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Interview

ALEXANDER MASSOURAS

PULSE PRIZE WINNER 2011 | LOS ANGELES


Every Now and Then , 2015, Lithograph, 22 x 27in. Courtesy of the artist.

Every Now and Then, 2015, Lithograph, 22 x 27in. Courtesy of the artist.

Tell us a bit about your background and how you came to be an artist and critic?

I remember drawing rooftops when I was about six and the pleasure of inventing and recognizing something at the same time hasn’t gone away. The writing has come about fairly naturally—ideas unify my work across its different forms; one series of work can look quite unlike another, but it is all linked conceptually. Writing and making are both processes for working through ideas, and when I’m tired of cleaning brushes, typing at a computer is very refreshing. I’m surprised this combination isn’t more common—perhaps there are lots of artists hiding behind different critic pen names.

Locking Piece , 2014, Oil on linen, 12 x 8in. Courtesy of the artist.

Locking Piece, 2014, Oil on linen, 12 x 8in. Courtesy of the artist.

Could you expand on the series you exhibited at PULSE 2011 and how it felt to receive the award?

I showed paintings from my series of divers at PULSE 2011. They were the first iteration of an ongoing experiment in seeing how reduced the context for a figure could be in a painting. I’d been shortlisted for a few prizes before but had never won, so it was a new experience and certainly a very good one. It was also my first trip to LA, a city which I love and where several of my friends now live; normally when I travel I look forward to returning home, but that doesn’t seem to apply to California. And artistically there is plenty going on there, too.

You were involved in a 2016 edition of Art in Print explaining the importance of cast collections and how it ties into the culture of reproduction and originality in our society today. Could you tell us how this plays into your work and how your art has developed over the years?

There is something about casts’ deferred status which is very appealing—they always point upstream, to an original which is often so disembodied or contested as to be notional or even imaginary. Thinking about casts was a route into ideas about repetition, time, and the circulation of imagery: those are most apparent in work like Every Now and Then (above), which shows 720 clock faces configured to each hour and minute combination in the twelve hour cycle: it always tells the right time, but also partly depends on the viewer to do that. I made the Sculpture Paintings as a response to the translation of imagery through different reproductive technologies: postcards of bronze sculptures which were tainted by the colour casts of 1970s printing—a high-status (and heavy) medium being translated into a low-status, circulating one. I took those postcards and painted them in oil on canvas or on panel to close the circle in terms of the objects’ material status. I’m not sure about the work’s development, but I like the idea that it takes all the previous things you've made to get to the thing you’re making now.

Night Flare , 2019, 16 x 20in. Courtesy of the artist.

Night Flare, 2019, 16 x 20in. Courtesy of the artist.

Do you feel that the access to the Internet and various social media channels has affected that way that you create art and how you view art?

Most of my work addresses mechanical reproduction and the circulation of imagery, especially plaster casts and chemical photography, which are forerunners to internet and social media phenomena. But I’m fairly materialistic, creatively speaking. So I can’t see the work itself moving away from analogue processes, however conceptually inflected it may be by the digital reproduction and circulation we’re currently experiencing.

What is the best piece of advice you’ve ever received?

The best advice I’ve heard, which isn’t quite the same thing, was from a sculptor who said if inspiration wasn’t coming the thing to do was to mix some plaster (it dries quickly).  You can’t quite get the same urgency from squeezing oil out of a tube, but it is a reminder that the material also generates work. Make the work you most want to make: I like hearing that and repeating it, although it is difficult to imagine not doing it. I think David Hockney said something to the effect of: always be painting so that when the muses come they find you working. That's good advice, but I'm not very good at following it.

What’s coming up next for you?

In October, I’m in a group exhibition at Kettle’s Yard, and have a solo show at King’s College, Cambridge. I’ll be showing recent work across print, sculpture and painting, all connected by themes of time and fragmentation.  


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