This January I was honoured to have a brief but very interesting correspondence with Refresh artist Fred Fabre about the urgency of dealing with climate change, eco-feminism and the need for bold statements.
When I first saw them I thought your images were so strong and cinematic, and then afterwards I read that you had done video journalism so that seemed to make sense to me. Will you tell us about how you make the work, what the process is, and how you choose the images that you are going to paint?
I can't talk in details of the technicality of making the work as I am not attached to a style or a technique, I might switch to installation next who knows? It changes with every other work, for the latest work I drew with paint, used life sessions and had reference photos of people who came to my studio in Hackney.
The process of making my stuff is continually changing and is fed by all my past experiences in the creative field including animation, cinematography, film-making, drawing and painting. As you mentioned rightly video journalism is an influential part of it.
I don't choose a subject for the various pieces as such but I work around an ever evolving theme. I am either documenting the understanding of it, or reacting to the changes affecting it. The same goes with the physicality of making my work. It goes in phases motivated by exploring new skills and the loss of my illusions.
An important change of direction happened when in 2005 while preparing for my MAFA. I was looking to justify my abstract landscape paintings so I ended up at the British Library reading the 1st IPCC report published in 1992. I was stunned how alarming the report was already and absolutely nothing had been done since to slowdown climate change.
In 2005 the public debate was just starting, while the same year I heard James Lovelock announcing before the bemused audience of the Royal Society that the warming of the earth was already in feedback loop mode.
When you start to think hard about it you realise that the future is in eco-feminism. As men we created this problem and we now need to be on board with women to slow down our wrecking attitude drastically, to give a slim chance to future generations to find a way of fixing it as we have no idea at the moment.
I then started to read academic feminist books. The first one was put into my hands by a female friend and expert in sociology, and I ended up making short films with a male feminist voice. When I consider how much reading I needed to do to simply be aware of how much male narratives were forced on me, and the scale of the task to simply share this view, I feel bold statements are urgently needed.
It's very interesting to hear of an artist who doesn't consider themselves attached to a style or technique! To me that sounds fresh and would allow for sponteneity.
I'm interested in your comments regarding climate change and men / women. I have seen discussions before about climate change (among other things) being considered a product of patriarchy, instead of the egalitarian society that many feminists strive for (and that would be better for most men too).
Do you think art can be effective in helping to reshape those narratives we all absorb and accept without thinking? What is the place of art in this?
I can see the drive for the bold statements you say are needed is definitely present in your painting. Is there anything other than creating something bold or striking that you think can be done to address this?
Your point about questioning narratives we take for granted is, in my opinion, central to Art. I think there is no difference in the approach between 19th century Theodore Gericault's huge painting of the Raft of the Medusa and Ai Weiwei's reflection and documentation of real events. They both have offered alternatives to mainstream narratives.
Today the forensic architecture of the CRA displayed in the gallery and bringing evidence to the court of law is on the same track.
All these artists are inspirational figures of the time because they push the limits using the new possibilities for exposing the fault of the system.
These were examples of male artists using the big guns on the effect of patriarchal politics. But I am equally inspired by the 19thcentury Mary Cassat breast feeding paintings and today Jenny Saville's crude plastic surgery paintings, or the staged photos of birth undisturbed by Natalie Lennard. They all are highlighting narratives in the same way as the artist mentioned above, and are equally inspiring but not necessarily equally recognised.
Of course I don't have the intention to compare myself to the great artists mentioned above, but to answer the final part of your big question I can only tell you about what art is doing to me. Research and reflection underpinning my practice is changing my perspective constantly.
The subtraction leftovers of my new me to my old me is providing the inspiration for most of my work, as the individual is the result of his perception of his place in the world.
I have no pretension of changing the world but certainly art is changing me, and that is a start.