(Interview) Debut Contemporary | Apr 2012

Abigail Box’s current work forms part of an ongoing exploration into the curiousness about existence and toys with the contradiction involved in feeling both a sense of belonging and feeling displaced. Wild animals are introduced into a series of human environments to provoke a fresh and inquisitive perspective onto something familiar. In attempting to reflect upon everyday surroundings along with conventions and behaviour that in part create a feeling of being an ‘outsider’, Box questions the parameters of individual space and the associated difficulties with confronting and comprehending our own reality.

We caught up with Abi as she finishes her Exhibition ‘Call of the Wild’ in Hong Kong and leads on with a new Exhibition entitled ‘The Great Escape’ at DegreeArt in London.

DC: Congratulations on your solo show in Hong Kong, How did if feel to exhibit internationally?

AB: It’s really nice to know that the work is reaching more places and people. And it’s encouraging to know that someone thinks enough of the work to fly it half way around the world for an exhibition.

DC: What is the art scene like over there?

AB: “Hong Kong’s art scene has exploded”. I read that in HK Magazine just before I went over. I only went for a short time but I’d agree that the art scene is shifting, Hong Kong is now engaging the international art scene. White Cube, Ben Brown Fine Arts and Gagosian all now have galleries in Hong Kong, which has encouraged both the local art scene to work with artists from further afield and the local collectors to be more adventurous with the art that they choose to buy and support.

DC: How did you find the whole experience on the opening night? How was the feedback from your work in ‘Call of the Wild’?

AB: Identity Art Gallery is a really smart space and Carol did an incredible job curating the exhibition. Lot’s of people came to the opening including a few of the gallerists that I had met whilst going about the surrounding galleries in the week leading up to the opening; Hollywood Road is a hot spot for local gallery spaces. Also, I was able to met in person a couple of the people who had bought work and talk to them about it, which is always a nice thing to be able to do, I like to ask what it is about the piece that they like or where they envisage hanging the piece.

Video of the opening night

DC: How long were you in Hong Kong for? Where did you visit?

AB: I arrived in Hong Kong on the Kowloon side at night which meant I was immediately faced with a whole load of massively over the top neon signs – my favorite: http://flic.kr/p/bi3i5V. I went for a week, Hong Kong is… a huge mixture of skyscrapers, street markets, parks, restaurants, shopping – an insane amount of shopping. A very busy and happening atmosphere. I enjoyed taking a day out from all of that to go on one of the Hong Kong walks, you can take a bus to a small town called Shek O and then walk along The Dragons Back, which is very peaceful and has beautiful views of the coast. Whilst on the island, some of the galleries I visited included Contemporary by Angela Li where there was some photography by Chen Kiagang, Connoisseur Contemporary which had interesting work by Zhou Siwei and Cais Gallery which was showing work by Mayuka Yamamoto, paintings of children dressed up as animals and Christmas trees, amazing.

A blog on my trip to Hong Kong

Photos from the trip

DC: Tell us about your new upcoming exhibition ‘The Great Escape’

AB: The exhibition will run from 5 – 27 April at DegreeArt on Vyner St, London and the opening will fall on the First Thursday monthly event 6 – 9 pm. Also, I’ve been planning with DegreeArt to have a few events surrounding the show, we we’re thinking of making a video interview and perhaps an artist tour of the exhibition. I’m showing ten or so paintings so I’ve just been looking at the floor plans trying to work out how best to put them in the space. The DegreeArt directors Elinor and Isobel and Gallery Manger Ryan are always very enthusiastic about ideas for exhibition, they’re recently launched The Execution Room as a new concept for the gallery being a space for both new ideas surrounding curatorial experimentation. My favorite so far has been ‘Forest of Art’; installation artist Sophie Colley filled the room with sixteen Pine trees. Then a selection of artists from DegreeArt made work appropriate for a forest. I took the opportunity to paint an owl, they’ll also be some owls in ‘The Great Escape’ exhibition. They’re around life size, so not very big and I don’t usually paint small paintings so now I’m considering at some point in the future painting an owl but 6 ft high.

DC: What can we expect from the show?

AB: Paintings which are just absurd enough to inspire curiosity. I’m showing a collection of images in which wild cats have found their way into suburbia, with a few of them making themselves at home on the couch. I like the humor behind a gigantic wild cat having a nap on the sofa in the hallway. Also, I hope the work can be appreciated simply on a technical level, I really enjoy working out how to paint certain parts of each piece, there are usually a lot of different surfaces to each of my paintings, softly painted areas or messy, parts with really obvious brushmarks, bits that have been painted with the edge of a card. Hopefully, that’s something people will find as interesting as I find experimenting with.

DC: Where do you find inspiration?

AB: Looking at work by other artists often has me thinking that I’d like to try out similar techniques or ideas. The Makiko Kudo exhibition currently on at Wilkinson gallery has just had me jotting down lots of thoughts for how I would like to give a go at applying paint in a similar way at some point. The surfaces in Kudo’s paintings are much rougher than my own, almost to the point of looking like areas of the canvas were filled in a rush. It’s a finish that I think you have to be quite brave to be able to not over work. I’d love to think that sometimes that kind of inspiration might happen for someone looking at my own work. That would make me really happy. Sometimes one painting will inspire the next, for instance I took a photo of a painting in progress at one point whilst it had a wooden stepladder standing in front of it. I liked it so much that now I’ve plans for actually painting a ladder into a future piece of work, again it will be in the foreground and look almost as though it’s not apart of the painting. Similarly, sometimes I’ll be inspired by an accidental application of paint that works out unexpectedly well and I’ll plan to recreate the same effect again in another piece. Also, I’m always finding new pictures that I’d like to work with, photographs that trigger ideas for a new composition or a new idea for how I’d like to render a surface that I haven’t worked with before. People who know my work have even started suggesting to me their own ideas for what I could have happening in my paintings, and I get a fair few photos emailed to me, things like bears eating at picnic benches.

DC: How do you like working in London?

AB: London is fantastic for being involved with art; we’re spoilt for choice with exhibition, galleries, inspiration, talks and events. I went to a kite making session last weekend, it’s been running for a couple of weeks and at the end we’re all heading to somewhere like London Fields or Victoria Park to fly them. Then, my studio is in East London and it’s nice for people to be able to come and see the space, I think it’s interesting to see the place people make their work. Having said all of that, there’s a lot online now too, I listen to a lot of artist conversations, talks on the Tate Channel for instance but I’ll always appreciate being able to attend certain things in person.

DC: Where’s your favourite place to relax in London?

AB: The Aubin Gallery on Redchurch St. has and independent cinema in the basement; it has a bar and extremely comfortable armchairs and sofas. That can all be pretty relaxing so long as you don’t go see a thriller.

The Great Escape exhibition runs from 6th April to the 27th. More information on DegreeArt.com

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