How do you see the Blueprints in terms of print making and the craft of printing?
I only use the word print because they’re printed, there’s no craft. I have no history with printmaking; I’m not really interested in that craft in any way. They’re just called prints.
The craft’s not important?
The reason they exist is my attempt to find a way to represent stuff that wasn’t part of the art lexicon. It’s liked a borrowed language that I’m able to subvert.
The blueprint is a framework that already exists as a preconceived language. Does that make your work easier?
Yes, it gives me something to hide behind, because the expectation of a painting or even a print is so overwhelming and magical. It’s meant to take you somewhere whereas blueprints have a more functional, analytical role.
Like a series of instructions?
Instructions for the Ikea bookcase you actually constructed with the chipped edges and rounded screw heads, not the theoretical one.
I was reminded of the dry humour that’s inherent in Richard Wentworth’s ongoing photographic series 'Making Do, Getting By'.
They’re great. It’s been a long time since I looked at them. They still look like art to me though - they look like his work.
They’re really beautiful, finding the absurd and the beauty in the mundane. I think I’ve been trying to find that beauty too but end up predominantly focusing on the failures, not the ingenuity of the human condition.
As an instruction form, I think what you’re doing tips its hat at conceptual art, but I think there’s a poetry that’s introduced, the touch of humanity on an idealised situation. How important is that in the work?
The potential and failure of the blueprint is that it’s only ever going to represent things at their very best, so if it looks banal or wrong at the beginning of the building process it’s only going to be a downward spiral.
The print “My point of view” depicts a recently built glass roof seen from my hotel window in Munich. (see above for works)
It’s probably a nice piece of architecture if you’re stood under the structure. There’s undoubtedly lots of light flooding in, it might even be for sick children brightening up the oncology ward. But from the outside perspective it’s dreadful. The brief perhaps didn’t ask for that to be a consideration. But because of Google earth, we’re inclined to visually pull back - exposing more of the environment that things exist in, and seeing how they relate to their environment.
So how do you find subject matters that are interesting enough but have such mundanity to them? Is it generally an empathetic view to the user experience, considering how they’re affected by the scene?
I think it is that but it’s also become a mode of representing or recording any scene I like or dislike. They start with a photo and then often involve returning to the scene because I don’t have enough information or re-visiting it on Google. Someone else has usually taken a better shot. The irony, and point of the piece, only really starts to become clear towards the end of the drawing.
So they do always start with a photographic image?
Pretty much. Occasionally there’s parts that are redrawn but that’s more down to the information being unclear in the photograph.
Is it important they’re drawn digitally?
Yes I think working in advertising with different brands and having to adopt different tones of voice has given me the confidence to move away from any traditional artistic expression. These work on a more workman like level…
Yeah, and are anonymous.
Interesting, after working in advertising for so long, where the remit has to be setting aside moral judgements, it’s made you adopt this framework which you purely express yourself through the images you choose.
It reminds me in a lot ways of someone like Polke, through the lack of a given style he uses art troupes and throws them together, using his own built framework to defer that decision process of adopting a style to go beyond the debate of look.
I guess even now artists have trusted materials they don’t wander far from, it gives some sense of comfort from all the other possibilities, it’s like being multi lingual and deciding what language would be best to answer a question in. Which is similar to making ads, mimicking a genre to match an idea.
We’ve spoken in the past about the blueprints being a critique of utopian design.
Yes, very much so. I think that’s the founding thought behind them, Visions of how messy and bizarre things are once humanity gets involved.
They’re visions of compromise.
What’s your relationship with CGI? Are you interested in CG, how it’s used to promote aspiration?
I thought that would be a natural language to adopt and have tried a few things but they became a bit too comical. You fall into how well made they are and the whole craft element begins to overshadow the idea.
I can see that you’d start to critique them on the level of painting.
Yes you start to judge them on so many levels you end up missing the point.
I see what you’re doing just concentrates on the subject matter in a perceived “objective” view, devoid of artfulness because you’re only using line diagrams.
That makes them almost more trust worthy because they’re devoid of any tricks, despite the conceit that they’re not real. I still go through those decisions about what to depict, and how they’re rendered, I‘ve just managed to cut down the decisions, no colour choices, the same size of line.
Which I guess makes them rather painterly, odd because I’d never really thought about them in those terms.
It's interesting seeing the different series emerge from early single works. Like the sunlight pieces. They feel different from the others and more like an epiphany in the every day.
I’m at a stage with them now where I’m constantly finding scenes and contradictions that I need to draw. Inevitably pieces start to relate to others.
And that‘s the problem of art isn’t it? You have to capture and document that moment and all it entails.
But the everyday is depicted only in a basic series of forms that then heightens the beauty and meaning.
There is a challenge in trying to capture sunlight in such minimal materials.
I think the Sunlight series is more positive but at the same time I don’t feel that the others are negative.
They’re more obviously optimistic but I think the others are optimistic, even the Suicide Bridge print, there’s optimism because of the beauty of the architectural drawing and the irony of the title.
Thanks. Someone said that all comedians appear as pessimists, but they’re not. They’re actually the most optimistic of everyone, they’re just so disappointed things aren’t perfect, they can’t help pointing out the imperfections. If everything was perfect they would be busy enjoying it - not making gags. Or in my case blueprints.
Colin Ledwith was curator of the British Pavilion at the 50th Venice Biennale and is currently curator of the Crossrail Art Programme.