The Great Marlborough Street, London window has had a summer re-skin this week, with rising star of the art and sculpture world Wayne Chisnall exhibiting his latest creations. I caught up with Wayne to learn more about his previous projects and what inspires his unique approach to material he uses.
You have tried your hand at many areas of art; magazine & technical illustration, printmaking and now you create spectacular sculptures, what drew you to this area of expertise?
My dad was an oil painter so I grew up with the sight and smell of art materials all around me, therefore art has been my passion for as far back as I can remember. All my life I'd been a predominantly 2D artist but it wasn't until I went to University and unexpectedly switched from printmaking to sculpture that I suddenly found a medium that I felt to be more truthful to what I wanted to express through my art. Somehow I felt that by working in 3D I was able to convey my ideas on a greater number of levels. I suppose that because sculptures physically occupy space in the same world as we do, on a level that something like a drawing doesn't, they have more to say - but that might just be how I see things. Of course, I still love drawings and paintings etc.
How did you approach The Mill window?
I decided to exhibit some of the more recent, or rarely shown, sculptures that I thought were quite strong pieces in themselves, but which also worked well as a group. In the deeper window I have, Orifice Tower, Pharos Cyclops #1 and #2, and in the shallow window, Planetoid 210. Although all three pieces (for the sake of argument I'll call 'Pharos Cyclops #1 and #2 one piece for now) share certain commonalities, they are also examples of different lines of enquiry that I have pursued. For this installation I wanted to give an insight into the divergent aspect of my practice; to show how various works can trigger ideas for newer and slightly different pieces, which in turn lead to further, and therefore more distantly related, works. To highlight this aspect of the development of my work I displayed the two Cyclops pieces on bright green deckchairs, the colour of which is a reference to one of my earliest sculptures, And When I'm a Man (I'll Think as a Man).
Being bright green and made of fibreglass, plastic and resin, this earlier work offers a stark contrast to the direction of much of my current work. Incidentally, when I was installing the work, someone commented on the green of the deckchairs being very similar to that of the green screen used in the visual effect industry. I hadn't even thought of it at the time but I guess it ties in nicely with what The Mill does.
Who and what inspires you?
There are so many wonderful sculptors out there but most of my primary influences lie elsewhere. Growing up, I was a big fan of sci-fi and horror literature and films - which is probably where much of my work gets its dark leanings, although now I hope that there is a bit of humour in there too. I can see the choice of found materials that I use in my sculptures emerging from my early love of the strange and uncanny animations of people like Jan Svankmajer and the Brothers Quay, who's work I still have a soft spot for today. I also have a bit of an obsession with the Minkisi/Nkisi wood carvings of the Congo area, which been very influential in my Nail Box and Nail Heart series of works.
Without sounding too hippy, I'm also inspired by nature, especially vines and root systems. Even though I have very geometric elements to a lot of my work I try and incorporate an organic construction model where I can. Drawing is a very important part of my practice and for most of my sculptures I make numerous sketches, prior and during the construction process. My drawing style varies, depending upon what I'm working on, but I honed it during my time as a technical and magazine illustrator back in the 80's and early 90's. Saying that, I've had a life-long love of comic and book illustration so there will be influences from these fields that are probably too numerous to mention.
What has been your favourite project?
I'm not sure if I have favourite projects but do I have a secret art project that I'm not supposed to talk about (the 1st rule of Fight Club etc...) that is a lot of fun. I'll try not to give too much away but it started back in July 2005 (oddly enough, on the day of the London bombings) and is still ongoing. Basically the project is a chain of exchanges between myself and a performance artist called Calum F Kerr. We modelled the exchange on scenes from old cold war spy movies and now we film ourselves making these exchanges. We always meet at the same location (a park bench somewhere in London) at a set time on a set day of the week (but not every week). One of us will get there first, then the other will join him on the bench but we deliberately make no acknowledgement of each other. Then one of us will place a parcel, wrapped in brown paper, between us on the bench, and other will nonchalantly take it. Whoever placed the parcel on the bench walks away first, then the other person a short while later (exiting in opposite directions). Which ever one of us accepts the parcel (containing an object or detailed instructions created by the other) has to create something inspired by the contents of said parcel and then wrap it up in brown paper and continue the chain at the next encounter. As I said, it's a lot of fun to take part in but it's also loosed up both of us as artists, as we've started to dip into each others mode of practice (if only a little). Now I've probably said too much.
Talk us through the reoccurring themes evident in your sculptures?
The tower is one of the main reoccurring themes that runs through my work. All the sculptures in my first tower series where mounted on over-sized wheels and were to do with our attitudes toward material possessions, and how our accumulation of 'stuff' limits our mobility. My most personal piece from this series, The City, was to be the springboard for a lot of later pieces - namely the numerous but much smaller-sized box series (also on wheels). In fact the wheels themselves became a motif of most of my sculptural work until relatively recently. As the magnified lens aspect of my box structures started to give way to the carved orifice feature (a further attempt to integrate the organic and the rectilinear) so to the wheeled theme stared to disappear and the structures became more tower-like again. A prime example being Orifice Tower, which is basically an elevated box. The thing that I enjoy about working this way is that it feels very natural, like a process of evolution. Forms emerge, disappear, and sometimes re-emerge.
What else is happening for you this year?
So far I have a sculpture on display in an alumni exhibition at my old university in Northampton and I've been asked to create a couple of two metre tall pieces that will be displayed in the windows of a renovated Anglican chapel in Nunhead Cemetery this September. I've also been sketching designs for a new series of tower sculptures but at the moment I've over filled my studio with materials, so until I sort out extra storage space, I'm working on drawings and ideas for editioned prints in my 2D studio (which is also starting to fill up with materials). One of these print ideas is an adaptation of a photo from a newspaper, showing police attacking protesters. But I'm painting out the protesters and replacing them with cartoon bunnies. It's quite a fun but surprisingly thought provoking piece - I'm pleased with how it's going.
But the project that I'm most excited about at the moment is my plan to bring out my own currency (well, sort of). I'm looking to print 20,000, hand signed and numbered, editions of a small double sided art print that takes the form of a fictitious banknote - a 5 Chig (taken from my nickname) note. The designs on both sides will be based upon my artworks and drawings but I'm looking to print on authentic-feeling banknote paper and incorporate watermarks and holographic foils - and use two different printing techniques, one of which will have a slight raised quality. The only problem that I'm currently having is the sourcing of authentic-feeling cotton/linen banknote paper - for obvious anti-counterfeiting reasons.
Thanks Wayne for this revealing look into your inspirations and creations. Wayne will be exhibiting for the next two months, so pay us a visit and have a peek at the art in person.