The greater public know you from the work you create as half of Craig & Karl, but for those who don’t know, you also create beautiful canvas paintings of your own.
Can you tell us a bit more about your paintings and when you started creating artwork? Plus, the medium you work with.
The paintings are an extension of my work with Craig & Karl, both visually and conceptually. I’ve been painting for a long time, but have been focusing on it more in the last three or four years. Overall, my paintings are a study of aesthetics, colour and pattern, amongst other evolving ideas, and they give me a reprieve from other people’s input, a chance to experiment without anyone watching. I work in acrylics pretty much exclusively, either on wood panel or canvas.
Do you have any key inspirations for your work, or a major influence in any way?
I’m inspired by all the usual things – a cute kitten video, a mega installation at The Whitney, two people yelling at each other in a restaurant. What motivates me most to paint is that it allows me to fully explore a theme or idea, rather than having to rush a piece out and move quickly on to the next project. I’d be happy painting my flower paintings forever. They might seem pretty superficial on the surface (and maybe they are) but I try to inject some subtle darkness into the work by using the flowers as narrative elements. Often, there will be a flower that is wilting or moving in the opposite direction or lagging behind and there are multiple ways you can read it – loneliness, exhaustion, social and economic ills etc. It’s up to the viewer to inject their own story into the work and come to a conclusion based on their own experiences, if they so choose.
There seem to be a few main elements in your work – either flowers, pure colour blocks or shapes. Can you tell us a bit more about this?
Those elements are my focus at the moment, but ideas for different directions pop up all the time, particularly when I’m working on a piece. By next week it could be something different. The colour-blocked pieces are my take on colour-field paintings à la Ellsworth Kelly or Rothko. At first glance the pieces emphasise the simplicity of form and read as blocks of colour. And then you look closer and see there is a more complex narrative emerging beneath, often ignoring the boundaries of the colour-blocking over the top. It’s both a massive reduction and an over-complication at the same time, a merger between things that don’t necessarily belong together.
Shown here are four pieces of work that you’ve selected. Can you tell us about each and their titles?
‘So You Think You Can Dance’
Beyond the colour blocking, this is a painting I did based on a sketch I did of my coffee table littered with takeout, with the TV blaring in the background. It became a painting about identity in a way, exploring banality and reality as opposed to the vision of ourselves we project to the world.
I did this painting after I’d just done a show in Portland called ‘Third Parties’. In that show I did portraits of my friends and then obscured their faces behind super simple geometric shapes, which was a commentary on an internet privacy law that had just been passed allowing people to hide certain parts of their lives from search results. This painting is an extension of that idea, but I was interested in using these faux scribbles to deface the portrait behind them. The scribbles are so controlled and uptight, I’m completely unable to let go that much, but I liked the idea of painting this entire portrait and then almost covering the whole thing up again, leaving just suggestions of the subject’s personality peeking through the gaps.
These two paintings are from a show I had at Lamington Drive last year called ‘Short Lived’. The exhibition was a study of everyday gestures and expressions, an examination of ordinary moments distilled down to their simplest forms. These painting are essentially my friends caught in the midst of unassuming acts — eating, contemplating, smoking, waving hello — and they’re cropped to pinpoint only the most essential components.
For this variation on the flower paintings I decided to do some colour studies at the same time and ended up liking how some of the studies sat next to each other. The sameness versus the differences is what makes it intriguing I guess.