July’s Artist of the Month is Arron Kuiper. Arron’s work will be appearing in Outside In: West, at The Museum of Somerset in Taunton from 20 July – 29 September 2013. Kate Davey asks him a few questions about his work and his life as an artist.
1) When did you first become interested in art, and what sparked this interest?
I generally hate it when people say ‘I have always been an artist’ but for me it is quite true, I have drawn and painted prolifically since I could hold the implements. As young as primary school the ‘artist’ stigma has surrounded me. It’s strange to think about now because it was never a choice I made but seemed to be something that just was. It was never really in question.
2) How would you describe your art practice? How has it developed over time?
My practice used to be a staccato mix of wide-ranging, different media. I have always had too many ideas and in this light styled myself as a Koons-esque ideas man. I used to do installation, information/conceptual, performance/identity and video art but it became far too disparate and frenetic. I discovered gel quite a while ago but was always too distracted to give it the time, thought and work that it needed. Now I have calmed down and focused and it has become my medium. I have started to describe it as Three–Dimensional Surrealist Painting due to its representational yet physically impossible imagery. I wouldn’t describe my 2d work as surrealist but I feel it the easiest way of describing the gel. There are political and ideological aspects to my practice yet I would not call them a theme because they are only building blocks for some of my works. The piece ‘Rowan’ for example is one of a diptych about gender inequality. Her male counterpart is much larger yet without a head, having instead only a pineapple in a separate jar placed atop of his glass box.
3) When and why did you start using the unusual medium of gel to create your work?
It started in my first year of uni, I was experimenting with paint, trying to create 3d shapes out of oil paint using thick stencils and realised I would need to add different chemicals to separate or make the paint dry quickly. A tutor called Ed Rennie said ‘Come on Arron you’re in your first year, put anything in there! Porridge, wallpaper paste, hair gel, puppies, jealousy…’ I noticed that hydrogel (water-based hair gel) and oil paint repelled each other, which was the lightbulb moment.
4) What is your work influenced by? Do you have any favourite artists?
I wouldn’t say my work is influenced by other artists. I enjoy purity of vision, perfect realisation and execution. I would rather say I have favourite pieces than favourite artists yet more of my favourite pieces seem to come from certain artists. My ideas may be influenced by my sub-conscience yet to me they seem to just turn up, I am not a fan of using the word inspiration in this way either.
5) What did it mean for you having your work selected for Outside In: West?
It was an unexpected cup of tea and a biscuit when you are working hard in the garden. Only this year have I started producing works I am nearly satisfied with and have had little or no success after 2011 so to have 4 works requested is heartening and justifies my practice at a time when I needed a bit of a boost. Everyone from Outside In has been thoroughly accommodating so it makes you think that ‘hey the big-bad ultra-competitive artworld isn’t so bad after all’.
6) Could you tell us a bit about your work that will be in the exhibition?
As previously mentioned ‘Rowan’ is one of a pair of pro-feminist works for which I had an ultimate vision that when realised, I felt needed to be changed. She was originally lying atop the male box in a crucifix formation but I decided they were much better upright. Now I see her as a stage in the experimental process with the gel medium (as her form changed due to chemistry and physics) yet there is a sense of fragility in the now spindly limbs. As with any gel piece, they cannot survive outside their purpose built environments. After a while the paint takes on a more organic quality and the pieces change then settle. I get pleasure from this now rather than initial frustration at the lack of accurate representation. The trees I think are about this, about fun, about pleasure. People delight in well observed miniature versions of things (hence the popularity of models) yet these look organic. Jars are how I play because they are widely available (I have over 60 washed and waiting) so you can afford to experiment and have fun. People also delight in holding, exploring and in some cases interpreting them once they understand what they are no matter what age, race or gender. I feel this is important, for mass produced though they are, each is a miniature and unique painting/pleasing object in an age of the printed canvas and online image.
7) What are you working on at the moment?
Last month I finished a life-sized self portrait (pictures on Outside In). It is like a mask of my face and in the back is a large tree bereft of leaves. It is a bit too romantic but was a valuable technical exercise as I am aiming to do life-size portraits. Right now I am working on a full sized head of one of my friends though instead of hair she shall have a garden (this will be the second ‘Head Gardener’ piece, following on from the first which received acclaim in 2011).
8) What's next for you as an artist?
I aim to enter the two aforementioned pieces into the ‘Threadneedle Prize’ next month and have been proposing a couple of Cardiff based exhibitions (including one solely of jars) that I shall get onto after that.
Catch Arron’s work at The Museum of Somerset from 20 July – 29 September as part of Outside In: West:
See more of Arron’s work on his Outside In gallery: http://outsidein.org.uk/Arron-Kuiper