Totally digging these gorgeous, bright paintings by London-based artist George Little, whose work is part of a group show curated by my friend Kris Day, opening on April 11 at Menier Gallery, London. We chat a bit about Little's influences, process, and saving the hard questions 'til the end! More at the links below!
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So, first, can you tell me a bit about what first interested you in painting? How or when did you decide or realize that you wanted to pursue it?
I was fortunate enough to have had some very open, active art teachers at secondary school, who interred the push and pull of materials. The malleability even in painting and its formula really opened up my eyes at this embryonic stage. I also studied History of Art alongside these first ventures in experimentation and the synaptic connection of the two, formed a crude dialectic play. Then stumbling upon the work of Martin Kippenberger, at this early stage (in one of those ma-hussive ‘art through the ages’ tome books) was key. His playful DIY approach, forever questioning, shifting, serious and laughing at itself manner, instantly appealed. Although conceptually, in hindsight, he was well out of my league. He led me to the Triumph of Painting show, 2005, at the Saatchi Gallery and this really was a heady experience, with so much to take in and try to understand. It's funny how much your tastes change or develop, but I’d say this wasn’t a bad springboard.
Your compositions are abstracted, often colorful, and utilize some reoccurring motifs such as plants and certain patterns, such as gingham or stripes. Can you tell me about your practice?
The stripes of an awning and the gingham tablecloth have become visual signposts within my oeuvre. They crop up a lot, though, not essential in everything. The visual and conceptual symbiosis of the European eatery and Modernism, often act as the site of activity and interest. The aesthetics, palette and recognizable content are of this ‘site’. Contemporaneously, I find it has social values of both, high and low.
The signposting or use of recognizable form act play on idyllic or exoticised nostalgia, as well as touristic trash. The creation of narrative (some historical, some fictional) within this sphere helps inform the compositions. There is a proponent interest in fenestration and the interplay of interior/exterior, as formatting tools and localities. As well as a subtle informing and cropping from the layout design of historic menus. The etiquette of eatery procedure, of Napery folding and serving suggestions. Many of the works are mixed media and often works are created using materials of ‘the trade’, painting directly onto damask ivy linen or table protectors, shelves and clips breaking apart the traditional painting formula. Something that fits into the idolatrism of aesthetic Modernist practice, therefore questioning its position now.
What is your process like? Do you do any research, or prepare in any particular way for a new piece or series?
I wouldn’t say that I work entirely in series or on a piece-by-piece basis, more satellitic investigations around the basis of a painterly practice. I think I work best to a form of self created brief. Research is important and is the backbone to what I make. To find narratives within and between the history and rhetoric of restaurants, bars and cafes, it helps to approach in a research project format. I often use the metaphorical modus of Kitchen/studio/Front-of-House/Gallery as a cross key to help inform the development of an exhibition or a body of work. And allows the objects, sculptures and ready-mades that do not, so neatly, fit into the terminology of ‘painting’.
How would you describe your studio or workspace?
‘Chaotic functionality’. A painting studio plonked within a workshop, library and storage facility.
Do you have a tool or an object in the studio that you couldn't live without?
My bookshelf isn’t a tool per se, but acts as a key vehicle for me not to trash all the books I have, and keeps me stimulated. This and the little ‘kitchenette’ set up are the taste of home, in what is essentially a cold concrete, but bright space.
You received your MA from RCA a few years ago, and as you've been in the "real art world" for a little bit, is there anything you've learned - or has surprised you - about pursuing your practice, compared to being in the university setting?
What always amazes me (and from discussion, many others), looking back at arts education, is how little is pragmatically taught on professional practice and finance. But saying that, they are at the same time great melting pots and breeding grounds for intellectualism, mimicry, 'networking' (or as it is properly known, socializing at the pub). The “real art world” as you refer, is a slippery one. Ascertaining what is solid or ephemeral can often be hard. A knife-edge of enthusiastic involvement and inherent optimism with a really healthy dose of skepticism seems to be how I mainly function. I can’t even count the times I have built something up for it to crumble or dissipate.
What do you consider the most challenging part of pursuing your practice, whether creatively or professionally?
Time, money, research, structure, funding, productivity, isolation, ennui, patience, reverence, stimulae, the next move, the previous move.
I wouldn’t say it is one thing more a balancing act of all of these things.
Hopefully not all at the same time!
What is the best advice you've ever received? Is there any you're glad you ignored?
Off the top of my head, I cant think of any Mr. Miyagi oracle-like paraphrase, but my dad once told friends over the dinner table that ‘he may not be the best draftsman, but he has a damn good eye.’ I try to keep this eye investigating and challenging its perceptions. I also once had my practice described as “a ‘three wheeled clown car going in circles” in a crit at the RCA, but took it more as a compliment than the insult it was intended to be.
If you could sit down with anyone and chat about anything at all, who would it be and what would you want to talk about?
I find one on one conversation too lineal for the way my brain functions, it would have to be around a dining table over good food (and wine). The flittering’s of conversation and interchange adding the tangential notes that I so relish. High and low brow, amiable and intellectual among the discussions and natter with loved ones, friends and [insert] heroes.
How would you define "success?"
Pah! Leave the big unanswerable ones till last, why don’t you.
But loosely, I would say it is the luxury to be able to paint daily, to be able to work integrally towards a singular vision shows on a regular basis, to pay your way, and to provide for your loved ones. And to eventually have a studio nearer to my home.
What are you working on right now?
I am in the process of shipping over a new body of work to Deweer Gallery, Belgium. It is for an ongoing project based around developed and existing relationships for me and two other artists with the works of the seminal, Gunther Forg. This leg of the project was presented at MIART 2017. It has been an amazing project for the last year or so, building and discovering narrative and dialogue between my practice and his has been very refreshing and opened up new channels within my work. You can see the previous incarnation of the project on my website, Modern talk: Gunther Forg, 2016.
I am also in an exciting group show organized by Kris Day, to open this month, called Peace Love and Happiness.
Anything else you would like to add?
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