Email discussion between Tom Cole, James Harrison, Alex Crocker and Richard Forbes-Hamilton
Who and what are the We and Images within the exhibition title?
The title of the show is from a paraphrased quote by one of our old tutors at Brighton. He was asked if his paintings served a purpose and answered “yes of course they do, we need these images like we need dreams at night”. The ‘We’ I suppose, is essentially we three artists and the images talked of in the title are the ones hanging in the show and found in the publication. However, we are interested in a wider application. Not just us and the paintings we make but in a wider sense. That whilst we live in a time with a supposed over abundance of imagery, finding resonant images is still a rare and special occurrence. We decided on the title because we are interested in the way certain images resonate with us and the importance of finding adequate images for our time.
I agree with what James said in the fact that the ‘We’ is very much the three of us. Through working on these exhibitions, James, Richard and I have spent many hours talking about and looking at paintings. It has become part of my weekly routine, we meet at one of our houses, one of us cooks, and we all talk about what we want from the exhibition. Usually talk moves onto our own and the art work of our contemporaries, but also any number of historical names. It is a huge pot of influences that we dip into but I think the common thread through all of it is artists who are making work that we can relate to in our day to day lives, this may be an artist from the fifteenth century or a friend in a studio round the corner. So the images we talk about are the images that hold a potency for us. We are drawn to images that function as something that enhances our daily routines, makes us look differently at the people and objects around us.
As much as the ‘We’ and the ‘Images’ definitely refer to ourselves and our personal experience and understanding of the images in our lives, there is certainly an acknowledgement of the purpose and function of the image within society on a wider scale.
Can you expand on what an adequate image for our time might be, in light of an over abundance of daily imagery? You all work from your day to day lives – are the resonant images you’re looking for closer to home than we might imagine?
I guess an adequate image for our time is an image that resonates in our time and that could only be made of our time. It is an image that can cut through the saturation of imagery and slow time down even if for just a few moments.
I paint bikes as a metaphor for thinking and daydreaming as I spend a lot of time thinking about painting and paintings when I am cycling. Bicycles are a means of transportation from one place to another, and so are paintings. I am surrounded by these images in the studio and they stay in my head when I leave the studio. It is this specific daily experience with images that I am interested in; I paint specific experiences and occurrences from my daily life, in the hope that the specific can become universal.
I tend to think of adequate images as ones that fulfil some sort of purpose without excess. The idea that images have some sort of inherent purpose has been touched on a bit in the previous question, but I think it is an interesting idea. I mean the purpose of a painting could be debatable I suppose, but an adequate image for our time would be one that is as much or as good as is necessary for the state that we find ourselves at present.
This adequacy is different to something being significant or defining. I mean I’m sure we can all name or think of a number of images that are significant to us, ones that have influenced or affected us, and even ones that have defined us and our time.
There is obviously an abundance of imagery available now, with rolling news, the internet, and digital media and images of significance are found and shown in these ways. However what I suggest could be interesting in light of this is to find understated adequate imagery which somehow still manages to resonate. I believe that this may be found close to home but at any rate that seems to be a good place to start looking.
I don’t think of the visual information that we are surrounded by (referred to as imagery) as a realm of images. This over abundant visual information is often made finite in meaning and fleeting/throw away in nature. My understanding of an image is that it is somehow infinite in nature, this idea of resonance that James and Alex have referred to I understand as exponential existence beyond its moment of recognition. An image is born of the world, contains and reflects the world, and continues to exist as part of the world. A quote from Tarkovsky discussing symbols/images comes to mind:
A symbol contains within itself a definite meaning, certain intellectual formula, while metaphor is an image. An image possessing the same distinguishing features as the world it represents. An image as opposed to a symbol is indefinite in meaning. One cannot speak of the infinite world by applying tools that are definite and finite. We can analyse the formula that constitutes a symbol, while metaphor is a being-within-itself, it’s a monomial. It falls apart at any attempt of touching it.
The way that we experience the world is conditioned by the environment we live in; if we live within an over abundance of visual information that is fleeting in nature and finite in meaning, this conditions us in a way that makes it harder to find/recognise resonant images.
Images can be found anywhere – why/how can an image of a bike, or a tree, or a window have resonance now? Because in becoming images they go beyond the finite sum of their parts as recognisable symbols.
An adequate image for our time is an image that possesses resonance within a culture of fleeting/finite visual information and in turn potential for a shift (however momentary) to the way in which the viewer experiences the world.
The tiled floor gives the show quite a sculptural emphasis. Could you talk a bit about this sculptural presence and the environment that it creates, and how your individual works sit alongside it (given the floor is a collaborative piece)?
AC, JH, RF-H:
The initial idea for painting the walls and tiling the floor came as a direct response to the show in Berlin. We like the idea of going into a room and being completely immersed in an environment. This gives the show a sculptural element but we haven’t necessarily been thinking about the tiles through an understanding of sculpture; more through a sense of creating an environment from images and painted surfaces. The walls and the floor will become a sort of active neutral and will set the tone within which the paintings will hum. We are all interested in the environments or rooms in which paintings are placed or seen and have decided to take control of this element for this exhibition.
Alex Crocker, b. 1981. Studied at Royal College of Art (2009), recent exhibitions include: Backwards Man, CGP, London (2012), New Relics, The Cello Factory, London (2011); We Need These Images, Artport, Berlin (2011); Between a Hole and a Home, James Taylor Gallery, London (2010); Dough & Dynamite, John McAslan & Partners, London (2010); Through The Wall, Rochelle School, London (2009)
James Harrison, b. 1984. Studied at Royal College of Art (2010), recent exhibitions include: Arab Spring, Plaza Plaza, London (2011); The Salon of the Vernacular, The Fishmarket Gallery, Northampton (2011); We Need These Images, Artport, Berlin (2011); The October Show, Limoncello, London (2010); Show, Royal College of Art, London (2010); An A in Backwards Italics, RCA Sculpture Yard, London (2009)
Richard Forbes-Hamilton, b. 1983. Studied at Slade School of Fine Art (2010), recent exhibitions include: We Need These Images, Artport, Berlin (2011), Figure/Ground, Celia Lendis Gallery, Moreton in Marsh (2010), Four Days Long, Centre For Recent Drawings, London (2009), Field Work, 65 Hanbury Street, London (2009), Istanbul Was Constantinople, Hush Gallery, Istanbul (2009)