Interview 22. – Alastair Gordon

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London based artist. Central to his practice is the notion of a painting as a cultural artefact. At first these are paintings about paintings: images that oscillate between artefact and artifice. Notions of authenticity lie at the heart of his artistic enquiry. Currently course leader for Critical and Professional Development at Leith School of Art, Edinburgh and graduate workshops at Wimbledon School of Art, London.

Instagram: @alastair_gordon

http://www.alastairjohngordon.com


Describe something that has recently amazed you and how it made you feel.

The Thomas Cole exhibition at the National Gallery left me speechless. The depth and scope of his vision was utterly breathtaking.

 

How would you personally define wonder, awe and curiosity? And how do they relate to each other?

I think of wonder as a realisation of something beyond comprehension. I’d say awe and curiosity come closely related although I find the term awesome a little overused. My nephews and I watched the Lego movie recently which has the song ‘Everything is awesome’. I think the word means to be struck down. Good job not everything is awesome. Sometimes it’s good for things also to be consistent, normal and steadfast.

 

What inspires you to be creative?

I am a human being. Being creative is simply part of what it means to be human.

 

Do you have any ‘rituals’ or an environment that aids your creativity?

Usually coffee and breakfast does the trick. This probably sounds very mundane but I find ideas come simply by turning up every day at the studio and getting on with things.


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What do you love about magic?

I love how it suspends your imagination just beyond the realm of the possible then invites you to question what you think you know.

 

What do you think hinders an audience from experiencing wonder when watching a magician?

I’m not entirely sure but I’d take a punt in saying the accessibility to information through social and web media makes it harder these days for some to experience something truly wonderous.

 

Where do you think our sense of wonder comes from and what can we do to cultivate it?

Like creativity I’d say it comes as part of being human. To wonder is to aspire to something greater. To aspire for greater things I believe to be a craving for heaven.
What can we do to cultivate it? I think to look up more. We are a society of lookers down. We like to switch on and tune out, look down at our phones or devices rather than looking up and around us. There is wonder in the form of clouds, in the taste of rain and the feel of concrete under your feet: everyday moments of wonder there for the taking. We were made to look up rather than look down.


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As a magician what fascinates me about your work is the realistic illusion of 3D you create on a flat surface. I had to really resist going up and touching it just to check that the masking tape and paper planes were painted. And I guess I’m not alone! What’s the appeal for you in playing with perceptions of authenticity?

Funny, I think a lot people feel that urge to go up to my paintings and see if they can peel off the masking tape. Of course that’s part of it and I see it as a complement. The appeal for me in playing with perceptions of authenticity is to ask some of the bigger questions about how we perceive reality. In particular how mediated images such as news footage, mobile phone pictures or social media shapes the way we think about the world. It’s also about trying to recreate that moment of creation. I like to paint the stuff that’s left over from the painting process like masking tape or marks on the studio wall.

 

In describing your art you’ve said they are “paintings about paintings: images that oscillate between artefact and artifice.” Can you tell me more?

When you look at a painting you’re not just looking at an image. It’s not something flat or digitised. Rather, you’re looking at a 3-dimensional object that has a surface, sides and marks spread across it. In the same way, when you look at a painting you’re not just looking at an illusion – something that suggests a landscape or room or face. You’re also looking at pigments bound in oil and smeared across a canvas. I like to play with these ideas about a painting operating on different levels and perceived in different ways.

 

As a course leader of Critical and Professional Development at Leith School of Art, Edinburgh, what challenges do you see the next generation of artists facing as they graduate and what to make a living as an artist?

The most obvious challenge is how to pay the bills. Not many universities or art schools run programmes to help graduation artists navigate the waters of the professional; creative arts. It can be sink or swim and not always the most talented artists who end up making a living. It’s those who learn how to adapt, be entrepreneurial and just stick at it who end up being the artists we hear about in years to come. At some point the awful truth hits you that no one is coming to get you – to knock down a path to your studio door. You have to go out and get them. It’s going to take guts and it’s going to take flare.


What stood out for you? Any questions? Things you disagree with? Write a comment and join in the discussion.

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