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Monday 23 August 2010

Q&A with Last Year's Winner for Artwork in the Aesthetica Creative Works Competition

Don't forget, The Aesthetica Creative Works Competition closes for entries next Tuesday!

We’ve decided to catch up with last year’s Artwork Winner, Shadric Toop. His artwork, Alan, is a mixed media work, combining photomontage, varnish, stains, acrylic and oil paint as well as electrical wires and is the front cover image for last year's Creative Works Annual. The Artwork section is judged by Aesthetica editor, Cherie Federico, and last year's other winners were Louise Beech (Fiction, Judge, Rachel Hazelwood) and Sally Spedding (Poetry, Judge, Kate North). Read our Q&A with Louise here.

We wanted to catch up with Shadric and see what he’s been up to since winning the Artwork Category in 2009. Remember the deadline for this year's Competition is 31 August!

Q&A with Shadric Toop

You were born in 1971 but didn’t start making art works until around 2002. What promoted you to start creating art? Can you remember your first work?

I was (and still am) making my living as a graphic designer, and in 2002 I did a job for a local art gallery. The owner asked if I'd like to exhibit something. I'd done a collage for the book jacket of a psychological thriller called Fall and I got a kick out of seeing my work in a gallery, so I began making more personal work and occasionally exhibiting it.

Before you moved into making art, you were involved in architecture and graphic design. Do you feel that your background in these subjects has had an impact on the sort of work that you create?

I studied architecture, but only practiced it for a few months. I found it rigorous - it taught me how to organise my thoughts, how to draw and how to deal with multiple layers of meaning and sometimes conflicting goals. Ultimately I wasn't cut out for it because it was too dry for me. I was in the music business for a while, then fell into graphic design by accident. This suited me better and taught me many skills that I use in making art - from technical ones such as how to use Photoshop to formal ones such as dealing with visual language and composition. However, whilst I enjoy working as a graphic designer, making art is a kind of tonic. With graphic design, I am working to a brief, with the specific goal of selling products and it is refreshing to be able to create art free from these restrictions, that allows me to seek a truth, even if that truth is disappointing.

How would you say that your style has developed over the years? Have you been influenced by any particular artists?

A definite influence has been Frances Bacon, not just because his paintings are astonishing, experimental and deeply interesting but because I happen to identify with what he said about making art - that he doesn't know 'how' to make the images that he has in his head (he acknowledges the role of accidents, and that his work is a kind of selection process). And like me he didn't study art at college. I should also mention David Hockney, whose photography (rather than his painting) has influenced me. In his 'joiners' he experimented with collages of multiple images that have the effect of breaking away from the one-point perspective of the camera, while also embedding time and movement into his images.

Last year, you started a drawing blog (www.shadrictoop-drawingblog.co.uk). Can you explain a bit about why you decided to begin this project?

Drawing is important to me, and I sometimes teach drawing to foundation students. It occurred to me last year that I was a hypocrite because I advised my students to draw every day, and I didn't do it myself. So I started the blog as a kind of formal commitment to drawing every day. I've kept it up for 11 months so far, and it has been a fantastic exploration not just of drawing for drawing's sake but of ideas. I've got a backlog of ideas now, and I only wish I had the time to develop more of these ideas into larger projects. Time is my greatest enemy.

What advice would you give to other aspiring artists? Any tips on how to enter creative competitions?

Let me set something straight first of all: I am still an aspiring artist myself! However, I can offer some advice with an anecdote: I did enter another competition the year before, with the very same piece of work that eventually won Aesthetica Creative Works, and I didn't even get shortlisted in the first competition. I felt a bit disappointed, but when the Aesthetica competition came along, I thought I didn't have much to lose by entering, and I won. It was totally unexpected. So my advice would be don't give up just because you get rejections. There's plenty of retrospectively embarrassing rejections in the history of art.

Can you give us any insight into the projects that you are working on at the moment?

I'm moving away from portraiture at the moment. It is a larger project that I've been working on for over a year now, and it may end up being more of an installation. The starting point of this project was the tragic shooting of the innocent man Jean Charles de Menezes at Stockwell Tube station in London in 2005 by the British Police, which was the result of mistaken identity. This is just a starting point, with the wider themes being the connections between human warfare, violence and religion as well as chance, determinism and the fragility of existence. Sounds nice and cheerful eh?! The working title is 'Tube'. The work is nowhere near complete, and I don't have a show lined up yet but when I do I'll post it on my website.

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