OLIVER HERBERT

oliver heCH.89: If you were to categorize or describe the style of your artwork, what would it be and why?

OH: It’s really difficult for me to categorize my style, it’s eclectic if anything. I’m often surprised about what I make, as often it can appear totally separate to the thing I made before. I suppose I’m a peculiar artist in that way. I can find myself drawing, painting, producing video or making something very performative at any one time. The one thing that really links my work is an interest in narrative. I’m obsessed with where people or things come from and disrupting this.

CH.89: Where do you draw your inspiration from?

OH: I get so excited walking the streets of South East London where I live and work. It’s a fascinating place home to one of the most diverse communities in the city. I often think of it as an enclave of disorder in the best possible way – many areas untamed by the creeping gentrification that has sterilized the rest of the city. I spend hours strolling around looking. I love the stores on Deptford High Street, they’re far more nurturing to my ideas than a gallery (the last place I look for inspiration) you can buy a goats head, disco lights, a Mosque alarm clock and dismembered chicken feet all under one roof. I like the feeling of story in these places.

CH.89: Can you talk a little bit about what your creative thought process is like when starting a new project/ piece of artwork?

OH: I start by looking. I’ll get obsessed with an image, it used to be my Grandmas ornaments or a Matisse painting in my parent’s living room. Now it’s Leni Riefenstahl’s Africa photographs. Next I start to extend and extrapolate histories, stories and an identity onto this ‘thing’, these could be real or imagined but are always quite extreme. Next I’ll start to draw and let the idea take on it’s own form. I’m a bit like a lazy parent with my work – I have no control over if it misbehaves and often it does. My work always has a dark side.

CH.89: Is there anything in particular that you would want people to take from your artwork?

OH: I want people to question. I read a great quote from Gilbert and George recently; “We want our art to bring out the bigot from inside the liberal and conversely to bring out the liberal from inside the bigot.” I hope to challenge, dislodge and disrupt perception.

CH.89: Can you talk a little bit about your lifestyle as an artist and what that is like?

OH: I have a bit of a split personality. During the day I teach, a job that I absolutely love and find a major inspirational force in my practice. I’m part of the Artist Teacher Scheme, which is closely related to Goldsmiths University of London. The idea is that instead of teaching in traditional sense we collaborate and join a community with our students, it’s really energizing to be around all these young minds finding their voice as artists. I love the school, the students have real stories to tell, they’re artists in a very raw state. On my way home from work I will be researching, taking detours and exploring London, sometimes I see something that catches my eye, which I will bring home and add to my collection. After dinner, I draw, research, then maybe watch a film- I’m particularly fond of Pedro Almodovar.

Outside of term time- I immerse myself in my practice, I consolidate my ideas and research. I get up early, go for a run to clear my mind, then spend the whole day in the study. At first it feels like a luxury but after a few weeks I find the solitude unnerving.

CH.89: When starting out an artistic task, do you think it is better to have a particular direction/set plan guiding your way? Or, is it better to act on impulse and go from there?

OH: I never ever have a plan – I find it damaging. This has probably resulted in more failures than successes but those have all been valuable failures.

CH.89: What is one major lesson you’ve learned as an artist thus far?

OH: It’s okay to stop.

CH.89: Do you regard personal style & taste to be of highest importance?

OH: Absolutely not. I find it extremely irritating to be honest. I feel that Art is entering into a very dangerous territory at the moment, more akin to window dressing or decoration. I recently visited some of the London degree shows, a place where we should be seeing the most original and exciting work from artists as the very start of their careers, I left feeling so depressed. Everything looked the same. Pastel colours, spider plants, abstract concrete structures and over exposed photographs of palm trees. I think we’re entering a period of homogeny- I blame the internet.

CH.89: What do you consider to be the hardest thing about being an artist?

OH: Confidence.

CH.89: What is one thing you love about being an artist?

OH: You can say and make whatever you like- its an uncensored profession in this country, we need to protect that.

CH.89: Is there anyone in particular, any artist’s that inspire you in any way?

OH: This changes daily – I don’t have any set favorite artists. I really love the photography of Wolfgang Tillmans and I’ve just discovered Lorenzo Vitturi, he’s made an amazing book called Dalston Anatomy that I’ve just bought. I’m a huge fan of Mike Kelly and was so sad when he died a couple of years ago. I love his Kandor project, so un-nerving, beautiful and futuristic.

CH.89: What do you think of technology in terms of being a useful tool for artists today?

OH: I think it great that artists are able to connect so easily- the internet is a great leveler, anyone can create and show art work nowadays, which I love. However, I think the internet has a dark side. We’re so exposed to images through Tumblr, Instagram and other sources that everything gets mashed together- we seem to be pandering to a house style- this is nothing new, what’s scary is it’s a global house style.

CH.89: Do you think being an artist allows you to view the world differently from those who don’t follow creative paths?

OH: I don’t think I could comment on that- I don’t know how other people view the world. I think it’s dangerous if artists see themselves as having a separate world view to every body else.

CH.89: Do you enjoy traveling? If so, do you have a favorite city?

OH: I love travelling. It’s a huge source of inspiration to me. This year I’m off to India, Turkey and El Salvador. I think my favorite city is Cairo- I love the chaos and the heat- not to mention the tinge of danger in the air. I would love to visit all the places the Bush administration dubbed as the ‘Axis of Evil’, North Korea, Iran and Iraq. In fact I’m looking up flights to Iraq right now, it’s easier to reach than you would think!

CH.89: Do you have a favorite author or book?

OH: I’ve just read a Brave New World by Aldous Huxley which was brilliant. One book I come back to time and time again is The Handmaids Tale by Margaret Atwood, I read it when I was 16 and it fascinates me. I love anything dystopian.

CH.89: Any future goals or plans for your artwork?

OH: Early next year I’m planning a solo show in London, which will be really interesting. I’m currently developing an online lifestyle brand SUPERMERCADO SHOP in collaboration with Jose Campos, the concept is part cultural documentary, part decoration. We’re off to India to source products to sell alongside artists prints. So far we sell a very eclectic range of porcelain dolls emblazoned with the Chanel logo from Glasgow to a candle to help you win a court case from Mexico City.

CH.89: What does being an artist mean to you?

OH: Being a visual story teller and explorer.

CH.89: Any last words on the aesthetic of your artwork?

OH: That’s a difficult question….

 

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