Alexander Glass explores the separation between image and reality through his practice, exploring scenarios which first appear seductive and idyllic. We met with him to discuss his journey as a sculptor and installation artist.
When did you first begin to see yourself as an artist?
Around the time I started my foundation I think, where there was an the discovery of independence with what I was creating. Though every time I work on something bigger that the last, I feel that same sense again.
Where are you from/what was your upbringing like? How has this impacted your work?
I come from a family that has a great deal of respect for creativity, though they have never been directly involved in it. Growing up in London though, there’s so much to see, I never really remember being taken to exhibitions as a kid until it was my decision as a teenager. I think that as a result, the references that I collected throughout my teenage years were very specific to me, I had very little influence over me in regards to what I should like. Looking at my work now, I can see a lot of the strands of influences that came from that time.
Paint us a picture of your artistic journey. Have you gone through the traditional route of art school and what was your experience?
In School I did art, but wasn’t particularly keen on it until a teacher encouraged me to consider the idea of doing it for GCSE, which led on to eventually applying for a foundation at Saint Martins. Though I’ve always worked hard to get to the places I’ve studied, I don’t remember the choices I made to get there. Becoming a sculptor wasn’t always my ambition. I thought I would be a photographer or filmmaker but somehow, making work with direct relationship to the body, is what gave me the most satisfaction. Though there are plenty of reasons to be frustrated in art schools, especially now, my time at Brighton and The Royal College were great. I don’t think I want to go back, but I’m glad I went. I got what I needed, which was a pretty good understanding of how and what I like to make as an artist.
What’s the message of your work? Are there themes/narratives/purpose? Where do they come from? How would you describe your aesthetic?
Often my work is simply about seduction. How that can be created through the combination of materials and imagery. Though there are multiple layers that work together to create my work; the tension between the ideas of masculinity and desire, the aesthetics of minimalism, and the cinematic, as well as the visual history of classical sculpture and screen based media. Ideally I’d like to describe my work as ‘Narrative Minimalism’, but supposedly this is a conflict of terms. If a viewer can sense the contrast between the attraction and the sterility of my work I feel I’ve achieved my main aim.
Who and what are your greatest influences?
There are people it would be crazy not to say, like David Hockney, Donald Judd, Anthea Hamilton, Tom Burr, ElmGreen & Dragset, Roni Horn. There are a lot of people I think I pull from, or in the same direction as, but I think the most important is media, specifically cinema and advertising. The power of seduction is at the central focal point of these mediums and I use them as references frequently to achieve the same effects in my work.
Back To The Wall, 2020
Epoxy resin and ceramic tiles
80 x 75 x 10 cm
Are your works planned? What do you want people to take from your work when they view it? Do you have the audience consciously in mind when you are creating?
All my works are pretty meticulously planned and if anything that can be a problem. Sometimes you need to allow some flexibility to let things change a bit or let the work grow. My main concern when it comes to an audience viewing the work is the question of is there an in, a part of the work that is recognisable to the viewer so that the work becomes relatable; that is incredibly important for my work. I think to be attracted to something you have to have something accessible in it.
What events in your life have mobilised change in your practise/aesthetic? How has your art evolved? Do you stick to one medium? Do you experiment? Do you see any parameters to your work?
For a sculptor I think a lot of the ways the work evolves is through the skills you pick up. I taught myself resin casting and my work has involved that a lot in the past two years. It has been an essential material to my aesthetic of cold and icy surfaces, of hands frozen in movement. But making, for me, is more the obsession. I am currently learning to weld, so that could be the next big thing in my practise. Throughout my time as sculptor I’ve drawn and made videos, but this has taken a backseat in the past two years. But I’m keen to bring video work back, I don’t think there should be any parameters on what or how you make, to achieve an effect, however there are still things I would never do.
What are your ideal conditions or catalyst for creating a “good” piece of work?
For me a clean working environment, which is nearly never. A lot of what I strive to do in my work is to create immaculate pieces where I can purposely edit or break something to give it an element of strangeness. This effect is quite delicate and uninvited dirt is a distraction. Time is also important, between the conception to the creation of a work I think there should be a nice gap of time to make sure that the details of what are going to be made are right. I try my best not to rush in.
What are you hoping to achieve in the future? (projects, collaborations, taking a break).
I have ideas prepared for shows that may never happen and there are plenty of places I’d love to take my work. For the moment I’m focused on preparing my solo show ‘Bodies of Water’ at Studio Sol In Reykjavik, Iceland in July. But maybe a show in a swimming-pool, that would be pretty great.