Lucas Price Studio Visit & Interview07/12/2012
British artist Lucas Price is mostly undefinable; his work transcends a number of disciplines of contemporary art, music and apparel. The artists' best description used to identify him is multidisciplinary; he is a contemporary creator who's main forms of creative work equilibrate and complement each other. With an exceptionally intriguing personal background of extended art history, he is also currently working with Japanese-designer Kazuki Kuraishi on menswear label AFOUR, exercising his talents with challenging new mediums. Lucas' early beginnings in street art and graffiti under the moniker 'Cyclops' provided the ultimate base to develop his style into a fine art element - work that now poetically depicts sculptural forms in hyper-realist oils. Lucas Price showed us around his East London studio in the lead up to his next solo exhibition 'T.E.A.M. Atlas', opening this week in London's Rove Gallery.
Joanna Kawecki: Lucas, you have an incredibly diverse background, with multidisciplinary being the best word to describe you. Please give us a brief insight into your beginnings and how you came to where you are now.
Lucas Price: I didn't come from a particularly creative background... My mother was involved in fashion and was a big influence I think, she had an incredible ability to find peculiar objects at markets and her house was stuffed with massive Astrakhan coats and Senegalese sculptures.
My first real experience of creating, was using a tape deck to make a mixtape, pushing pause and rewind and making this stop-start remix. I wanted to copy Terminator X's transformer cuts on "Terminator X speaks with his Hands", so it was the mix tape, and graffiti. I think it's quite an important thing, to discover something creative and for that to be married with the idea of illegality and danger. So I started there, but then I went on a 10 year heroin bender, which was a kind of detour and when I straightened up I wanted to pick up where I left off I suppose. I went to college and started hanging out with people who had been to the Royal Academy and the Royal College of Art but who were going out painting trains at night and I liked that mix. I found myself with just a kind of formless desire to paint, and it was good timing. Graffiti or street art was kind of becoming something people were interested in and Banksy had pushed this door open, and so I think me and whole bunch of people ran through. I started selling work, while I was still working out what I was doing which is blessing and a curse. I got a little tired of street art then, not particularly the people but I needed to challenge myself, and I was aware of that. I had a really terrible winter one year - someone I knew had just killed themselves and I was feeling kind of stuck. I knew I needed to grow and change and I thought that by going to some big art establishment place I'd somehow challenge myself. They let me in, amazingly and to their credit. So that's where I'm at now, in my final year, I graduate next summer.
JK: The upcoming show Team Atlas, is one of your solo exhibitions in London. What were your initial thoughts when establishing your theme or direction for the artworks?
LP: It's complicated... isn't that one of the options on Facebook when you get to list your current relationship status? My relationship to art and making is complicated. But this show was built as kind of a stepping stone, away from the stuff I've been making toward something more diverse. Without wanting to draw any comparisons to anyone, I liked the idea of Richter's Atlas, also Abbie Warburg, and say Hannah Hoch's scrapbooks. The idea of a way of systemising... I mean all those people are German and systemisation seems to come a lot more naturally. For me the idea of the Atlas or the book even was just a way of referencing all these things and to suggest a kind of catalogue. This being the first show with this idea in mind, I can see it being difficult to draw correlations between the individual works but for me they all have a kind of significance. Like the NBA logo has been changed to NCA which stands for the New Correlative Atlas, which is a future work...and that in turn relates to the Basketballs. The MPAA logo references another idea I have that hasn't been made yet, which is about film and film stills. So it's not all laid out in super obvious terms and is part of something that goes on into the future.
JK: The paintings are beautifully realistic, initially they look like over-saturated photographs! Was there a reason the works were so immaculately painted, depicting realism?
LP: I think I wanted to make this obvious, the idea of cataloguing, like they remind me of mugshots, or police evidence photography. So, they are placed in this scheme of flattening, all with equal value under the gaze of the observer. Objectification.
JK: Pairing your images of plants, statues of Jesus, basketballs and text taken from Ghostface Killah lyrics - what is the narrative between your images that you'd like the viewer to create?
LP: I think it's a start somehow for me, I wanted to bring in language, monochrome, abstraction. On the one hand I definitely feel as though everything is connected. It's hippy as fuck but I think it happens to be true. And so, it's up to the viewer I think, to draw these conclusions. For me they are all fragments that are snatched from a larger, much larger scheme or story. I think the easiest way to describe it is if you imagine seeing a film that has been obliterated into all it's component still images and a few of these have been re presented. Not quite at random. They have relationships but they aren't quite so obvious because some of the material is missing, and I can't do anything about that until I make the new work which leads on from this point.
JK: Before being accepted into the RCA's Painting course, you had no prior education in the arts, and your work seems based more on intuition. How important is formal training in the arts, and does this have an influence on your style of work?
LP: I think going into the academic system, I mean the tradition of the arts education system is a thing in itself. I think you can't teach art for one. You can supply the environment, and encouragement and criticism. And I've learned a lot, and also learned what I don't know and maybe what I'm not, which is great. To see how bad and hammy and corny your ideas are. I think intuition is an amazing thing, maybe the only thing. But I think art begins to work when you have a degree of research and enquiry and that's the struggle maintaining the balance between the two. Playfulness and rigour.
JK: What are your thoughts on the abundant art scene in London?
LP: I think it's healthy, good, bad. I'm not such a scene person so I couldn't really give you an insightful answer on that... I mean it's as good as it is bad. It creates complications but then out of that grows support and so on, so I suppose it's ok. I mean maybe it's one of the only industries we have left, and artists need artists and we definitely have some of the best work being made here.
JK: After the show, what else are you working on for us to keep an eye out on!
LP: I'm working (together with Kazuki Kuraishi) on a clothing label called A.Four which is co designed by both of us. So we're showing a small collection at Capsule in Paris next year, alongside Cash Ca. And we have a collaboration between ourselves and Ryan Gander which I'm excited about. I want to focus on making work for the show at RCA in the summer.
Photographer - Grey Sperling