Originally from Liverpool, Carne Griffiths is currently celebrating his role as headline artist for the ibis Sleep Art Exhibition at Gallery Different in London. Art in Liverpool spoke to the artist about the weird and wonderful ingredients in his art, and his ongoing connection to his Northern hometown.
You use some unusual drawing materials including tea and vodka in your work – what’s it all about?
I started experimenting with liquids in the work after accidentally applying brandy to a painting. I enjoy working with materials that have unknown effects and that react together on the work – most of my work mixes these liquids on the page and then I steer or manipulate them using a brush or hairdryer.
Tell us about your creative process.
Spontaneity and chance are critical to what I do, combined with a lucid drawing style that employs automatic drawing techniques used primarily by the surrealists. I like to work in a state of high energy and quite often euphoria, each mark and stroke is a reaction to what is happening on the page and the most successful works enjoy the fact that much of this is outside of my control – my job as an artist is to balance these elements and to give them prominence in the work.
Your work explores themes of escapism and the inner self – do you put a lot of your own experiences into what you do?
I put a lot of emotional energy into the work – if this connection is missing then a work becomes staid and lifeless… no matter what the subject. Landscape, portrait or abstract, I like to form a strong emotional link to what I am painting; this sometimes involves escapist inner narratives, wandering thought and a general liberation from rational and logical constraints.
Who or what influences your work?
I am strongly influenced by nature and our relationship with it – how we have become separated and how we strive to understand more about the natural world.
How did you become interested in visual art after a career in the costume and fashion industries?
I went through a fairly traditional art route… A-levels, Foundation at Hugh Baird College and then a degree at KIAD in Maidstone – so the fashion and embroidery career was more of an anomaly than the current path I am following! But I owe a lot to this shift in interest – 12 years as an embroidery designer and managing production of projects gave me a unique skill set and one that I feel now gives me a unique outlook as an artist.
You have exhibited around the world, but where would your dream exhibition take place?
I would love to exhibit back in Liverpool – it’s where I spent my childhood both in and around the area, and I have not yet had an opportunity to return with the work. I would also love to exhibit in India – my embroidery work took me to some incredible places there and I would love to return with a new body of artwork that reflected the huge cultural diversity of the country. For now I feel that my practice as an artist needs to grow – I am making the most of studio time and trying not to concentrate on particular exhibitions, however ,opportunities come along that are just too good to miss sometimes!
What has been your most exciting project to date?
It’s hard to nail just one down. My breakthrough project was a 6 page illustration spread working with the photographer Rankin. For me this was an incredible platform for my work and an opportunity to work alongside a passionate creative from a different field. My exhibition in Hong Kong with Coates and Scarry and Above Second Gallery was also a huge privilege – to have a team of curators believe in your work strongly enough to take you to another country is something that makes you recognise the value in what you do – it was a real honour and a wonderful experience to see Hong Kong from this perspective.
Liverpool is your hometown; what are your favourite galleries and places to see art here?
The Tate Liverpool, the Walker and the Bluecoat chambers are favourites when I am back home. I remember the Tate’s arrival in Liverpool and the wonderful Giacometti drawing workshops which featured there during my foundation years.
You now live in London, but do you think its important to maintain a connection with your home town?
I first moved to Maidstone in Kent to study and the move to London was a step that I made to try and engage with the animation industry after graduating – however this was never to be and I ended up living and working in the east end of London when an opportunity as a draughtsman appeared that was too good to miss. I returned home between each term of study and for the summer after graduating – no matter how long I am away, there is a strong feeling of homecoming and belonging to the city of Liverpool. I’m proud of where I come from, both the place and the people give a strong sense of identity, which will always be with me and hopefully show through in my work.
You can find out more about Carne’s work here.