In the studio with Chris Mitton
In the inaugural article in our brand new 'In the studio' series, TAG Fine Arts speaks to Chris Mitton. He takes us on a virtual tour of his West Sussex studio, shares some wise words about life, and explains what influences his work. You can find more of Chris' work here, and catch his works in person at our booth at the London Art Fair, January 16–20th 2019.
How did your relationship with TAG Fine Arts develop?
One of the founders of TAG Fine Arts saw me exhibiting at the Brighton Festival in 2006. At that time my body of work consisted mostly of abstract, ‘pure form’ sculptures, but I was also exhibiting the first ‘Brick’ there; a marble house-brick carved both as a response to the cost of housing and a commentary on the value we place on whatever, or whoever, we call home. This piece revealed to me the power of referencing everyday objects and the dialogue this creates, and showed me the direction I wanted to take my work in. It was also the piece that they were interested in and as such I was invited to join their stable of artists.
Can you tell us a bit about your background?
My background is in the graphic design industry. I was, like most of us I imagine, heavily influenced by the style, the design, of the consumer culture I grew up in, so began a career, first as a typesetter, then a Mac operator, working mainly on magazine and packaging production.
Did you ever decide to be an artist? What inspired you to create?
Yes and no. Wanting to be more creative, although not knowing exactly how, I left my career in graphic design and found a position as assistant to the sculptor Giles Penny. This opened my eyes to the world of the professional fine artist, creating art purely from one’s own ideas - this is what I wanted to do! So, maybe I did decide then, or maybe the desire had always been there and the decision already made but until that point I hadn’t realised it. What inspired me, and still does, to create the work I do, is simply that I create art that moves me and that I would want to have in my life.
Define what art means to you, in 150 characters or less.
Discovering, communicating, learning, understanding.
What is your workspace like?
It is part of an old farm building converted into a studio, and opens on to a walled garden that was originally the farmyard. The enables me to have both indoor and outdoor working space which is essential as the initial ‘roughing out’ of a block creates a lot of dust. I attempt to keep the inside clean and tidy!
Do you think you work at your best as part of a collective or individually?
I’m very much an individualist so have never tried working any other way.
Do you have a set routine you follow when you’re creating? Walk us through your process.
Each piece begins with a concept, an idea that I want to communicate. My current body of work is based around the re-interpretation of everyday objects so I select an appropriate object and through manipulation such as distorting or altering scale, arrive at the final form. I then forensically examine the object and begin carving.
I work on one sculpture at a time. I live and breathe it, it is an intense relationship. I have ideas for future work in my head and these evolve as I’m working, but I only physically work on one piece at a time. I’ve tried working on more than one but it doesn’t work for me. When the sculpture is finished whichever of the ideas in my head is dominant at the time determines what piece I will create next.
Can you tell us a bit about what you're currently working on?
I’m exploring themes around the impact, socially and environmentally, of more cultural icons, such as early computer games, clothing, fashion, and packaging.
What is it that attracts you to sculpture as a medium, and marble in particular?
I sculpt because I want to create an object that, in itself, has never existed before, an object whose only function is to begin a dialogue as to why the artist created it.
I carve because, unlike other methods of sculpting where material can be both added and removed indefinitely, a sculpture carved from a block bears witness to our very selves, our abilities and fallibilities.
I carve marble because the classical fine art provenance of the material juxtaposes the subject matter I choose, which, I hope, creates a powerful statement about the world we have created.
What quote do you live by?
‘Love is the answer’. Whether it’s defined as a quote I don’t know, but what I mean by it is simply that we cannot always determine what the outside world delivers to us, our only choice, our power, is how we respond to it, in the work we do, in the people we interact with, in how we live our lives.