Interview with Wes Somerville at the Ceramiq Art Studio
Exhibition opening times: Mon. – Frid. 10 – 3pm until the 15th February 2018
Plaza García Moreno 9 – Órgiva, 18400, Granada.
You step from the intense southern Spanish sunlight over the threshold of Ceramiq into a softer gloom. Then you look up to where a warm pinkish/purple haze drifts over you. A simple geometric shape but the colour arrests you and you are drawn to it.
Today, I was going to talk to the Canadian artist Wes Somerville, who is the guest artist at Ceramiq. As I was early, I had time to take in the work on show and snap some photos, which sadly, will never do justice to the spectrums of light that dance and change around you. It makes you want to climb into the work and experience it from the inside-out.
Q. How did you start with these sorts of ideas? Were you always doing this? Or has it morphed into this?
It’s morphed into this. I was doing early light pieces already about ten years ago, that were geometric shapes covered with cloth but they were quite dull and I didn’t know about LEDs. Then there was a gap and then out of nowhere came these new ideas about feelings and diffused light, and the effects it can have if you observe it. But I was just learning to listen and follow and I didn’t have any real knowledge of the materials, other than an intuitive sense of light that came to me somehow
Q. These intuitive feelings and not really knowing about your materials, do you think it’s helped you as you’re not bound by a previous knowledge? You’ve just said, ‘I want to cause this effect and I’m going to get it however I can.’
Absolutely. I think if I knew exactly, it would get in the way of an undercurrent or a deeper thing that wants to be expressed. if I try to control it all and understand truly (and I know that exists in many different forms of art,) that knowing your medium, and doing it ten thousand times before you actually get to that point where you are expressing clearly what you want to express, this work is different to that. I think it has more to do with where humanity is evolving, including the feeling we get when we are on Facebook too long, the frequency it has and how that addictive quality plays a role in spending five minutes or an hour and five minutes on Facebook. There’s something about the energetic feel of it ,which for sure has something to do with electromagnetics, so the physics of all this stuff comes into it. When we made this piece, (Suelo Ascendente – Rising Floor) I had designed this in Granada thinking about a 90 degree corner with these pieces but I didn’t know what this was going to do and we spent a day and a half and it was finished barely a half hour before the opening. Considering the size of it, I should have spent a month prepping it, trying it and playing around with it in my own studio but that’s not how it happened. I’m glad because you really have to be on it and present and aware and allow yourself to go mad at it, and then in one moment it shifts and you see what you’re supposed to be doing. It’s like a third party that you are trying to engage with, or allow to have a voice at the table when even though you’ve got an opinion, experience or knowledge, you put that aside and just allow it to come into being.
Q. So too much preparation might have stopped it in its tracks? It wouldn’t have the feel that it has now?
I would have done something else that would have become a piece in my shop but it wouldn’t have been the same as the intention to install something here with these various components
Q. These pieces here. (Perspectivas) The images are for sale but this was a 3D piece you exhibited in the show in Motril. How has this come about?
I wanted to play around with how they would come out as 2D images, as they have come out nice on the camera. This image has been photoshopped and is now my card. I’m thinking of doing a range of postcards. I’m also learning how to allow this work to morph into this these other branches
Ethereal Perspective are a range of prints of photos of a larger 3D work that Wes exhibited in previous exhibitions. The angles, shapes and colours are another art form that complements his 3D work.
Q. They’re also accessible. Its like the bread and butter idea – lots of people look at a big piece of work and would kill to have it but can’t afford it but can access smaller pieces like prints and cards. Is this what you are also aiming for?
Eventually if I get a bigger body of work of this kind, then maybe a small book might be interesting. The main thing I’m interested in, is getting in that creative space and seeing what comes out and I’m always the most surprised. That’s only half of it; the other half is when someone comes in and has their own experience of it and shares it with me. That’s when the work starts to work; when its engaging other people and their views and perspectives and impressions and experience
Q. So you’re not just in your own little bubble? You’re sharing that bubble and it’s getting bigger and bigger?
Expanding bubbles, yeah. I think that what it’s more about these days than ever before. It’s engaging the public, then it starts to take on its universal-self, as opposed to that ego thing of ‘I made this, do you like it?’ Other people experiencing it actually informs it and helps the work to mature.
Q. When people are talking to you about your work, have you heard things that you haven’t even thought about and has it also changed your view on your work?
I think it has informed me more on perspectives, on light and shadow, colour and shape because everyone perceives it differently. Although ‘it is what it is’, every single person has spoken differently about it. I’ve never heard any two people say the same thing. I think it’s because it is about light. It stimulates new neural pathways in people and they come up with a new way of expressing their experience, which when it comes to paradigm shifts, which we are definitely in on the planet, this is a good thing. It inspires people to find a language to express an experience that is new: new questions, new impressions. Not finding some old answers to fit something new but new things that create new questions. Out of that come new solutions but the questions have to appear first.
Q. The first piece that we see coming down the stairs. Was there a reason that piece chosen?
I never think about what someone’s going to experience. It never happens outside-in, it always happens inside-out. So my relationship to the space that was there at the top of the stairs allowed my imagination to envision what I could do there (as well as a dialogue with Vicente). He loved that piece since the Pink Show but he wanted it how it was originally. I have a really hard time replicating, it bores me to tears. So I put that in without anything in it for the first month but he really wanted to change it and what came was an ultra-violet circle, creating a new relationship with different frequencies of light. The infra-reds and the ultra-violets are more visible in the band width of light in our heavens these days. They are more available and these band widths of light are a lot more tangible and everyone feels that .People start sentences differently, they say ‘I feel’ as opposed to ‘I think.’ It (that area) was not designed with creating an atmosphere to draw people in but, having said that, every time I stop at that traffic-light in front of the gallery, I find myself engaging with it. It’s about trust, allowing it, and and then installing it, and then stepping back and seeing what happens. Not trying to control it because that’s when it all goes to shit. If you just let it be, some things are like, ‘wow, wasn’t expecting that.’
Q. Do you mean not trying to elicit a response that you may or may not get?
The work has its own projection, which exists but its not a lot of use as it’s interfering with someone else’s free-will, and it’s only when we all add to the pot in our own individual ways, without tampering, that we start to paint a new picture of our shared world.
Or something like that.
Thanks to Wes Somerville for an enlightening chat. Please get down to his exhibition before the 24th February.
Photos: Hilly Barmby
Interview: Hilly Barmby