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WILL KENDRICK: THE MATERIALITY OF COLOR

Will Kendrick is a British artist who is BIG on color.  However, he’s not really about painting pictures www.willkendrick.co.uk. Will captures color itself and makes the material nature of color itself HIS art.  Wanna know more?  Here’s my cool chat with him.

MICHAEL: Hey Will! Your work is so intriguing to me. You seem to really love PAINT, not just painting. It's almost as if the paint itself is the message. Am I right?

WILL: When I was in art school, I began, like many students, painting. I enjoyed the process and the manipulation of the material on the surface, but I became less and less concerned with image production or representation. I started to remove elements from the process to try and understand what is or could still be accepted as painting. It's an old discussion in art, I know, but one that still interests me. I felt that by rejecting the canvas or support, the focus had to then be on the color and the material itself. So I don't really think that for me it was totally about the paint as such. Don't get me wrong, I’m fascinated with it as a material, but I think it was more a way for me to pick apart painting and start to build a language that I was more comfortable with.

MICHAEL: So, did this language become more about paint as sculpture?

WILL: With those objects, I guess it was, but they were more about provoking a discussion about classification. Visually, the closest territory they encroach on is sculpture but I still see them as coming from painting so more of that language and terminology applies. My latest work is closer to film or digital animation, but again I see them through painting. They are more like shifting and merging compositions. It’s more about folding painting out into space with whatever material I am using, be it paint, plastics, light or projection.

MICHAEL: It almost sounds to me as if you believe that paint has a life of its own. Not literally, obviously, but that it can be almost organic?

WILL: I suppose it does in many ways. The way it moves on a surface is incredibly organic and I think the forms that I choose to pour reflect that. But also for me, the life in paint is also in its history; not only the history of the act of painting, but also the history of making and manufacturing pigment. Technology fascinates me. We are constantly striving to produce ever more intense ways of experiencing color.

MICHAEL: Color often tells its own story.  It's clear that you're finding ways to express that.  When you're actually creating and working with paint, is the process intellectual, emotional or spiritual?

WILL: There is emotion in almost all works I think. I don't think it can be avoided when a human being engages with making on a personal level. My process in comparison to say that of perhaps a gestural or colorfield painter is slightly more detached from the emotion involved in practices like that. It’s much more about listening to the material and trying to find ways to extend it beyond its perceived capabilities. It often feels more like a scientific pursuit.

MICHAEL: Many people consider color, especially primary colors, playful and childish.  Do you consider your work "playing" with color?

WILL: There is an element of play in all my work and I think that's definitely why I started to work with it. I think that play is really important when I am creating, but I do feel that the color elements within themselves have in some cases become more about referencing moments of fascination with color. Be it the neons and amusement arcades of my home town, Blackpool or even the hours spent as a kid playing 8-bit video games.

MICHAEL: I've heard it said that color is big among many in the UK because the days are often gray. Is this true? How does your environment and  culture influence your work?

WILL: I don't know if there is much truth in that statement. There are a lot of artists in the UK who work with color, but a lot of artists that I am interested in came from that sixties L.A scene and I'm pretty sure they are not lacking in sunshine there. I think my environment has definitely shaped my practice but it has come from being immersed in the urban environment. For me, these types of landscapes really come to life when the sun goes down. In many ways, it was the opposite of living in a gray environment. Blackpool is bathed in neon color. It is quite a unique place on our little island. I live and work out of Bristol now and the color experience here is totally different. The streets are covered in spray paint and the city fully embraces that. I guess I do have a need to be around color.

MICHAEL: Does the average British citizen relate at all to contemporary art?  It's a big problem here in the States.  Many people don't "get it" and dismiss it. Do you think people view your work as difficult ... or does color help with that?

WILL: I think there is less of an emphasis on "getting it" today. I think people are much more confident in reading work these days. They may not take all intended messages from the work, but I don't think that matters. The palette I use helps to set up an accessible entry point for all viewers, but I think it’s integral to all the subsequent levels. It’s up to the viewer how deeply they delve into it.  As for the situation here in the UK, I definitely think that there are more people going to galleries than there were when I was young. 

MICHAEL: How does inspiration work for you? Do you work and the inspiration follows or do you get a spark and leap into action?

WILL: It’s a constant cycle that is led by whatever materials and processes I am working with at the time. In terms of the work content, I think that can come from anywhere. It might come from a painting that I saw or a writer or from the artists I surround myself with, but more frequently now it comes from movies or video games and quite often from advertising too. It is seductive aesthetics that interest me and these are the places that these devices are used best. I am interested in abstracting these sensory cues and allowing them to exist in an altered state, where their previous narratives have all but gone and are often replaced by art historical reference.

MICHAEL: So many artists don't like art fairs.  What do you think about them?  Do they do anything for you and your work?

WILL: I don't really show at art fairs at the moment. It’s not something that I am really interested in or enjoy at the moment. I think they can be a really good thing though. It all depends on the work, the fair and what you want to get from it.

MICHAEL: When you're creating art, what's going through your mind?  Is the process, intellectual, emotional or more spiritual?  Is there a message or is it just about expression and people fill in the message?

WILL: I think the work has elements of some of these. It’s definitely entwined with history and color theory, but I think the latter inevitably overlaps with science and contemporary color experience. I don't think you can get involved with materials at this level and not attempt to understand the chemistry or physical nature of the tools and material that you are working with. There is also an element of theater within my work and I feel that reflects our relationship with color. We can't help but be seduced by it. Whether it’s digital or physical, we can't help being taken over by it. Our consumer culture is saturate by all manner of vibrant hues and neon lights that dominate our lives and dictate our movements. I don't think I would call it spiritual, but there is something about the effect that color has on our brains. The emotion for me comes more in the form of nostalgia by referencing my home town, but I don't think that is a connection that I necessarily need the viewer to make. It’s just the part of my history that enters into the work.  

MICHAEL: Finally Will, What do you want to reveal about color to people who see your work and where do you want to go as an artist?

WILL: I want to continue developing these themes and ideas to allow the viewer an insight into my color experience.

MICHAEL: Thanks Will.  Cool chat.

WILL: Thanks.  It was fun.

Check out Will’s color show at www.willkendrick.co.uk.



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