if at all?
I have an awareness of the many different value systems at work when looking at and consuming art. When making mine I try to start and finish with what my intentions for it intact. I then match the audience to the work, appropriately selecting opportunities that foster people with similar values and needs to have contact with and enjoy it. It makes sense for a cattle farmer not to sell his cuts of meat at an organic vegan farmers market, nor attempt to re-cut, repackage or re-phrase his prime fillet as something it is not. He knows his place, as do I.

Who would you say buys your work?
I would say someone who enjoys a work ethic and high production value, as there is a great deal of time and care spent on each piece. Someone who makes a connection; an association with it or simply enjoys it.

How do you set about starting a new project?
I start a new piece with ‘warming up’, less a ritual than stretching each muscle set ahead of exercise but similarly it is about arriving at the studio with a clarity and focus and preparedness without prejudice or assumption. Small and large free-flow marks on paper, or doing the prep work on surfaces; sieving whitening and blending with rabbit skin or sanding numerous coats smooth in waiting. I court risk and remind myself of having the ability to get it wrong.

Where and what is your studio?
I am really fortunate to have my studio in a space opposite my front door in Kent. It is a purpose built space with great light and views over the garden and the North Downs. I participate in Open Studios and am a firm believer in making the processes and spaces of artists transparent for others to engage with. It is sometime neat and ordered and at others bedlam with a gem of work forming amongst it.

Do you have a good work/life balance?
It is getting there… gave up academic post in 2009 to re-assert my own practice and to be more selective about the work and opportunities I pursued, which affirmed my ability to say ‘No’. So I am working with people I want, on projects I want, in a balance of practice / professional development; earning a living and having a good home life with my partner, dogs and friends. Being part rural and London is a great synergy too, having the flexibility to visit shows and dip into the discourse that happens in big cities.

What one word would describe your feeling of doing your work?

Would you rather be doing something else?

Are their other fields that you'd like to apply some facet of your work into?
I am still fascinated by the transfer of learning from artists and notions of creativity over to business and industry where they are looking at new ways to survive recession, risk aversion, change and employee engagement. The visual arts are still on the back step to performance, music and the written word in making a contribution. And with the Creative and Cultural Industries being one of the few growth economies, we definitely know what we do well and have something to offer.

If you could exhibit in any gallery which would it be?
One where the boundaries or obstacles of exclusion; geographic, demographic, real or virtual are addressed. I have enjoyed some of the most inspired art projected upon screens in a cancer ward, stumbled across in the landscape or browsing the web and in the public and commercial domain, how I work with this is still uncertain.

Most overrated artist/maker?
The one where substance does not match the hype.

Where do the majority of your inspiration / ideas come from?
Present and past experiences, people, places; a crack in the desiccated farmers field to memories of handwriting exercise as a child to the science of our visual cortex, a phone conversation overheard on a train journey and the materials with which I work.

Where did you train? Favourite / least favourite aspects of training?
I trained in Sheffield. Favourite part was meeting artist/writer Rachel Lichtenstein on our first day and becoming good friends, sharing a studio and being peer mentor for one another for the last 23 years. Least favourite aspect (at the time) was the ‘break you’ critiques that shook your reasons and fundamentals for making your work and accounting for it. In hindsight an invaluable training in the rigour of understanding ones work and its’ context, but painful at the time.

Please list any exhibitions you have had in the past 12 months.
I have not exhibited in the past 12 months. I have only shown my work in my studio as part of South East Open Studios.

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