GENERATOR / PROCESS AND PROGRESS
In 1959 the British scientist and writer CP Snow gave a famous lecture entitled ‘The Two Cultures’ in which he reasoned that ‘the intellectual life of the whole of western society’ is divided into two discrete parts: science and the humanities. He went on to despair at the schism, and argued that it actually holds back human progress. That lecture is still referred to today, probably because very little has been done to close that gap and the issue remains relevant.
Synaesthesia, suggested by the title, refers in this case to the psychological experience of experiencing music as colour, suggesting perhaps a similarity in the way modern compositions by Philip Glass (in a piece such as ‘Openings’), Steve Reich or Arvo Pärt, say, ﾠare constructed - an underlying basic arrangement with layers of detail gradually laid on top to create a strangely moving and complete whole. The drawings also echo the meandering motifs of the Safavid mosques of Isfahan, or the polychromatic configurations one might associate with psychedelia, or a child’s kaleidoscope toy. At times in awe of the Fibonacci sequence, the inspiration may be more prosaic, like the sliver of colour in a child’s marble that forms the basis of ‘Flow’.
THE CHANCY ELEMENT
MC You set something off that’s a bit impulsive, and then there’s a time of thought, and then you follow up those impulses, and elaborate them, and you’re maybe looking for a pulse that flows through everything, and that pulse has a meaning of its own. Simplicity at the beginning point and then a build up of complexity as you’re responding to things that are actually there. I imagine they take a little time to see? To some extent you’re idealising what’s there, but you’re also looking carefully. People who aren’t painters assume the artist thinks of something marvellous and then somehow carries it out, and they don’t think about that making stage because they can’t relate to it. They don’t know it. They like the fantasy of inspiration, the gift of art, as if an angel gives you the whole idea all at once. They don’t realise how much the process of making and correcting and remaking actually determines what is made in the end.
CE Yes, there’s a very chancy element in there, from which some kind of substantial meaning is developed.
LC You use terms such as ‘liquid geometry’, ‘captured light’ and ‘brilliant incandescence’ to describe your practice. Can you expand on these phrases?
CE I guess they’re a kind of linguistic shorthand to sum up the core of what I’m going for at the moment. Digital drawing systems allow you to create dense sculptural forms that haven’t previously been possible. Geometries can be far more complex than they could even ten years ago. Zaha Hadid’s practice, for instance, is a textbook example of how technology is changing the way we can explore form. Studying glass making, I became aware that Dale Chihuly, for example, creates a colour and kinetic interaction with light in his work, that I’m definitely keen to evoke. So trying to capture some of that effervescence and brilliance, by exploring light and colour densities, and embedding that drama in the work, is a key part of the process.
THE HUM / BCFM
LQ Okay, I think that’s really interesting that you mentioned that you draw them on the computer, because I think a lot of people when they see computer art or think about computer art, digital art, they think that the artist’s skill has somehow, is somehow being done by the computer? And a lot of people still think that drawing is kind of the pinnacle of the artist’s skill. But you’re saying that you draw with the computer?
CE Yes. I think both of those are true. Drawing is, probably, the pinnacle of the artist’s skill, and certainly the computer is being used as a tool for drawing. Obviously some people think that drawing will always be charcoal or pencil on paper, and other people think drawing is more of an activity about line making, and really what I’m doing is I’m making lines in a three dimensional space, in a kind of sculptural way, so I’m describing shapes using line, and then choosing views of those drawings and using those as the basis for the new images. I think the drawing process is about examining the line, exploring the line, making the line, making the mark, making the expressive marks and getting them onto the paper. So I do call it drawing, but obviously the computer does make that controversial. Computing really is a modern way to make marks which I totally embrace, other people eschew, and you have to choose for yourself whether you think it’s a valid tool. It does allow you to edit, re edit, colour, recolour, move and really get to exactly where you want to get to in terms of image making, and you know, employ these amazing new tools in a creative way.
TRANSISTOR / CRACK MAGAZINE
Chuck’s art is a homage to the power of the computer. Using the wonders of CGI, his canvas is the computer and a total nod to the magic of the machine. Engaging, hypnotic and unmistakably modern, images swirl and colours collide in a beautiful series of arrangements that confound the brain and pulse. Futuristic and sense pounding, Chuck’s initial wandering into this particular strain of the art world has its origins firmly rooted in the computer, as he explains:
“One night in 1984 a friend and I made an illicit late night visit to a software development company in Bath. She was working there and had seen the future; the first Apple computer to be imported into the UK. We were blown away. Sitting on a huge desk was a small beige box that allowed you to draw a black line on a white screen, using a device called a mouse. I was sold.”
Preface for the exhibition catalogue Generator / Process and Progress 2012, to accompany a solo show of thirty two new and recent works.
Preface for the exhibition catalogue Synaesthetic, to accompany a solo show of recent work.
Chuck Elliott and Matthew Collings in conversation at Close House, February 2011. The resulting interview was published in the show catalogue Coda at Close, designed by Herman Lelie, with photography by Stephen White. Coda at Close was curated and hosted by Freeny Yianni.
Chuck Elliott in conversation with Louise Copping. An interview originally published by Art of England magazine as part of the cover feature 'Fluid Dynamic, Chuck Elliott and the Transistor Project'.
Chuck Elliott in conversation with Lynette Quinlan, transcribed from an interview on BCFM. Broadcast shortly after the opening of 'Kinetic' at The Bristol Gallery, May 2011
Chuck Elliott in conversation with Jake Applebee and Tom Frost of Crack magazine, ahead of the now influential magazine's first issue.
View a PDF of the magazine here, feature on P18