Spotlight: Christopher Pearson

This week we’ll be exploring the work of artist Christopher Pearson. A graduate from Central Saint Martins, Christopher’s work has been selected by both the 2018 and 2019 judging panel to be represented by Made in Arts London.

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Christopher Pearson with his series ‘Metallic Gestures’.

You have a few new collections of work on the Made in Arts London website including a series of sculptures called ‘Procession’ and ‘Splice’ and two prints, ‘Eruption in Blue’ and ‘Red Gesture’. Are these bodies of works connected?

These new works have all emanated from my ongoing exploration of how materiality performs itself as a subjective event. I am particularly interested in creating work which plays with the viewer’s embodied knowledge and haptic perception. Working with an open-ended, process-led methodology often results in unexpected outcomes and associations.

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A detail from Christopher’s ‘Eruption in Blue‘.

This is something I find particularly exciting as I am continually being surprised by readings of my work, leading me to investigate new subject matter and enabling my work to incite a diverse range of interpretations. All three of these bodies of work, despite having been made with different materials and techniques, are concerned with notions of transformation, anthropomorphism, theatricality, tactility, growth and gravity, so in my opinion there are multiple ways in which they are connected.

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All four ‘Splice‘ sculptures on display at ‘States of Mind‘, a Made in Arts London exhibition in partnership with Free Range for Art Week. Co-curated by artists  Yifan He, Lizzie Reid and Christopher Pearson.

How do you feel your practice has evolved or developed since you created ‘Metallic Gestures’, your first collection selected by our 2018 judging panel?

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Christopher’s work at Affordable Art Fair Hampstead, 2019 (left to right): Metallic Gestures I, Metallic Gestures III and Metallic Gestures VI.

‘Metallic Gestures’ was created with the idea of exploring how a bodily gesture operates spatially in two or three dimensions, whilst aiming to establish a clearer dialogue between my sculptures and prints. I am drawn to the reproducibility that printmaking offers, as well as the immensely satisfying moment of revealing the printed or embossed results. I saw this reproducibility as a way to subvert the impulsive nature of a gesture by making it no longer the product of just one moment in time but of several repetitions.

Moreover, I used metallic substrates in order to stage a parallel between these reproducible ‘frozen gestures’ and the never-ending flow of time reflected in the embossed image. My practice is still anchored by my interests in movement, time and the human body, but over the course of the last couple of years I have predominantly been using sculpture, rather than printmaking, as a means of negotiating polarities between fluid and frozen, fixity and changeability, and tension and slack.

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Left to right: Metallic Gestures II and I.

You have recently returned from the ‘Stokkøyart Collaborative Residency’ in Norway, based on the remote island of Stokkøya with three other artists. How did you hear about the residency and why did it appeal to you/how did you get involved?

I heard about the residency through Instagram as I was contacted by the residency organiser through this platform directly after she had seen images I had posted of my degree show work. I have a friend who participated in the residency programme last year from whom I sought advice before accepting my place on the project and his exact words were “absolutely go – don’t even think about not going”. So, after I had done some more research on the area and seen online the installations made by previous year groups, I had an informal video call with the organiser which went well and shortly after that I booked my flights.

I personally enjoy collaborations very much as they enable you to think bigger than just your own abilities. For example, the metal we used for our sculptures would have been far too heavy and impractical for just one artist to work with, but once it became clear that we all wanted to use this material we realised that this was, in fact, within our shared capability. This, for me, is the best part of a collaboration: the much-increased scope of possibilities brought about by having four minds, bodies and voices committed to one project.

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The landscape on the island of Stokkøya, Norway.

Were there set outcomes for the residency or things you were hoping to challenge or expand for yourself?

One of the biggest challenges I felt that we faced was the fact that the residency lasted for only one month. I am used to having a long period of trial, error and research before I am able to reach a resolved body of work, so, I found it exciting to work on something fast-paced and all-consuming, as well as having the pressure of knowing that our final sculptures would be public and become part of the landscape. I think this pressure really pushed us to squeeze every drop of energy and willpower into the project and create the best installation that we could.

After a week of introductions, presentations, workshops and site visits, we were left with three weeks to produce an ambitious sculptural project that needed to be site-specific and able to do battle with the Norwegian winter. The site-specificity of this project was a further learning curve for my practice as an artist, leading me to reconsider the importance of site when creating future work. The materials we chose to use were salvaged from the nearby landslide, a catastrophe which framed our experiences on the residency and steered the topics of our investigations into the relationship between nature and social infrastructure.

 

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“I found it exciting…knowing that our final sculptures would be public and become part of the landscape.” The island of Stokkøya, Norway.

Do you often have opportunities to work collaboratively in your practice, if not how did you find working with other artists to create artworks?

I love to work collaboratively and have done so a few times in the past. In the summer of 2018 I was selected to participate in the ‘Global Art Practice Collaboration‘ which took place across the UK, Japan, Hong Kong and China. This project was open to MA Fine Art, MA Graphic and Communication Design, MA Culture, Criticism and Curation, and MA Arts and Cultural Enterprise students from Central Saint Martins and MA Global Art Practice students from Tokyo University of the Arts (Geidai).

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The coast on the island of Stokkøya, Norway.

Nine students from each institution were chosen to take part in this project consisting of workshops, lectures, site visits and an exhibition. In each metropolis, we experienced the impact of globalisation on language, culture, trade, economy and tourism, and, most of all, how this is structured around socially and politically constructed borders.

 

I am also part of Alter Us, an art movement which responds to our current global situation, dealing with issues surrounding the ecological crisis and human relations in the twenty-first century. Together we have written and performed our question-based manifesto, hosted exhibitions and met regularly to discuss topics such as sustainability, (dis)connection, social challenges, capitalism, nature versus technology, and the very process of questioning.

I also collaborated with several other artists on a sculpture and performance-based project for ‘Art Night 2019‘ earlier this year as part of the ‘Unified Work of Art’ project in Granary Square, King’s Cross which celebrated the centenary of the Bauhaus.

 

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Sunset on the island of Stokkøya, Norway.

What were the final pieces you made with the other artists while on the residency and how did you choose to display them?

 

The final pieces we created, entitled ‘På utrygg grunn’ in Norwegian which translates to English as ‘On Precarious Ground’, were informed by the fragility and unpredictability of the earth beneath our feet. This was something we began to think about as the journey from Trondheim airport to Stokkøya was redirected as a result of a landslide almost entirely decimating the road which connected the island to mainland Norway. Consequently, we travelled to Stokkøya by boat; the way the island’s inhabitants and visitors did for centuries prior to the modern bridges and roads being built.

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Part of ‘På utrygg grunn’, the artwork Christopher worked on with Kirsten Bertelsen, Ingrid Pumayalla and Michael Taiwo for the ‘Stokkøyart Collaborative Residency, 2019.

This led us to consider questions around the liability of infrastructure and what happens when it fails to perform. We channelled our experiences and research into the production of an installation comprising five painted sculptures constructed from steel crash barriers found amongst the chaos of natural debris at the landslide site. The colours we collaboratively chose to paint each sculpture were sourced from sensory experiences we had with the landscape throughout our stay: the bright orange of the sour ‘sea buckthorn’ berries we ate, the amber yellow of chanterelle mushrooms we foraged, the cold grey-blue of the clay we dug from the ground with our hands, the mint green of the ropes used by boats in the local area, and a fleshy pink colour we called ‘bleached peach’ that was chosen to represent the femininity of some of the sculptural forms.

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På utrygg grunn/On Precarious Ground’, Stokkøya, Norway, 2019.

Each shape had been transformed by the catastrophe from its sleek, streamlined original form to contorted, irregular and characterful objects which express the landscape’s act of rebellion against excessive industrial development. We accompanied this installation with a recorded sound work which consisted of us reading social media posts relating to the landslide and the transportation issues it created, resulting in the building of new social infrastructure.

 

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På utrygg grunn/On Precarious Ground’, Stokkøya, Norway, 2019.

Bygda 2.0 who supports the residency invites Central Saint Martins students to help them realise their vision to “create a contemporary interpretation of the Norwegian village by creating a unique, sustainable and modern society situated adjacent to the seashore that maintains an awareness of temporal and spatial scales”. Was this important to you and if so why?

Directly beside the sea, Bygda 2.0 comprises state-of-the-art houses, a village hall, a wood workshop, an office, a studio where we worked whilst in residence (which used to be the island brewery) and a bakery. The patch of land occupied by Bygda 2.0 used to be mountain rock which was partially blown up to widen and extend the roads. Therefore, the land on either side of the road was once seen as ruined and uninhabitable until it was purchased and redeveloped by Bygda 2.0.

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Stokkøya, Norway, 2019.

The initiative shaped our experiences on the island as it was a socially innovative midway point between the traditional fishing village near the bridge to mainland Norway and the more modern developments of the Hosen coastline where we lived during our stay. The contemporary perspective on rural living that this project is characterised by showed us that rural doesn’t have to mean sleepy or conservative: throughout our residency, we were welcomed with open arms by the islanders, who were all forward-looking, enthusiastic and creative individuals, a community which Bygda 2.0 seems to be strengthening through their sustainable take on a traditional Norwegian village.

What have you got planned next? 

  • A collaboration with Browns Fashion to produce an installation of sculptures in their windows in their South Molton Street shop in Mayfair and in their Shoreditch shop on Club Row. This project will coincide with London Fashion Week February 2020.
  • I have been shortlisted for the Clifford Chance Sculpture Award 2020, the winner of which will be announced next year once all proposals have been received.
  • I am currently working full-time as a sales assistant at David Mellor Design in Sloane Square.
  • As a member of the Alter Us artist collective, we are in the process of planning an exhibition which will respond to one of our key manifesto questions: “Are we running from our last sunset or towards a new sunrise?”
  • I am soon to be visiting the University of Leeds, the university from which I obtained my BA, to give an alumni talk and run an MA applications session.
  • Here is a link to my portfolio website for more information: https://christopherpearson.co.uk/
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Christopher Pearson (centre) with Yifan He (Left) and Lizzie Reid (Right) setting up their co-curated exhibition, ‘States of Mind’ at Truman Brewery as part of Free Range‘s Art Week. Photo © 2019, Stefon Grant, all rights reserved.

Browse Christopher Pearson’s work on Made in Arts London here or keep up with his current projects and follow him on social media: Instagram @christopher.pearson.art   Twitter @cpearsonartist.