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Alex Chinneck: Fighting Fire With Ice Cream

Taking over See Studio's show space in Hackney Wick, the artist presents his collection of installations using wood panels to represent London's industrial environment

Artist Alex Chinneck envisages the industrial belt of London as a nursery for creative thought. Solid, purpose made buildings have inspired his latest exhibit, showing at Hackney Wick’s See Studio’s exhibition space, where a series of installations have been produced in homage to the cogs once at the beating heart of the city. Now a thriving creative hub and home to many of London’s most promising artistic talent, Fighting Fire With Ice Cream is a symbolic commemoration of the areas transformation and ode to a harmonic synergy between the two worlds.

Chinneck’s art embodies his inspiration in practise as well as in theory; works such as ‘Colour Cloud’, a series of OSB wood panels made using wax coloured wood chips, and sponsored by OSB manufacturer Norbord, is a visionary example of the fusion between art and industry. Dazed Digital caught up with Alex to discuss reworking the powerful aesthetic of London’s industrial environment.

Dazed Digital: Can you tell me about how the idea for the exhibit came about?

Alex Chinneck:
It's a reflection of living and working within London's peripheral environments and being constantly surrounded by industrial architecture and materials, through osmosis this imagery has entered into my system and with this show I have attempted to release it in a highly visual way. Industrial materials lend themselves well to sculpture owing to their physicality and how they exist for the purpose of construction, I wanted to find new and ambitious applications for them. 

DD: What do you find inspiring about industrial London?

Alex Chinneck:
Primarily the architecture, I find their brutal and uncompromising aesthetic extremely powerful. In many ways these works are a homage to London's factories and the machinery that once filled them. I find architectural decoration often unnecessary and these purpose built buildings don't waste their time with it. 

DD: After working on this collection, if you had free reign to actually change it [industrial London] in any way, what would you do?
Alex Chinneck:
I would protect it. This show is based in Hackney Wick which is undergoing a major transition because of the Olympic development. I find domestic developments are spreading so quickly into these areas that people do not invest enough time and money to save or remain sensitive to the architecture that is already there. 
On another note, British Industry is an extremely powerful force and I want to create stronger bridges between it and sculptors. I hope that this show can demonstrate what can be done when industry is lead down a more creative path. 

DD: The techniques you've used are really interesting. What was the most challenging to create?
Alex Chinneck:
'Self Employed' - my curling chimney that pumps smoke back into itself hasn't been easy, it weighs over a tonne and despite being made from brick is very fragile. As an artist I think this fragility is interesting but as a neurotic it's terrifying.  My moving breezeblock has also been tough, kinetic blocks slowly slide out from a wall before returning back into it. The visual experience is supposed to be very minimal but the construction and engineering behind it extremely complex - this has certainly proved to be the case.

DD: What would you like people to take from the exhibit?
Alex Chinneck:
The works are physical but theatrical so I hope people leave impressed and amused.

DD: What's next? Any ideas you're developing? Upcoming projects?
Alex Chinneck: I want to continue to grow in complexity, size and ambition. I am beginning to enter my sculptural concerns into new disciplines and want to develop a collective practise across art, design and architecture. My new project 'The Sculpture House' launches this September as a joint venture with See Studio during London Design Week, it is a programme that commissions emerging sculptors to produce limited edition items of furniture.

Fighting Fire With Ice Cream by Alex Chinneck, from 23rd June-23rd July at See StudioSculpture House will be exhibited at See Studio between 1st September - 1st October and also coincides with London design festival 17th -25th September 2011.