RWA @ The Atkinson Galleries: Interview 311 Oct 16
In conjunction with RWA @ The Atkinson we asked some of the Academicians involved to answer a few questions about their current practice and what it means to be an Academician.
Born in 1953, Terry Flaxton received a BA Hons in Communication Design in 1979. After an initial deflection in 1971 sent him to sound composition, next photography, then film, eventually in 1976 he focused on analogue video. He has exhibited work in many festivals, galleries and museums around the world including Russia, America, China, France, Brazil and of course the UK. His medium of choice is the digital in all of its forms and expressions, including moving image, print, installation and sound. He recently divested himself of the Directorship of the Centre for Moving Image Research where he was Professor of Cinematography and Lens Based Arts at the University of the West of England. As of Spring 2017 his most recent exhibitions were at the Cathedral of St John the Divine in New York and the Presidential Palace in Florence.
Flaxton argues that when he first engaged with moving images he became aware that the challenge the contemporary artist faces is that media that exists within and also uses time, then duration becomes a ‘quality’ and central issue of the artwork. As a viewer, with many kinds of materials – paint, watercolour or stone - one is dealing both with the work itself and one’s reaction to the materials of that work. There’s a familiar negotiation of meaning and a contract to be agreed between artist and viewer and ‘the familiar’ has a high profile within this negotiation. This is not to say that both painting and sculpture do not have a temporal aspect, but the durational element is not the most dominant issue, as it is with moving image art. As a contemporary of Bill Viola a statement Viola made has stayed with Flaxton as having special relevance to time based forms:
‘Duration is to Consciousness as light is to the eye’.
Viola means by this that if one gives one’s attention sufficiently through a mindful noticing of the transitions that the work undergoes moment to moment, then a reward comes by transcending what is apparent. Simply to look for longer than usual will reveal things occluded by a slighter glance. When one uses a durational gaze for durational media, this places the audience in a different part of the spectrum than, for instance, a painter does with painting. As Andrei Tarkovsky the Russian artist/filmmaker says with regard to cinema:
‘There is another advantage in our approach. The method whereby the artist obliges the audience to build the separate parts into a whole, and to think on further than has been stated, is the only one that puts the audience on a par with the artist in their perception of the film’.
Though Tarkovsky speaks of cinema here, the same can be said of moving images in general. So both display and exhibition of work come up as primary issues in the conceptualisation and creation of Flaxton’s work and so he has had to consider the later life of the work when it exhibits in other countries, and also how it might be transferred through different forms of display (large screens, photo-frames, mobile platforms, multiple large screens, projections on to buildings). In transferring the work between forms he believes something will be added to the work, enhancing it rather than keeping it the same. In this way the work is always developing and changing. It’s been said by various audience members that there is an emotional element to Flaxton’s work, but of course, as the artist he himself can’t truly see the work for what it is and he welcomes the idea that what we do in making work is to allow for greater possibilities in the minds of the audience to translate this into their own narrative.
Continuous online exhibition of recent works which can be purchased at: www.seditionart.com/terry-flaxton