Former Hautlieu student and Jersey born artist Neil Hamon moved to London to study sculpture at Central Saint Martins and has remained in the capital ever since. I caught up with Neil and talked suicide, taxidermy and bodysnatching.
HOW DID YOU GET INTO ART?
I began thinking about art seriously during A-levels at Hautlieu. There was no real epiphany moment; I just really enjoyed the mix of the hands-on physical nature of art-making combined with the intellectual rigor I was beginning to see with certain artists’ practice. It seemed like an interesting and rewarding path to go down. After A-levels, I studied an art foundation course in Cheltenham. Initially I was unsure as to which medium to concentrate on but I eventually decided upon sculpture.
WHY THE MOVE TO LONDON?
Once I’d realised that I wanted to pursue a career in fine art it was obvious that I should move to London. There were so many opportunities in London at that time. The success of the YBAs had really opened things up for young artists and gone some way to capture the public’s imagination which meant a wider dialogue around art practice. I was lucky enough to study sculpture at Saint Martin’s College, which was amazing. All of a sudden, I was amongst people who had similar interests/obsessions as myself whilst being surrounded by galleries and exhibitions of new and exciting artworks.
SO WOULD YOU DESCRIBE YOURSELF AS A SCULPTOR THEN?
Not any more – although my degree was in Sculpture I never really stuck to any one medium and so chose Goldsmiths College for my MA as it’s a general fine art course without specialisms which therefore encouraged a much broader approach to art-making. I tend to mix things up by working in different mediums at the same time so when I exhibit it’s generally a selection from these differing modes of practice that in my view, when brought together become more interesting. It allows the artworks to play off and work in counterpoint to each other. If anything, there’s a focus on outmoded or redundant forms of representation such as taxidermy, hand-coloured photographs, letterpress printmaking, woodcarving, or more recently stained glass window techniques and wet-plate photography. I enjoy learning new skills and ways of working; in the Suicide Self-Portrait series for example I used the crime scene photography techniques pioneered by Alphonse Bertillon in the late 1800s. In essence he was attempting to describe a space from multiple viewpoints at the same time. The works therefore are reminiscent of both cubism and the fractured narrative common in contemporary cinema. I’m interested in how the type of medium and techniques used can form part of the subject of the artwork.
HOW DID YOU GET INTO TAXIDERMY?
I was working on a photographic series of works, which documented the activities of historical re-enactors and was interested in making some taxidermy works to partner the images, in order to focus upon the elements of artifice and reconstruction within the work. After realising how expensive it was going to be to get a taxidermy work made for me, I decided to teach myself from a book. My first piece ‘Lure’, consisted of a re-enactment photograph of a dead solider alongside a taxidermy hare lying prone on the floor with an electric motor inserted into its body to make its chest slowly rise and fall.
WHERE HAVE YOU EXHIBITED YOUR WORK?
I’ve been lucky enough to show work all over the world in some fantastic places, highlights would have to include the 2007 Venice Biennale, the Kunstmuseum in Berne, Switzerland and also in London at the Gagosian Gallery. I work with galleries in Sao Paulo and Madrid, which is fantastic as I get to show with them every other year and always enjoy the trip – they’re amazing places to visit.
TELL US ABOUT THE EXHIBITION YOU’RE IN AT PALLANT HOUSE GALLERY AND WHAT YOUR PLANS FOR THE FUTURE ARE?
The Pallant House show takes a selection of contemporary artists’ work and presents it alongside works from the house’s collection, which provides some interesting juxtapositions. There’s a concentration on artists who explore traditional craft techniques with the usual ubiquitous names like Damien Hirst, Tracey Emin, Jeff Koons, Mona Hatoum etc as well as some younger up and coming artists, which makes for a good mix. I’ve just had a screening of my short film piece ‘Invasion’ at the 176 Gallery in London. ‘Invasion’ reconfigures footage from the 1956 black and white film ‘Invasion of the Body Snatchers’ and its 1978 Technicolor remake as well as footage shot in my studio. Whilst the narrative of the original story remains the same – the fear of being replaced by exact yet soulless replicas – my version has the cast from the original film discover their technologically advanced counterparts of the future are replacing them. Currently, I’m working on new artworks for a solo show in 2011 at Galleria Leme in Brazil.
Neil’s work can be seen as part of ‘Contemporary Eye: Crossovers’ until 6th March 2011 at Pallant House Gallery, Chichester. More information can be found at www.neilhamon.com and www.galerialeme.com