Largest solo presentation to date of British artist Sam Lock | INTERVIEW
This September Cadogan Contemporary will be presenting Now/here, a solo exhibition featuring new work by the acclaimed British artist Sam Lock. Not only is this the artist’s largest solo presentation to date, but it is his third with the gallery and as Lock says, “there is a certainty and solidity to the new works that has grown over the last year”.
Comprised of fifteen medium and large-scale paintings, as well as sculptures and a suite of works on paper, the exhibition offers the chance to witness the artist at arguably the most exciting stage of his career so far. Notions of double meanings, loss, discovery and the overlapping of past and present are all key to understanding Lock’s entire oeuvre; in essence, each work is a meditation on the ambiguities of life revealed through abstraction.
The paintings are rendered in Lock’s trademark style; a canvas is prepared with gesso onto which layers of acrylic and household paint are applied and then manipulated — sanded, stained, scorched, sealed and torn — and also treated to the effects of a heat gun. The artist sees each canvas as a battleground, with the materials at war with one another. These collisions are orchestrated to some extent, but there is also a pervading element of chance and unpredictability, with paint colours changing due to unplanned physical and chemical interactions.
The sculptural works, which Lock describes as ‘containers of energy,’ are created from sheets of copper and, as with the paintings, are treated as ‘battlegrounds’, being sprayed with nitrate to achieve extraordinary reactions, as well as exposed to blow-torches and a club hammer. Intrinsic to these works will be the plinths on which they are mounted, which will have mirrored surfaces, lending them a further optic dimension and the implication of what the artist calls ‘the presence of absence’.
In advance of Lock’s exhibition, I had the chance to speak with him about his practice, process and inspirations.
How would you define your work in a few words in 3 words?
Found, lost, repeat.
What inspires / motivates you?
At the start of this year I spent a few days in Cologne and a gallerist there recommended visiting the exhibition “Pas de deux”, at Kolumba museum. This show was a duet between the Romano- Germanic museum (which was being renovated) and the Kolumba collections. The exhibition was literally overwhelming, dancing between themes of mortality, myth, time, space and the commonality of human existence. The juxtapositions in the show made your thought processes gymnastic and created associative ways of thinking and seeing. It nurtured you from looking, into feeling, and was life-changing for me. It reconnected me to the true point of art, galleries and museums as places that should spark you into life. In some ways seeing this show was day one for me as an artist; I think many extraneous things fell away from my own practice after seeing this exhibition, false anxieties and concerns that I didn’t need in my work. I haven’t been the same since.
Now/here is your largest solo exhibition to date what can we expect?
This show marks an important point for me and also Cadogan Contemporary who have been there since the beginning for me. It is our 3rd show together and there is a certainty and solidity to the works that has grown over the last year. The voice of the work is less faltering, less ambiguous and the show is held together by more substantial threads and common ideas such as the passage of time or the Harold Pinter idea that underneath what is being said, something else is being said. These works explore the overlapping of past and present, a sense of travelling with no clear destination, they aim to make you conscious of the flow of your thoughts from now into the past.
The idea of the canvas as ‘battleground’ with the materials at war with each other is interesting, can you say more about this?
I think this tells you something about the work and also something about me and the way I work. I like the way things don’t work out how you imagined, that intentions need to be disrupted, that I am always losing something and finding something unexpected. I deliberately set materials against each other so they crack, bubble, resist — it is in these marks and moments that the work gains a tension or a poignancy I think. It is a fine line between construction and destruction, but for me the outcomes of a physically confrontational way of making are most interesting.
Can you tell us about the process of making your work?
Time always flies past, it is elusive — I try to become aware of this movement when working. The colours and marks in my work always seems to be shifting. I like vanished things. Painting is a kind of mapping of the here and now which is vanishing continuously. There is something inherently poignant about the painting process, maps of lost moments found. I am always losing something in painting, I lose other futures and moments. Destinations are lost as others are arrived at. These works are presences and absences at that same time.
What about the place where you work? What’s your studio space like, and how does it affect your process?
My studio is not quaint or picturesque but part of a converted office on an Industrial Business Park not far from the sea. It has too many windows, a view onto a carpark and is too hot in summer — but it also has lots of elbow room and a sense of possibility and purpose that has really propelled the scale and ambition of my work. I have designed the space so it is conducive to painting, working with sculpture and installation; to encourage a free-flowing creative practice where anything is possible.
How do you know when an artwork is finished?
At some point the works no longer need me and my relationship with them shifts from maker into viewer — it is not fixed or always in the same place but there is a moment when instead of finding suggestions in the work on how to move things forward, I find myself aware that the work feels complete.
Can you name any artists you, lately or generally, take inspiration from?
Each time I find myself being tame, tentative, fearful I try and remember…..
The physicality and immediacy of Antoni Tapies
The unstoppable force and resilience of Sean Scully
The scale and ambition for creating of Anselm Kiefer