Susie Pentelow interviews Iavor Lubomirov on the occasion of his exhibition ‘Haolcines’, at Jessica Carlisle, London. ‘Haloclines’ explores the collaborative working process and sees Lubomirov making work in pairings with Katrina Blannin, Abi Box, Lee Edwards, Rab Harling, Lee Maelzer and Valeriya N-Georg.
For this exhibition, you have collaborated with six different artists. What has this process highlighted for you? Did it reveal certain constants within your own practice?
Yes, it’s interesting, collaborating with so many artists who work so differently, hasn’t just opened up new possibilities, but indeed revealed to me a recurring core in my own work. Some of this I was already aware of – my predilection for small increments, the allure of the built curve, but also it has affirmed for me the physical and emotional necessity I feel for making work outside my own narrow personal existence, to connect and grow and interact in art as in life.
How do you relate to the works you have made in these collaborative pairings? Do they feel as much your own as works made entirely by you?
Not at all, there is an emotional uncertainty attached to these works and I feel very aware of the other artist’s work. It has taken me a much longer time to work out how to reconfigure the canvases of Maelzer and Box, Harling’s photographs, and N-Georg’s print, than my own work typically would, and this is in large part due to considerations I have felt for the images I have been given: thinking about how they will change and whether parts will be lost due to my process; whether or not this is acceptable/justifiable for the final outcome; what the other artist’s work is about and what it’s trying to say, how I will change this and how my shapes and structures relate to theirs.
In fact all the artists have been very generous in allowing me a free hand to alter and transform their work, but I am constantly aware that a poor decision will affect not just my art, but theirs. And then there is the collaboration with Lee Edwards, where the table is turned and I have entrusted him with my earliest paper sculpture (a very precious piece for me) and the excitement and trepidation I feel allow me to keep a level on how the other artists are likely to feel about my intervention in their work.
What is the significance of the title, ‘Haloclines’?
A halocline is a visible difference that occurs when salt water mixes with fresh water, for example where a river flows into the sea. This effect occurs in other ways in nature too, and there are other types of cline, but it is this particular phenomenon that struck me when I first discovered it, as having a familiar quality that I had observed in collaborative works (my own and others’), where the art object is one body, but the separate influences of the makers can be observed. Each work in this show is both a single artwork and a pair of artworks. I had the title in mind about half way into the project, before I had actually cut anything, and it has influenced the way the final works have come out. For example with both Maezler and Box, I decided to leave half the sculpture plain and use the other half as support for their cut up canvases. So that depending on where you stand you will observe a work that could be entirely mine, then as you walk around to the other side it is transformed and the painted image becomes dominant. This is more subtle in my collaboration with Blannin, where the ‘cline’ is conceptual. I’m not sure how easily accessible this will be to observers of the work – they seem to be very clearly Katrina Blannin paintings, made by a single artist’s hand, but the geometry is something I’ve been playing with for about 8 years and I personally find it very striking and moving. I am able to look at these works and see both Katrina and me, both separately and as a whole.
You are an artist and curator, and the nature of this show suggests both roles came into play. Was this the case?
Absolutely. In a way this is another cline within the show. It can so easily be seen as a group show. The way in which I approached the artists and put the work together to me is an entirely familiar curatorial process. The only difference is that I also inhabit this exhibition and each of the works in it. So while it could be seen as a solo show – the press release certainly seems to suggest this – it is unavoidably plain that I am also curating here and having the kind of conversation with the artists in the show that a curator would. There is also history here. I have previously curated exhibitions with each of the artists in this show, except for Lee Edwards – we were both in an exhibition called Perfectionism, curated by Becca Pelly-Fry. But then I have also exhibited alongside most of the artists in group shows.
What does 2017 look like for you?
Well, I am a very, very slow maker. To me 2017 is a step along a bigger stairwell to another show much further down the line. To give some perspective, my last UK solo show was in 2008. There are a number of works I want to make a start on, mostly with the artists I have been collaborating with for this show – there is lots to explore there still. There are also a couple of new artists I am cautiously thinking about approaching for collaborations, if they will have me. That’s the artist’s answer. The curator’s answer is a bit more full on. I help to run LUBOMIROV / ANGUS-HUGHES and we have a myriad of exciting projects scheduled there right into 2018. But my role there is curatorial in a slightly removed sense, in that I am curating a programme of shows by other curators, as opposed to directly curating shows (more ‘clines’?). I do hope I will have time in 2017 to also curate on an exhibition level, perhaps outside the gallery.
Interview by Susie Pentelow.
‘Haloclines’ runs between 14 and 18 of December 2016 at Jessica Carlisle, London W1U 2BF, with a private view on Tuesday 13 December 6-9 pm. For more information, visit http://www.jessicacarlisle.com.
Find out more about Iavor Lubomirov’s practice at www.iavor.co.uk.