Chloë Reid is an up-and-coming artist who embraces the uncertainty of both herself as artist and the practice of making art. This self-consciousness however results in an almost obsessively executed aesthetic, which distinguishes her work. Chloë is influenced by other artists’ work as well as literature and literary theory. Her new work however is concerned with not thinking about thinking about art, and rather allowing for a loose exploration of the space between idea, medium and creation.
What medium/s do you most like working in and why?
Print media – namely etching and lithography, are mediums that seem to get more interesting the more I work with them. Printmaking techniques are so diverse that although I’ve been printing for a few years now, I don’t feel like I have grasped or experimented with even a tiny portion of what the medium has to offer.
What has always attracted me to printmaking is that there is the potential for the medium and the process to dictate the direction that a work takes. I find that the interaction between material and process in a medium such as painting or drawing can be very direct – the artist’s ego is imposed quite directly onto the medium whereas with printmaking, a fairly elaborate process sits between your initial intentions for the project and what transpires. Naturally, this gap varies according to the project and the artist’s grasp of the medium but as I am still fairly green in both respects, I enjoy a nice open space between having to take responsibility for my ideas and being able to blame the medium.
Recently I have also been working in colour pencil which appeals because of how crude it can be as a medium – it is childish and bold and it gives one the ability to make decisive and assured marks. It acts as a kind of mask or front for an uncertainty and mistrust of my intentions and ideas. I started cutting things out of books for similar reasons. Using other peoples’ words rather than my own.
I am also interested in objects and have tried my hand at the occasional installation work and what I can’t confidently call sculptures. But I’m still a bit weary of them as they are generally harder to hide under the bed when the fun is over. I have also produced some short films, namely, The Most Real Rock after Icelandic artist, Thorvaldur Thorsteinsson’s The Most Real Death and I’m sure there’s no need for me to underscore the overwhelming success of that performance (mine, not his – his performances are extraordinary.)
Your work is labour-intensive and foregrounds the production process. Does this have a thematic correlation?
I think that my response to the previous question exposes my level of commitment to the process of making the work. I’m interested in what emerges at the interface of material and process.
I tend towards labour-intensive and repetitive work when I’m stuck – which is fairly often as I don’t find the process of making art very easy. I’m suspicious of art, artists (myself included) and the accompanying parade, so it feels a little disingenuous to add to the problem by making more of the stuff. It is also possible to become overwhelmed by all the options that are available to the contemporary artist.
I find that if I set up a very rigid structure for a work that demands some serious labour I begin to feel like I am being constructive. The structure or rules at the outset of the work are usually based on something arbitrary such as the fact that I have six canary yellow pencils that have accumulated in my box. Once the work has begun the medium starts to take a direction – the pencil slips, breaks, runs out, the drawing accidently gets cleaned with Mr Min (true story) and my initial intentions for the work are manipulated and sometimes fall away entirely.
I also find that the repetition allows me to process an idea or resolve something.
Please tell us more about your interest in text and language and how you incorporate this into your art …
My interest in text and language started to emerge in my work when I was a student and began to engage with the way in which art is spoken and written about. Phrases such as ‘rendered in the visible’ replace perfectly decent modes of expression such as ‘painted’ or ‘drawn’ and artist statements are filled with the ‘ephemeral’ and ‘post-painterly negative space’.
Naturally there is a paradox in writing about art as it is its own kind of non-linear language form. So it makes sense that there are similar slippages in writing about art to those that occur in translation from one language to another. Within any given language the words and their concepts are unreliable as they are based merely on a commonality of meaning, shaped by the lived experiences of individuals of the concepts that the words claim to express. As our ‘lived experiences’ are constantly shifting, so are words and the ‘commonality of meaning’ on which they hinge.
What is left is a lot of confusion, suspicion and potential for mistranslation and it is this ‘liminal’ space – to use an adjective much favoured in art writing – that interests me.
Your first solo exhibition was concerned with the idea of failure and the negative possibilities of artistic production. Please tell us more about this thought trajectory and how it translated in your work…
The failure of words and their ability to miscommunicate rather than communicate as mentioned above became a focus for me while I was working towards Hats off! – my exhibition last year. I started doing a bit of reading on the subject and found myself connecting a feeling of mistrust of art with what I was reading about language. This may not seem like particularly fertile ground off which to be launching my first exhibition but the endless possibilities offered by the idea that there is really very little chance of anyone ever really understanding anybody else, for me, seemed quite exciting. It also takes the pressure off the process of making art as any attempt to communicate anything specific is doomed.
The problem was, when I emerged bleary-eyed from the haze of six months graft on the subject of complete nonsense to see the work all nicely hung on the wall, it looked remarkably resolved. It looked like the work of someone who had a clear idea of what she was on about, and if there is one thing I’m sure of, it’s that that’s not me. I’m still trying to work out who the winner is in that scenario.
Does this continue into your current work? What themes and ideas are you exploring at the moment in your work?
I think that scepticism in some form or another will always be a part of the way I work but I’m finished with failure – at least for the moment. I still have a lot more that I want to learn about failure as literary form – how it is manipulated in literature and used as a technique. I’d like to find ways to use it as some authors and artists have, as a tool rather than looking at the idea of failure very broadly as I did in Hats off!
At the moment I’m looking at a lot of different things thematically and playing with technique and materials in quite a loose way, trying not to try too hard or think too much and hoping that something will happen at some point in the near future, sooner rather than later.
Your work has a carefully considered balance of colour with black and white. How would you describe your aesthetic?
My work tends to be quite clean and I can’t seem to get away from line. I read a quote by Sol Lewitt when I was in my second year at varsity that lingers on: “A drawing of a person is not a real person but a drawing of a line is a real line.”
I haven’t always had such an immaculate way of working, I have worked very loosely in the past but have yet to consolidate these two sides. I used to insist on monochrome in my work until I discovered that you could use colour to convince people that you knew what you were trying to achieve and now that I have started working with it I can’t get enough; I’m fascinated by it.
What influences and inspiration informs your work?
Literary sources are the main influence for my work – mostly novels. I rely heavily on the work of other artists and the way in which certain artists have written about their work. In most cases these references have some relevance to something that has happened or something that has been written or said that I have experienced. They provide a starting point but often the work ends up in quite a different place.
What works will you be showing at the FNB Joburg Art Fair?
I will be showing a new series of large colour etchings co-published with Artist Proof Studio earlier in the year as well as an etching as part of Artthrob’s new print editions project. I am also hoping to have a large drawing finished in time to be exhibited with Gallery AOP.
What do you think are the advantages of having work at the Art Fair?
The Art Fair provides the opportunity to see work by a range of artists, most of whom are currently practicing in South Africa, all in one space which I think is quite exciting. For an artist it’s a chance to see how you measure up which may have its advantages – depending on how you measure up I suppose!
What’s next for you?
I am working towards another solo show next year.
Find out more about Chloë’s work on her Tumblr site.