Saturday, 27 August 2011

Q & A with Kevin Wayne

(Above image: The Networker 2008)

The Rebel: Your first solo show at Unit 24 opened last week. How did the p.v. go / how did you feel on the night?
Kevin Wayne: "The night seemed to go pretty well and the work got a positive response from everyone I spoke to. I was very nervous (as you could probably tell), I have had a few pieces in group shows over the last couple of years but this is my first real attempt to get 'back in the game' so to speak. Its a new body of work quite different from what I used to do so I was quite anxious to see what people made of it."

There was a lot of work on display. How long has it taken to get to the stage you're at?
I started working on the box pieces about three and a half years ago, I had a lot of the ideas for some of the pieces way before that, but my method of working took a long time to arrive at. My attic is filled with quite a few half finished experiments that involved resin.

Are you interested in animation? I can imagine your work lending itself to film very easily?
"Yes, I have always loved animation of all kinds but particularly stop-motion. Ray Harryhausen was a bit of hero of mine when I was a teenager, I used to make lots of creatures and model sets but for some reason I never got to the point where I ever put anything on film, I was always a little daunted by the technical side of things. However I recently went on a two day animation course, its amazing how digital cameras and film-making software have really simplified the process, not to mention making it much faster. I have now set up a filming rig in the room where I teach. I am only tinkering at the moment but yes, you're right, I think some of my stuff would work well on film. Whatever film I made would probably be a bit of a back-burner project that I could pick up and put down."

What's your art background, what colleges did you attend, did you have any great tutors?
"None of my family were especially arty, I always liked drawing from an early age and it was one of the only subjects I showed any promise in at school. I did a foundation course at KIAD Maidstone before doing my fine art degree up in Liverpool. As I approached the end of my time in Liverpool I applied for a few MA courses in London, not holding out too much hope of getting a place as most people I knew and respected who had got on those courses had taken at least two or three attempts. However I got an interview for the sculpture course at the Royal College and it all went unbelievably smoothly. My first year there was a pretty miserable one though. I had a bit of a crisis of confidence in the work I was making which is bad enough but when you are surrounded by lots of smart, talented people it kind of compounded the feeling that maybe I was a little out of my depth. Anyway I had a much better second year and felt much more a part of things. My work came together well and I ended up doing a decent final show.
As far as great tutors go, I found that their influence seemed to diminish the higher up the system I got. I still regard my art teacher at school, a guy called Dave Barton, to be the biggest influence on me. I think that a big part of teaching is about creating the right environment. The art department at the school I went to, as I'm sure it is at many others, was a bit of a sanctuary for all the misfits and weirdos. I can't really remember being taught any specific skills, it was more about being in a relaxed and creative astmosphere. A couple of others deserve a mention, Dave Morris my Lecturer at Liverpool, was a great 1970's style art school tutor. And Eric Bainbridge at the RCA, although I think I liked him because I liked his work. Thats an important thing in teaching I think, to practice what you preach."

How do you pay the bills? Can you live off your art work?
"I teach full time at a small school in Sittingbourne for kids in foster care who have behaviour/learning difficulties. I sell the odd piece but I have a house and family so I really need the steady pay. I also do a fair bit of commercial work."

Do you think the London art scene has gone down hill in the last 10 or 15 years? Do you think there's too much bad, fake and dumb art out there?
"I'm not sure I am the best person to ask this, having spent over ten years living in the artistic wilderness of north Kent. I do try and keep in touch though, mainly through the internet. I went to art school in the mid to late nineties, during the highpoint of the YBA's and the Sensation generation. There was a sort of (naive) sense that a conveyerbelt had been started in motion and that a Saatchi or a Jay Joplin would be waiting for you when finished art school to make you a star. I think I may have been guilty of making one or two pieces for my final MA show that I thought Saatchi would like, which I think is at the heart of a lot of problems. I remember Saatchi did come to see our show, accompanied by Martin Maloney. He didn't buy anything and left. At that moment I think there was a horrible realisation among a lot of the students that that was their chance gone, or their chance at fame at least. I went to see the recent Newspeak shows at the new Saatchi gallery on the Kings Road. I think the shows were intended to act as a barometer for where new british art was at the end of the noughties/start of the teenies.
I liked a couple of artists in it, Barry Reigate and Ansel Krut spring to mind, but overall I was left feeling pretty cold. I get slightly depressed when I enter a room full of deliberatley ambiguous paintings, objects or videos with accompanying statements that suggest that the viewer's interpretation is a key 'material' in the work. One of the artists in Newspeak was the winner of 'School of Saatchi', a sort of X Factor for contemporary art. I saw a few of the finalists from that a year or so ago at the RCA show private view. I stood and observed a couple of them as they swanned around acting like celebrities. I thought it slightly strange, given the show's ratings. The YBA's were a hard act to follow, I think there are a lot of good artists out there. Unfortunatley there are also a lot of artists doing stuff that they think other people will think is cool, which is a little sad I think.
There has been a lot of talk about how the downturn in the economy will effect the art world. Some say that austerity breeds creativity,so perhaps we're in for another golden age."

You make references to Richard Hamilton and a few other artists in your show. Who are you art heroes?
"The British Pop artists are big favourites of mine, in particular Peter Blake. I got the chance to meet him once at college but I was so nervous I think I told him "You're Peter Blake". I grew up in Chatham,Kent the hometown of Billy Childish. Over the years I've grown to admire him more and more, I love the fact that the mountain has been made to come to him. Most of my art heroes are Americans, Joseph Cornell has always been a source of inspiration. Over the last 10 or 15 years the comic book artists Daniel Clowes and Chris Ware have been as big an influence as anyone I can think of. There is another American artist, Taylor Mckimens, who is about the same age as me. When I first saw his work I remember thinking Bastard! I wish I'd done that."
(Above image: "Just What Is It That Makes Today's Homes So Depraved and Appalling?"

What's your favourite of your own works in the show?
"I like the piece The Crossing. I like it because it was a bit of a breakthrough in my cut-out method of working. Also when I look at it I can see lots of different possibilties for other pieces."
(Above image: The Crossing)

What are you working on now / what will your next project be?
"I am working on a series of cut-out box pieces based on my experiences and recollections of an area of woodland near Chatham. I also want to start making some articulated/moving pieces, that light up or do different things when you press a button, a bit like old local museum dioramas. First of all though I want to do some drawing. I have an idea for a comic strip called 'The Star Wars confessions'. I've been asking friends to tell me childhood memories that in some way relate to Star Wars. For example my friend Dan's sister melted the legs of his Luke Skywalker action figure. Rather than throwing him away he carefully constructed a wheelchair for Luke that Chewbacca pushed around (I like the idea of Chewie working as a hospital orderly). The ramp entrance on his Millenium Falcon toy really started to come into its own after that."

What's the best thing about being Kevin Wayne?

"I don't want to sound too corny but I have a great wife and two beautiful kids who I love and adore. Anything else is a bonus."

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