I've been a fan of artist Christopher Owen for many years now and was delighted he answered a few questions for me.
The Rebel: You've lived in St Leonards on Sea for a while now. What do you most like about it? Is it a good place to be an artist in?
Chris: "You have asked me this before, but I cannot remember my answer? Well, my answer now would be yes. There has always been a number artists who have lived here, for instance Laetitia Yhap, who is a wonderful painter. But to go back to your question; the property here is cheap, there are lots of affordable studio space, plus in terms of transport it is good, easy to get to eurostar, London and Gatwick."
"We've Plumbed This Whole Neighbourhood" is an interesting title for a show - where did the idea come from?
"It's a corruption of a title of an old 'Nurse with wound' track. I liked it, it suggests the way in which art can have a rhizomic effect; on the economy, the environment etc."
When your work is in an exhibition do you feel naked and vulnerable or do you feel proud and powerful?
Do you think if most artists were just given lots of hugs and cuddles they'd make less work?
"Yes, I don't know how it impacts on their work though. Need to be loved is strong."
Do you like the way Manet painted lemons and things like that?
"I love Manet, but can't recall any lemons. Tangerines, but not lemons. I love 'Vase of Peonies' which is in the Musee d'orsay."
What are your favourite things?
"Dachshunds, old t shirts, sunlight and early Roxy Music."
Are you ambitious? Do you want prizes and awards and for the world to know your name?
'Ambition is ugly in anyone over thirty' Julie Burchill
Do you believe everybody is good at something?
"Yes, I do. Everyone has potential, sadly the way education in this country is going this is going to be harder to realise."
Who are your favourite politicians?
"I love George Osborn - he exists to prove that the Tories are still elitists who feel there is one rule for them and another for the poor."
What is the purpose of art and what role do artists play?
"I have an answer for that - one that will get me in to trouble. Don't let daylight in on magic."
A man can do things so terrible that his own parents will refuse to talk to him and yet Jesus Christ will still love him, will forgive him and will believe that he can his change his ways. What say you?
"I think some people feel the aim is to be 'christ like', when rather it is a journey, to learn from him. I find it very interesting, forgiveness is very difficult, and I wonder how I would feel if someone I loved was killed."
Who are your favourite film directors?
"David Cronenberg, though the last film I saw at the cinema was 'Rise of the planet of the apes', I really enjoyed it."
What's your favourite kind of soup?
"I like soup. A chinese soup with dumplings, or pea and mint."
Do you sleep well at nights?
"On the whole yes. The key is to have a very plain uncluttered bedroom."
What next for Christopher Owen? What art things would you like to do next?
"I would like to paint outside, in Paris. I would also like to design the label for an expensive bottle of olive oil."
We've Plumbed This Whole Neighbourhood
Christopher Owen | Tamara Van San
LIDO is pleased to announce We’ve Plumbed This Whole Neighbourhood, an exhibition of new works by Christopher Owen andTamara Van San. In a culture that tends to privilege the visual over other senses, whilst insidiously championing watching over seeing, it is common for the eye to be allowed to skip lightly across the surface of things, content to quickly pick-up linguistic or associative clues from which to form a succession of sufficient meanings. In adaptive evolution this ability to quickly assess and judge situations of threat or opportunity is a cognitive triumph. The casualty of this tendency toward high-speed looking is the delight to be found in sustained, questioning scrutiny. Using a palette, both verbal and material, that belongs very much to the high-speed contemporary high street, Owen and Van San are nonetheless each able to delay the transmission of superficial meaning for long enough, and with enough verve, to allow the viewer to look afresh at the works before them, and to find within these works new networks of meaning that privilege the eye but work in concert with the mind.
In Owen’s Untitled (2011), a four-part drawing of modest means, two ultramarine blue buildings sit among a scattering of shrubs and a single red palm tree. The ease and speed by which this arrangement is read as a landscape however, is almost as quickly undermined. The formal specificities of its constituent parts – the hard-ruled edge of the blue square against its densely worked centre, the giddy, wavering red line that delineates an area of white paper within from a greater white space beyond – abruptly denies the cognitive short-cut which initially offered such an limited semiotic interpretation.
Van San’s sculpture, made specifically for LIDO’s gallery space and for the beach front outside, does not toy with linguistic or pictorial systems, but its heightened colour and catholic materiality serve to delay the work from quietly retiring to the territory of pure form. However, with time, it is form that emerges as the primary force in these sculptures. Allowing the works to resolve themselves through the process of their own making, and at all times keeping the tendency toward decentred chaos at bay, Van San arranges coloured forms in space that attain an harmonic, if temporary, order - an order that suppresses its constituent materiality’s potential to upstage the whole.
Both artists achieve a formal sophistication in their work without recourse to dry or well rehearsed technique. Instead, by sailing close to the wind in their embrace of the language and material of the everyday, they are able to transform the familiar, revealing a space of visual delight and complexity that exists beneath the semiotically vociferous surface.
Christopher Owen lives and works in St. Leonards-on-Sea.
Tamara Van San lives and works in Appelterre, Belgium.
Exhibition opens Saturday 8th October, 6-8pm
Exhibition continues 9th - 30th October 2011
Saturdays & Sundays 12 - 5pm
LIDO at Electro Studios, Seaside Road, St. Leonards-on-Sea, East Sussex TN38 0AL