Interview with Andrew Barton by El Poeta Magazine
I had the great pleasure of meeting Andrew Barton at the Saatchi online gallery online, when my eyes fell on his work, I was fascinated by his art of bodily transformations, or metamorphic art, metamorphic transformations, a kind of visionary art, which goes beyond the everyday, what we find in the everyday reality of art. I dare say that the work of Andrew Barton is completely original. It is true every artist has influences, but there are artists who leave the influence of the past to create the art of the future, the twenty-first century art. Someone has said that art is dead. Andrew Barton proves it is alive; each century has its art, in our century, the art is to discover, and show it to the civilized world. It is an honor for me, to present this interview with artist Andrew Barton. Jrn Calo.
Jrn Calo: I am delighted to interview you Mr. Barton. My first question is about the birth of the artist: Andrew Barton, when he felt he first became an artist, as a child or seeing a picture, listening to a teacher, what is birth experience of an artist?
I`ll have to rewind the clock back to 1976. I sculpted a dinosaur, a triceratops, at the Natural History Museum in Oslo on a childrens` activity day, which was better sculpted than my domineering big brother`s dino. Remember that quite clearly, finally something I did better than Him. If you`ve got an older brother or sister you`ll understand.
In 79 our family moved to the States for four years. I spent most of time after school building armies of small plastelina men, and blasting them to bits with an assortment of BB guns...we didn`t have playstation back in those days. The reason I mention this odd fact; is that it no doubt did wonders for my hand-eye coordination.
I was also lucky enough to attend a great school in Salt Lake City, called The Open Classroom, run by Carolyn Turkanis. The classroom didn`t have a single desk, just round tables, a loft with cushions and lots of carpeted floor space. Everyone worked at their own pace, some fourth graders doing 6th grade math and some fourth graders doing third grade math...no one was left behind. The reason I mention this, is that the school also helped to develop a student`s self reliance and self worth. Instead of passively sitting at our desks and receiving information from the teachers, we were actively finding things out for ourselves. And this basic principal, of learning by doing, and the joy in doing, has stuck with me. A little seed planted in a ten year old.
Jrn Calo: What are the first steps in the composition of your works? Do you have a clear idea from the outset of what you want to build? Do you know the basis for your inspiration; do you project images in your mind, made a preliminary drawing, and then built your sculpture, or does your mind just focus on an idea and then let it flow into the project during construction.
I start off a piece of sculpture by trying to get a base resonance, a bit like a gut feeling, for what I want to create, not in a physical sense, of what a piece will look like, but more in a sense of what a piece will be like, feel like.
Then I spend a lot of time visualizing what I want to sculpt, both by sketching and during meditation. Once I`ve "seen" this, I start on the piece but try to keep an open mind…In the process of sculpting or assembling a piece, new ideas often emerge, and what I visualized, initially, dosen`t always comply with the laws of physics. So I often end up with something that is quite different from what I originally envisioned. But that's part of the "creative process" and makes the creation of a work more interesting (for me).
Jrn Calo: What did your parents and friends think when they learned that their son/friend wanted to become an artist?
Well, my parents were supportive. They were both creative people themselves, painting and drawing non-stop as children/teenagers. My mom even followed in my footsteps and attended art school for three years, at the ripe old age of 50. But despite that, they hinted rather carefully, that I should perhaps find a creative job with a monthly pay check.
Creativity really is an underestimated skill. My father became an engineer, and developed a formula for determining the strength of rock formations, which is now used world wide by other engineers. So they both understand; they get what I`m doing, and are very proud to have a son who has become an artist.
My friends have always loved it; being invited to openings with free champagne, and mixing with the arty-farty crowd. What`s not to like? And as luck would have it my three best friend from high school have become: A stunt man doing his own dare devil shows in Canada, jumping over flaming/exploding busses in a souped up car, another is a sound engineer and the third is a photographer and graphic designer...so a very creative bunch of good friends. The friends I made after and during art school were mostly artist, architects and musicians and we obviously understood each other.
Since then I`ve also made friends with a CEO and a Fire engineer, both with exceedingly creative minds, great ideas, but without the artistic-technical know how to make the works of art themselves. And pretty much everyone I meet, after first telling them I`m an artist, has some great artistic project they suggest for me to do or thoughts on art in general...which aren`t always that good....but sometimes they are.
My rough estimate is that about 20% of what I produce as an artist is inspired in some way or another by conversations I have with non-artist.
Jrn Calo: How did it feel to see your first sculpture valid, in the sense that you felt it was a work of art, from an artistic point of view?
In my case, this took quite some time. I realized, quite early on, that I would need to master a number of skills to be able to do my ideas justice. So I spent a fair amount of time working on these. Anatomy, life drawing and classical sculpting were amongst those I spent most of my time on.
I never use models or work directly from photos, while sculpting a piece, preferring to work from memory and visually filtering an image...from real live or imagined object...through my artistic brain and into the final work. So having good filters is a must..and this takes time to build up. I`m still working on these filters, trying to make them better.
So...didn`t really make anything of artistic worth until the last half year of my masters degree, after studying art full time for five and a half years.
Jrn Calo: Before creating Glider Angel Mark III, what was the idea or thought that led you to create such an interesting and original work? What is the story behind Mark III Angel Glider?
Working with angels as a theme has its artistic pit falls. It`s been explored by thousands of sculptors and painters throughout the ages. So what did I do?
Mark III Angel Glider is built around the idea of a pre historic Angel design.
Much in the same way as one model of car is replaced by another; Mark III Angel Glider is envisioned as one of the early "models" in Angel designs. I designed the slimmer wings for a time when a denser atmosphere and fast winds prevailed on earth, allowing this Angel to rely on its gliding ability.
As the atmosphere changed, the Mark III Angel Glider was perhaps replaced by the wider winged "Feather Design", so well known today and depicted by many artists in recent centuries.
This was the thought at any rate…expecting a casual viewer of the sculpture to understand this is a stretch, I know, but I love spinning stories around my pieces.
On the technical side; it`s a simple triangle composition, a glazed ceramic body combined with epoxy wings. The vein like structure in the glaze also adds a dimension to this piece.
I`ve also done a series of smaller angels, concentrating on an angels birth, from sperm stage, to tadpole stage and on through the millennia, from short winged designs, to the modern version with a folding wing design…but that's another story.
Jrn Calo: Do you have an artist friend out with you for a walk, and talk about art from time to time?
It can be very lonely working alone at my studio, so I definitely like to get out now and then, drink a bunch of beers and shoot the breez with fellow artists and other creative minds. Being slightly drunk and discussing art is perhaps the second best thing to do in this world.
Jrn Calo: What was it that inspired the creation of the piece titled: The Right Hands of GOD?
Funny story. The way I work is usually to make the figurative elements first in ceramics, and then combine them later with an epoxy shape or other elements.
I had the idea for the wings forming a cross and the tail being a crescent moon shape: Muslim/Christian symbolism early on.
I was planning on sculpting one right hand and one left hand...but, most likely, because I`m a dumb ass, I sculpted two right hands by mistake.
But luck would have it that this was perfect for the base idea; that angels are symbols of divine intervention both in the Christian and Muslim faiths. The Right hand of God is a place of honor. And the idea that both Muslims and Christians can be at the Right Hand of God, at the same time...I like very much.
Jrn Calo: What is the daily life of the artist Andrew Barton like? I think it can be very interesting to readers, knowing one day in the life of Andrew Barton.
I have two kids, a boy and a girl, 3 and 11 years of age...so a lot of my life revolves around them obviously. Just regular stuff like playing Nazi zombies on PS3 with my son, great fun BTW, or taking them to the beach (in Norway-cold water) and doing my best to prevent hypothermia, my daughter loves the sea and anything with water...warm or cold, dosen`t matter...she`s a real little Viking.
But once I get to my studio it`s a completely different world. I love my kids, but I also love my sculptures. It`s all part of the same creative process, seeing my kids develop and grow, and seeing my sculptures develop and grow...from a simple idea to a work of art.
I usually have four or five different projects going at the same time, so it`s a very varied work day. Anything from sculpting a small sketch, to sculpting a major work, sanding an abstracted epoxy piece, or writing something for the net....
Sculpture is a very physical type of art..it is not so much about illusion, it has a physical manifestation; and this requires a lot of physical work at times....I`m not a wimpy painter with a brush, but a sculptor with power tools and strong hands.
But sometimes these strong hands also sculpt in millimeters, tiny small changes when sculpting a face, adding life to the otherwise inert material.
There is something to be said for a varied workday, and I strive to make it that way. Result: I seldom get bored.
Jrn Calo: What is the message behind the piece: Hypothesis?
Made this one before I had kids. I got to a point in my life where, after being dumped for the nth time, I realized I had spent all this time with women I had loved...but had absolutely nothing to show for it. No kids, no girlfriend, no nothing. It was perhaps a bit cynical of me...but I sat down with my calculator, and did some simple arithmetic.
"Considering a normal rate of once a day
Over a period of fifteen years
At an average volume of two millilitres
This being the basis for my hypothesis
I have expended eleven litres of sperm
On my fellow females
The number being irrelevant
I am still a single male without offspring"
Jrn Calo: What are your thoughts about social networking and the Internet?
I almost feel like a dinosaur when I tell my son there was no internet back when I was a kid. A bit like my mom telling me her story of when they, as the first family on the block, got a TV back in the 50`s.
I graduated from The Oslo National Academy of Art back in 1997. The net was just getting going and by 1999 I had my homepage up and running.
I believe the net is and will become a real game changer in the world of art.
Prior to the internet, the world of art was run by a bunch of regional "kings". A bit like back in the middle ages. The art museums and galleries decided which art was acceptable...and this is what the public was exposed to.
Today, thanks to the net, it is becoming a far more democratic process. If you like an artist; you share a link on facebook/twitter or e-mail, and in a day or two this artist can be seen by people all over the net globe.
Power to the people.
Regional museums, art academy teachers, art historians, gallery owners and art critics still play a role....but their dominant role in the art world has come to an end. And this is a very very good thing.
Artists should never be part of a flock; they should rather all be spread out...grazing on their own little patch of grass.
So I am very optimistic for this new net generation of artist. I believe we will witness a more varied art scene in the years to come than has ever been seen before, in the History of Art, no less.
Jrn Calo: What advice would you give to an emerging artist, or an artist who wants to be an artist? And that's all Mr. Barton, has been a great pleasure to interview him for multimedia Poet Magazine, thank you very much, I wish you great success in his life as an artist.
Advice? This is always a tricky question to answer. One really has to know the individual artist to give focused and relevant advice. "Many ways to skin a cat", as the saying goes.
But on a very general basis I can say that all walks of life, either as a fireman, lawyer, doctor, businessman, teacher, cook, waitress, musician or artist is never a walk in the park. Young people do not always understand this. Young artists do not always understand this .They imagine that there are easy paths in life and difficult paths.. And many give up way to early in their artistic careers, believing that the path of the artists is too challenging.
Life is difficult; it can be a bitch, as it should be.
But, it can also be sooooo soooo sweet; as an artist :