For Hybrid Festival 2019, Art Licks presented the exhibition On Board II. The exhibition challenged the role of the curator and conventional modes of exhibition making. Curator, Holly Willats invited four UK artists to each offer instructions for new artworks that Willats and Jessie Bond were responsible for producing in Madrid on the artists’ behalf, to exhibit at Espacio Vista. Christopher P. Green was one of the invited artists and we speak here of his piece, Like a dinner party, I’ll be in the kitchen.
Holly Willats, Art Licks: The exhibition brief for this project was an unusual one – what was it that intrigued you about the process? Had you worked on something like this before?
Christopher P. Green: I’d recently moved to South West Cornwall (on the outskirts of Penzance) from London where I’d been living on and off for the past 12 years and was between studios. So the proposition of making work that didn’t require me to have a studio suited me very well!
At times I’ve used sets of instructions or prompts to make works: this is how my site-specific fresco works are realised, but with those they involve more of a dialogue with the person commissioning them and, to date at least, I’m the person acting out the instructions: applying the plaster and pigment. Making work in accordance with self-imposed rules and systems of logic known only to me, has long been something I’m interested in.
AL: How did you go about putting together the work instructions?
CPG: My contribution came through my thinking about En-trée, a group exhibition I organised at an apartment project space, Middlemarch in Brussels in 2014. I had assumed the role of host; inviting artists, all of whom I knew, to introduce them to one another and the Middlemarch audience. The emphasis of the show was on the guests, and second to that was my position as an artist and ‘curator’, and how I chose to walk this line. So I chose to show two older works from four and two years previous, and position myself in the kitchen.
The original poster for this show, which bears no text referring to the show itself, displays the music notes for the intro of Jona Lewie's You'll always find me in the kitchen at parties, along with a black and white photo of Lewie performing with an accordion. It’s worth noting that the original poster was never really a poster, remaining in its digital state as a web-friendly image. Since designing the poster, I had wished to print it as a real thing, but a suitable occasion to do so had not presented itself until your invitation to take part in On Board II.
I’m often thinking about ways to extend the life of an artwork. In this instance I went into my own archive (which I spent a good portion of 2019 cataloguing) and thinking about certain aspects that were maybe significant at one time but have since been resting. This took me to the poster. I’ve always liked the sound of You'll always find me in the kitchen at parties and, simply put, I thought it’d be fun to have someone more musically accomplished than myself to play its intro, note for note. This intro helped connect to the name of the original show: En-trée.
I was of course aware that most, if not all, of the people visiting the show would have no idea about the history of the poster. I also wondered if anyone would know who Jona Lewie was, or if they’d recognise the song. Whether or not they did wasn't requisite to the success of the work. Maybe they’d piece together all the connections much later.
AL: What was the experience of being removed or remote from the work and its production?
CPG: Over the years I’ve enjoyed periods of time when I’ve not had a formal studio set-up, though it’s not something I’ve been able to sustain for a long time, mostly because I’m usually very hands-on with my work.
I’m largely ‘self taught’ and tend to lean towards the idea of doing things oneself. Also, most of what I do as an artist is make paintings; it’s me doing all the work there, right down to constructing the panels. As a kind of counter to this approach I thought up a process to make fresco works around 2011, the same year I founded an independent arts publishers library (Library of Independent Exchange). Both of these projects are centred on communication and an exchange of ideas.
I’m curious about the idea of chance and the role it plays in the creation of artworks. Most recently (2020) I’ve been making works on paper using a ‘chance’ based method I developed in 2008. A big part of working like this was to free myself from certain decisions and those moments of artistic ‘agony’; the kind historically referred to by painters faced with the blank canvas or the ‘masterpiece’ they’re unable to reconcile!
Once upon a time I went to university and was enrolled in Graphic Design. I tend to avoid talking about this because in the past people had often made unfortunate associations with my paintings. It seems there’s a regular assumption made about graphic designers: at worst, they are portrayed as controlling, and the idea of Graphic Design, as something rigid. In my opinion, a good graphic designer needs to approach each of their subjects with an open mind and take observations with the widest field of vision. I could list many examples of such designers, but this isn’t the place. My point is that even within the seemingly rigid confines of Graphic Design, allowances must be made for ‘chance’ outcomes in both the mechanical and intellectual interpretation of the article.
Reinterpretation is therefore something that has continued to intrigue me. Putting trust in others, be it through the delegation of a task or creative collaboration, is an important and healthy thing to practice. More often than not it feels good to let go and to relinquish control.
AL: Where within the process and outcomes does the artwork sit? Is this an artwork at all?
CPG: I think maybe the artwork aspect is in the exchange and the connections of past and present. In the time travel.
AL: I still can't believe that I left the poster right at the last point in the airport before boarding the plane! I wonder if it has found another third life somewhere ... Perhaps this is the final point of independence for the work!
CPG: Ha, maybe a fan of Jona Lewie found it! I hope so.
Christopher P. Green is an artist based in South West Cornwall, UK. His work comprises (mostly) painting, books and exhibition making.