Aspex Gallery, The Vulcan, PO1 3BF
Monday 01 October 2018 – Thursday 31 October 2019
Image: Roy Brown, Crown Drawing Number One
Our Artist of the Month feature aims to promote artists' work and raise issues in a quick, informal way. May's Artist of the Month is Roy Brown.
Hello, what do you do?
Hello there! Thanks for having me. I would say my practice is 40% drawing, 40% sculpture and the other 20% is made up of photography, film-making and performance.
Where are you based?
I currently live in Southampton and have done since 1994 when I moved here to study at what was Southampton Institute and is now Southampton Solent University. I stayed down on the coast even when I was studying in London at Goldsmiths, so I guess while Southampton is kind of a generic city, I love the New Forest and it's close to the sea, so nature is never far away.
Where do you work?
I work in my home. I find the 'studio space' set up just doesn't suit me, so I work from home in our spare room, although I normally end up in another part of the house with a cup of good coffee and some tunes on the hi-fi. I tend to have other things on the go that rather than distract from the work complement the main activity at hand so music on the stereo and food cooking in the kitchen, I respond really well to those other stimuli creatively.
What's the best thing about the area you live/work in?
I love the city, there is a lot of support for artists that have just graduated, as well as some good galleries both in and around the area. There is a real independent feeling both here and in Portsmouth that has really blossomed in the past ten years or so and that's kind of affirming. You can go to gigs or to an opening and bump into someone, it's good general small city stuff.
What does success mean to you?
I think the idea of success is a slippery one. I think it's about finding your idea of freedom and making that artwork happen even if it doesn't have an answer or meaning that is obvious to you straight away. Part of the enjoyment of making work is the intellectual game of you, the artist, decoding what this thing you're making is going to mean to an audience. I think it's also about working with the right people, the ones who 'get' where you're coming from. Too many organisations want answers about the work and it might just be a few sheets of paper or a few doodles in a sketchbook. Then they want outcomes and objectives and then the idea is already kind of dead to me. So whatever I am doing is the thing I'm into now and I try not to look back at previous successes. Every project is me trying to prove something new to myself.
Do you earn a living from making art?
No not at all, I have rent and responsibility like most people. A few years ago I gave up teaching at a few local art schools and colleges as it wasn't making me as happy as it used to. I was having a life change, and wanted something different, so I became a postman at a local University. It's a great job, physical without being too punishing and I work with a great set of people from different backgrounds. The important thing is it gives me time to think process and reflect on my creative output, giving it a new drive and focus. I wouldn't be making the work I am without the day job, so I'm super glad to have it!
What makes a good artwork?
A good artwork should be super easy and relaxed but on inspection show rigour and discipline. A bit like a cat jumping in slow motion or someone pulling of a skateboard trick, making it look effortless even though you know they have grazed their knees and elbows from all the failed attempts. Or maybe like a stand up comedian, who even though they have told a joke a hundred times can still make it sound fresh. That slack discipline pushes my art buttons.
What have you been up to recently?
I have spent the last year or so setting up a new workspace and drawing in it. The work I'm excited about now is a response to some drawings that I made about seven years ago. The new drawings are quite primal portraits made of thousands of small lines. My son, who is five, says they are ghosts and to an extent he is right but they're also informed by those blurry images of Bigfoot and UFOs from the 1970s. I am also making some sculptures. At the moment they're at the Blue Peter stage of development which means it's card and masking tape and glue guns. They're going to be kind of expensive to fabricate so I want to get them just so.
What have you got coming up?
The next thing is to get this new work out to an audience. It's been nice to have a break from projects and shows. It takes the pressure off you to deliver in the studio and helps you create a new body of work with a new lexicon of ideas and approaches. I'm now keen to show and talk about this new body of work.
Roy Brown is an artist based in Southampton. His work is concerned with Science Fiction, architecture, social critique and alternative culture. He works primarily in sculpture and drawing and has exhibited widely around the UK since 2000.
Working towards a South West where talented artists thrive, and a resilient and connected visual arts ecology that inspires more engaged and diverse audiences to value and advocate for its work.
Part of the Contemporary Visual Arts Network