In the Studio with MSR FCJ

Mike S Redmond and Faye Coral Johnson are collaborative artists behind the duo MSR FCJ, whose works explore themes of unbridled romance, mild horror, biting humour and plain weird fantasy. We met with MSR FCJ to discuss their work and the day in the life of an artist.

When did you first begin to see yourself as an artist? 

There was no first, or beginning, or even a conscious seeing of ourselves as artists really, it’s only relevant when people ask ‘what do you do?’ and we answer ‘We’re artists’.

Where are you from and what was your upbringing like? How has this impacted your work?

We are both from Manchester UK, famous for music and football, so maybe we rebelled. We both grew up in semi rural areas on the outskirts of the city and therefore happily spent good amounts of time by ourselves making things out of nothing.

Paint us a picture of your artistic journey. Have you gone through the traditional route of art school and what was your experience? 

We took the traditional art school route both completing BA’s and Mike an MA at The Royal College of Art. But our real personal education came through the practice of collaboration. We met over a decade ago and from the beginning of our relationship we would draw together as play, like a game, reacting to one and others movements on the page, discovering our own shared language.

What’s the message of your work? How would you describe your aesthetic?

The work we make together is something of its own. It is like digging a hole. It’s mostly about process and finding something new. We are both individually searching for our own things but what we find together is something of a surprise. Something neither of us knew would be uncovered. There’s a level of trust, compromise, and vulnerability, sharing the challenge, it is a constant battle.

Who and what are your greatest influences?

Our influences are quite personal. For instance, mood is a big influence. A mood can affect a person’s whole being. It can haunt or linger like a dream. A ceiling fan is a strong mood for us. Constantly spinning but always in one spot. It’s so still and smoky. There’s just something about certain forms. Accumulated heaps moulded by time. Lived faces. Cardboard hats. That rare type of worked hands that bulge and bend. Mostly things that are everywhere but go unnoticed. Rubbish and dirt is so interesting. It gathers and piles up and melds together like sculptures. Piles of things. Heaps and mounds, partly abstract but also figurative and full of narrative and degraded stories, like our work is.

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?

Although we quite often work from rough drawings, doodles and sketches, our process is mostly spontaneous. We like to see things evolve and mutate and become their own. Making is a therapeutic process. Being alone and present in the moment of making, its pure bliss. It’s a way for us to switch off from everything else and the outside world. Thinking about an audience is not what it’s about for us, even when exhibiting works, we really don’t care for the audience to understand what that is or why that is. It’s really more important to us that an audience is left alone to decide what they want and to make their own ideas about our work. We think it’s way more fun for both sides that way. This way the work is constantly evolving and taking new forms in the viewer’s mind.

What are your ideal conditions or catalyst for creating a “good” piece of work?

Sometimes, we make something together and it’s like nothing else, the feeling, it’s like being high, it’s a buzz of emotions, it’s like seeing an alien that we birthed together and we can’t put our finger on what it is or how we even got there.

What events in your life have mobilised change in your practise? How has your art evolved? 

We have always been interested in the idea of our works ever evolving, mutating and taking surprising forms. We are in search of something new. With that being said, experimentation is our main focus, we play with various mediums, surfaces, scale and content. It’s important that each series we make is its own thing. We are constantly pushing our works into new directions. It’s not necessarily about mastering one way, it’s about discovering many new ways.

What are your goals for the future?

To be creatively self sufficient. To go back to our do-it-yourself roots of making something out of nothing. To create our own art world instead of trying to fit into the current one.

How have you been keeping creative during isolation?

Over the last 6 months we have been developing ideas of ephemeral making as well as playing with juxtaposition and also designing less traditionally structured surfaces to work on.This series we hope to exhibit somehow before the end of the year. It will be titled ‘Rag Paintings’.


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