UK art legend Steven Claydon’s practice is concerned with how objects move from raw material to cultural artifact. Informed by his musical career, his artworks – which can include sculpture, video, assemblage, and painting – tease together old and new to challenge history and authority.
As the 2015 Converse x Dazed Emerging Artists Award judge takes us on a backstage tour of his studio, we discover new works made from foam, resin and ripped up £10 notes. Through these unusual materials Claydon creates a series of connections that examine the way we receive information. This artist won’t allow us to take anything for granted.
“These appear to be regular tin cans, the kind you get tomatoes or salmon in, but they’re actually carved out of limewood on a lathe so there’s this curious nature to them. They’ve lost their utility as a can. They just represent a can because they’re solid wood and they’ve had that kind of agency stripped from them. I’m interested in vessels for many reasons. I think about objects as something we project our morals and everything we know about the world and the past and the future onto.”
“I’m interested in lowest common denominator objects like bricks and cans and barrels. Originally the barrel had olives in it but they get reused by the Ghanaian and West Indian communities to shift goods back and forth around the planet. So you can buy a barrel for 20 quid and you fill it with whatever you want and send it to your relatives. It’s a really interesting re-use of a thing. This work is all about that. Now the barrel has been arrested into its sculptural form.”
“You see these in contruction everywhere it’s a big I-beam basically. Most buildings now you build them out of these boltable joins and I made mine out of ceramic. It’s a very elegant material. It’s glazed in 70s copper glaze so it almost looks a little bit like metal. It’s a homage to building blocks and materials.”
“We afford busts the authority that has been vested in them as cultural artifacts and they sit there kind of emitting importance. We know nothing about the people they represent. They could be these colonial mass murderers. Who knows? I wanted to make a bust which amalgamated different genres historically and which is actually very anonymous so I made these people up. In a way I want to render them back down to the lowest common denominator person so it always comes to the same democratising impulse.”
SHEETS OF RESIN
“These sheets of resin have shredded money in them that comes from the Treasury. For a while the Treasury was making shredded money available to show they had a low carbon footprint so that you could recycle it. I got some of that and I put it into these resin sheets that I want to make into windows. At first they look like locusts and leaves or something then on closer inspection you can see it’s all shredded £10 notes so there is this intrinsic value to the material.”
Submissions are now open, for a chance to exhibit at the Royal Academy of Arts click here