Shane Bradford currently has a great show on at Union Gallery in London into the first weekend of November, and of course I’m just totally smitten with his deconstructed textile painting compositions, which are influence by fashion and trends, and toy with the idea of wearability or functionality as abstract pieces. Make sure to check out much more at the links below!
Can you tell me a little bit about you?
So, reaching nearly my 20th year as a ‘professional’ artist makes me feel I am intruding slightly on the ‘Young’ space platform! But, of course, we all feel young when it comes to making art, as we commit to a perpetual state of learning, right?
I’m trying not to edit what I write… Some facts: I was born and live and work in London, England. I’ve been lucky/hard-working enough to have been involved in all kinds of exhibitions around the world, especially Copenhagen, London and S Korea. I also grew up in California (San Diego) as a kid, until my family were deported in 1984. Both my parents are (British) artists.
I am currently showing a new body of work at Union Gallery in London (on through Nov. 3). It’s my third solo there, but these new paintings might be seen as something of a departure from the ‘dipping’ method for which I’m often associated. As such it feels like I’m starting again, and this is something I cultivate in my work – I reserve the right to chop, change and explore materials and processes that best serve my current interests.
When did you first discover art, or realize you wanted to make it yourself?
Although I did 5 years of art college (Chelsea/Brighton Uni) I was twenty-seven before I realised that, inevitably perhaps, I wanted to be an artist like my parents. Before that I flirted with music, playing the drums in a band.
Since childhood I was in and out of studios and exhibitions. The smell of paint and the fetish of a flat square on the wall seeps in there, what can you do?
What do you like most about working where you do?
London is home. It can be hard on you but ultimately I’ve yet to visit a city to match the friction that London can generate, good and bad. I have a large warehouse studio in Borough. It’s a long story but I’m very lucky to have this amount of affordable space in the centre of town. The developers are threatening but I’ve been here for 6 years so far. Long may it continue, and while it does I’d be crazy to go anywhere else.
What ideas are you exploring in your practice?
My work tends to migrate from material to material, and from show to show, even though the themes are common. Painting underpins everything I do, although I wouldn’t describe myself as a pure painter. That is, I use the idea of painting to express parallel ideas. I say that I make paintings but I’m not a painter, which tends to confuse people, myself included
The recent ‘Fantoche’ and ‘Cult’ series explore the proposition that painting can borrow tropes from the fashion and couture industry such as collection, season, and trend, in order to speed itself up so that it can keep pace with the modern world. The paintings have traces of ‘wearabilty’ about them – arm holes, sleeves etc. and this is something we took further with model and photographer Erika Wall . We shot her working with the paintings…you’ll see the results on my Instagram. There is an air of tongue and cheek about it, of course. But they are serious and not serious at the same time. If I have a mantra it is: Paradox is king! Things can be one thing, and another simultaneously, without conflict. I see no problem with that. So, these are both paintings, puppets, garments, bits of coloured fabric! Whatever, all of the above statements are true!
What is your process like?
The processes I use are habitually as uncomplicated as possible. They come about in parallel to the ideas I’m having, at the time. I try not to force materials to do things they don’t naturally do.
For example, the paint is applied to raw canvas in one sitting. This is the technique that best carries the idea I’m peddling at the moment -that painting must accelerate to keep up. As with fashion, the paintings are made directly from coloured drawings that I do beforehand. Again, this condenses the speed of the process by reducing decision-making; there’s no artistic angst, no head-scratching, they go for the jugular, win or lose and then move on… the application mirrors the idea. That is important to me.
I’m also using the mis-matched samples from the hardware store to colour the pigments. I love giving a home to these unwanted misfits, and they throw up the oddest of colours, ones that bypass your personal taste, so you get something slightly ‘off’. Besides, they are really cheap so it relieves you of that sense of preciousness
Is there any subject or theme you’ve been particularly interested in lately?
Couture. Namely young London designers Charles Jeffery and Craig Green. And also Wales Bonner.
My current exhibition is called Cult Event Volumes which hints at other influences that I’ve come across recently. Jane Bennett’s Vibrant Matter really helped to develop the raw process I’m using. Slavoj Szizek wrote a book called Event. Paul Virilio’s writing about acceleration is just so fascinating to me. And the doc Wild Wild Country was really influential too, all those different shades of red, fantastic!
What is the strangest thing you’ve ever had to do for art?
…no comment. Haha, I don’t know. I think stapling a canvas whilst 100% stark naked was quite strange. It was very hot, literally and there was no one around so I thought what the hell…
Do you have a day job or other work that you split your time between?
I used to supplement my income as a gallery tech. I hung some amazing shows and met the likes of Turrell, Rosenquist and Keinholz to name a few. But now I manage to make a living from selling work. Just.
Do you have a mentor, or a piece of advice (or both), which has influenced your practice?
I have to acknowledge my parents here. Both have laid out a pathway for me in their own ways. They’ve never given advice as such, instead they’ve always given me the space to find my own way. More than that, it’s as if they are trying to learn from me! They are good artists so they are hungry to absorb a younger perspective, and that in turn, gives you great confidence that your ideas are worthy.
Is there any piece of advice you would offer to others?
Artistically, no. I think everyone has the right to fuck things up on their own! Career-wise though, I would say not just to persist, but INSIST. I think you have to insist that people hear and see you.
What does it mean to you to have a “community?”
I’m not sure community is a big part of how I think. One of the few luxuries of being an artist is answering only to yourself. That’s sound arrogant, I don’t mean that I don’t value the relationships I have with other artists! On the contrary. I just mean that ultimately I prefer the lone-wolf approach.
I have an ongoing curatorial project called Freecursor. Freecursor is much more actively about the community of artist-run spaces we have around London and gives me more chance to hook up with interesting people doing interesting things. More about it on Instagram.
What is your studio like?
My studio is a lovely, large, top floor of a two-story red brick building in London, not far from the Tate Modern. I had 10 studios in 10 years previously before I got lucky and found this one. My friends hate me for having it, I am very lucky.
Do you have any routines or rituals in the studio that get you into the mode or mindset to make your work?
I treat it like a regular job. I go in after dropping my daughter at school, and stay until 6.30pm. I listen to music after lunch, but never in the morning.
How significant has attending art school been on your practice?
I spent 5 years at art college but chose not to pursue a Masters. After my BA I felt impatient to get out there and start. I don’t regret not having an MFA, but I do think it can help you to assimilate into the art system a lot more quickly. I feel like it took years to garner the attention I would have gotten on the the back of an advanced degree course.
I had mixed experiences of art college, generally. I loved my time at Chelsea. We would do a different subject every two weeks. One week making a film the next doing pottery… I guess it suited my natural way of working, as well as my short span of attention.
Later I did a degree in Illustration. Probably the wrong course, at the wrong time. I spent the whole time in the print room learning how to etch and screen print etc. I loved that
What do you find most daunting, challenging, or frustrating about pursuing art?
The fear of being over-looked is the most daunting aspect to me. There are so many voices and I am generally not a loud-shouter. Luckily, my desire not to talk is outweighed by my fear of being overlooked! So I can and will put myself forward, as I am doing now, in order to be included, but it is still the most challenging part.
How would you define “success” in art?
For me, I know when I’ve made an good piece of work…and when I haven’t. So success is the moments that converge to create something I can live with going into the future and I know rings true.
On a less romantic level I set myself the goal of making a living from art, without doing another job, from the very beginning. Of course, your goals change over time but I’ve tried to remind myself of this when things don’t go my way. Not beating yourself up too often is another reasonable definition of success!
What is the most exciting thing you’ve done or accomplished so far, related to your work?
I won an art prize in 2007 called the Celeste here in London. I’d been trying so hard to get seen for a while and it was hard. So winning the prize finally opened doors for me and helped financially, that was exciting.
Last year I spent time in South Korea making a big sculpture on the beach for the Busan Biennale and doing a fair in Seoul. Getting out to Asia for the first time professionally was a huge eye-opener and I hope helped to shift my euro-american centric perspective. I am looking forward to working more out there.
Are you involved in any collaborative or self-organized projects?
Yes, as I mentioned I have a curatorial project running along side my practice called Freecursor. This is very much a fluid entity that takes on different guises. But right now I’m really excited about a few things we are doing in the Freecursor name. Freecursor lets me collaborate as an artist or a curator or anything else beyond the concerns of the market. I also hide behind its anonymity so I’m not too sure I should be letting on! But hey, you asked.
What are you working on right now?
I am continuing to explore the possibilities of painting as touched upon by Cult Event Volumes and seeing where that goes. I’m looking forward to repeating a months residency at the CCA Andratx in Mallorca early next year. And there are various art fairs and group shows to attend to. Mostly, I am still into probing the depths of what a painting can be by transcribing it into different fields such as couture. I like the idea of drawing with the canvas rather than on it, that’s where I’m at at the moment
Anything else you would like to add?
Only that there is so much more to say and that.
Find much more at shanebradford.com and on Instagram @shanebradfordstudio!
Robert Bradford says
Thanks for the ‘credit’ and nice comments about parents Shaney .. and congrats on the work itself ! Robert Bradford 🙂
Thanks Pops! All true..
I’m full of cold, can’t sleep, surfing through the internet looking at your work, Jasper’s work, Darrel’s Simone’s work and feel sad that there’s no Su’s work. I’ve spent years teaching so not totally wasted. Although right now I feel stuffed in a box, like i can’t breath, I just want a room with so many tins of paint, of every colour imaginable and I feel so very far from that goal right now. I have so much I want to say in paint. So much, It’s like looking at how well you have all done has given me a massive shake up. Thank you. Proud of you all. I will try to come to see your exhibition. Love to you.x