In the lead up to Reflection: Contemporary Portrait Exhibition at Surface Gallery, Nathan T. Dean has been interviewing the artists about their practice and the wider artistic environment today. All our artists have been asked the same questions on portraiture, selfie culture, art, and more, to get an insight into how an international array of artists - all coming together under one set form of portraiture - can explore, tackle, and discuss the form in such varied ways.
And we continue, with C.O.G.
C.O.G will be performing her poetry on the evening, which the audience is open to interact with.
For people who are just discovering your pieces, can you tell us a bit about yourself, your artistic practice, and your work to date?
I’m a poet. It is definitely not the most prized of contemporary art forms, so most of the time when I talk to people about my art it’s out of their own surprise that poetry isn’t boring, pretentious, or melancholy (though, as with all art, it definitely has the potential to be just that).
Which artists inspire your work, and do you feel they too are portrait artists? Do you even regard yourself as a portrait artist?
I adore the poetry of e.e.cummings, and, oddly enough, he seems to focus in on people and characters in such a refreshing and sometimes brutal light, whilst still often maintaining a gorgeous naivety in his work. But portrait poetry isn’t really a thing (yet), so I’m slowly wading through and looking to famous visual portraits of the past and the process of visual art to better understand how I might represent a person in a portrait poem. The progression of Andy Warhols self-portraits is something I find particularly interesting.
In our current turbulent world, how do you feel portraiture fits into the current artistic and cultural climate?
Maybe it’s a grasp at clarity. Instead of getting lost in the massive whirling landfill sit of a zeitgeist we have to traipse through every day it's nice to stop, and to capture a person in a specific moment of time. From the very point that portrait is finished that person will continue changing just as they have grown to that point in their lives: but for that moment they become a physical and solid being, comfortably and beautifully captured. That is, if the artist has done their job.
As a follow up? Facebook, selfie culture, the public and the private? As an artist, what are your views on these elements, and does this change your artistic practice?
Upon seeing the first few words in this question my eyes sort of glazed over and my mouth puffed up like a monkey's might in exasperation.
It’s important for people to remember who you are in the fast-paced flickering screen of the everyday, so I suppose online presence is important… Honestly: I think to be in print, to be in physical places and have your art in physical places is much more important. It brings the artist much closer to immortality. We pass down books, paintings: nobody will remember what you put on your facebook feed, just as nobody will care what you had for breakfast.
How does it feel being a part of an exhibition with such a range of international artists?
Exciting. This is the first time my poetry has been in an art gallery. I’m so glad I took the chance to submit because the gallery could possibly be the perfect place to experience poetry. Just as someone might love art galleries but not want a 10-foot tall sculpture in their living room, some people just don’t want the commitment of buying a poetry collection, but might love the experience of reading a curated piece or two upon the wall.
Hardest question, and one I've asked everyone I've interviewed. What do you think the future of art is? What comes next? And if you had infinite resources and time, what would you add to that future art?
The future of art is just disagreeing with whatever came directly before.
I would just write whatever took me at the time, get involved with all aspects of poetry. From the spoken word open mic to the academic reading. And I would find new places for poetry. The gallery. A wall. A pavement. An unused shop window. A hill. There should never be a place where art is not welcome.