Interview 004: Conrad Armstrong
GO TO// ARTIST PAGE: CONRAD ARMSTRONG
"The arts industry, as exciting as it sometimes sounds, can be demotivating as well, you can sometimes see its negative sides and effects it has on artists during tough times. Keep looking forward."
What is your definition of ART, What does your work aim to say, ?
I base my work around mental health topics and mainly focus on identity issues. With my work, I aim to talk about what it means to be different, discuss flaws, tolerance, uniqueness, find beauty in the darkness and those low moments. Art means, expression of imagination or creative skills. For me art is everything, from sound, composition, painting, mindfulness to experimenting with different mediums.
Who are your biggest influences?
My biggest influence is people, and how wonderfully different we all are, even when we go through similar things in life. Being able to keep connection with different people, explore our differences together.
If you do not feel as influenced necessarily by people, what countries/place/alternatives influence you and works as an artist?
Travelling is a big part of my creative journey. Without travelling, visiting a variety of different cultures, I would probably lack the perspective of what humans are or can be.
I made the biggest decision in my life, to move away from my home country and cross the seas for the unknown around 10 years ago and by far. It has been the best decision, because it not only opened up my mind and soul but it helped me to develop as a person and lose the self-destructive fear of not fitting in.
How have you developed your career, What gave you the desire and push to create and be an artist?
I found art to be the easiest way of self-expression, especially when I was growing up. Due to a lot of eastern european influence there was little or no motivation to speak your mind, and expressing feelings was a sign of weakness. Thats the reason why arts attracted me, I found a way of expressing my thoughts, feelings, identity concerns through art. It felt liberating.
I found the biggest push to be the final year of Photography, not being able to afford certain things for the course, working extreme hours to support myself, and the full-time university was dragging me mentally down. Not only have I chose to talk about my mental health, but also I have chosen to create photographs differently by using a scanner.
What is your thoughts on the Arts industry, both past present and future?.
The world of art has transformed into the art industry, drastically in the last couple of decades. The process of refinement has begun, and it still has a lot of growing up to do.
Arts industries have transformed dramatically and have become more accessible, especially with new technologies and the impact of social media. The help and support that artists can receive varies from different countries, but it is now becoming more and more beneficial for the artist itself, rather than simply corporates involved in art trading. Contemporary art is now booming, with collectors fighting over street art, rather than historical paintings. It just shows that Art industries are growing and changing.
How do you stay focused with each project, considering the recent pandemics?
I have found this year to be extremely different. It has been strange, but also relaxing and motivating. Since the lockdown started we’ve all had to find a way to be satisfied with not much happening. All of the collaborations had restrictions, shows or projects were either being postponed or cancelled. Cancellations were the most stressful due to the loss of investment. Personally I learned to find peace with it and took the time to create art at my pace.. The most important thing was my daily routine and sticking to it. I have started completely different projects, from what I had engaged with previously. Creating abstract images, and reflecting on self-exploration is my 2020 obsession. Focusing on pushing the boundaries, exploring new possibilities within our new limitations with my same scanner medium.
What is your future plans as an artist?
I tend not to plan far ahead and live in the moment, otherwise life would just be stress. I have small goals that come and go depending on what life dishes out. I currently work with the amazing Promethean art collective, and for the last couple of years, I have not only been working closely with a variety of different artists but as well curating art shows and exhibitions all around London. I guess, being able to stay creative, explore different possibilities and enjoy it to the fullest is my main desire.
What do you feel needs to change most about the arts industry?
I have discussed this topic with a lot of people at length. There needs to be change in the way the industry finds unpaid work or known otherwise as ‘internships’. Even in East London where I live, I see unpaid internships for companies making profit, or by other artists that are established as if they’re doing people a favour. I appreciate that getting work experience is a first step for people in a lot of industries.
What enabled you to be where you are currently as an artist?
Without a doubt the people i have met in my journey so far and the support and love. Artist always have a similar idea of not feeling as if their work is as magnificent as the viewer, the concept of being hard on oneself is a familiar pre judgement of artist. Due to the topics I am exploring and the people surrounding me I feel confident in the work I produce. I understand that we have to talk about the topics, and I know how important it is to do so. At the same time I don't feel that "I am in love" with each piece of work. The number of hours I spent to create it, all the little mistakes I have made, the rush and excitement sort of runs out.Once I am done with that piece all I can see is what I have gone through to make it. It is absolutely a different experience if you compare it to a viewer's experience.
Where do you envision your art to be in future? What are your future plans with your work and how does it feel to par ways with your work?
I hope to stay experimental and exhaust scanner based techniques. At the moment I am simply craving collaborations with different artists due to lockdown restrictions. I am looking forward to starting some new projects with people. I would also love to support a good cause and looking to do so for example, supporting a charity with my artwork. Either donating my work, or raising money with it. I feel happy. It brings me joy, knowing that somebody can connect to my work and is happy to purchase and support me in creating more! I don't hang around my artworks, I feel that with each finished work, a chapter is done, and it is time to part ways.
How do you stay motivated considering the Art’s industry having its own conforming issues?
By reminding myself that I have the right to create art and express myself however I feel, through any medium. It also motivates me, to remind myself what a long way I have come and how much more I can do, only if I set my mind on what matters.
Being Self Taught vs Going to Arts school , what do you feel you have learnt most as an artist?
I had a chance to attend various art schools, academies from a very young age. I had tried a variety of mediums before I chose to study photography and fine arts. Going to art schools was not always a pleasant experience, the older I was growing the more people were expecting me to conform to the rules, society norms etc. But being able to test your visions, ideas on a range of different technologies, mediums, and learn the ways you can adapt this to your own practise, is advantageous on many different levels. I have learnt that being yourself is paramount in creating art.
Where would you like to see your works hanging ?
I would love to see my work hanging not only in the contemporary gallery setting but also in public spaces so that my art inspires the masses. I want them to question what my art means to them.I would like to see my works being curated within outdoor or public spaces. Integrated artwork within public spaces, is an interesting way of reaching out to a viewer without it expecting it.
What is your method to stay inspired / completing projects?
I try to keep myself in a good mood, with a well-balanced mind and support from people, who help me to concentrate. My inspiration comes from others kindness, beauty, brightness and darkness.
Do you wish your work embody/narrate anything in particular to the viewer? If so why and what?
Yes. Most of my projects come with short stories or descriptions that relay important information. . Creating photographs, by using a scanner, is like scanning emotions and visualising some identity issues in the form of a mirror. I seek my work to narrate the importance of self-awareness, the importance of accepting yourself the way you are or how complicated your mind can be, but accepting all of it might liberate you.
How does it feel being apart of a movement naturally, as an artist that doesn't conform to suit society?
Being part of something unique, different and so supportive is an amazing feeling. Being invited to create something unique is liberating. Having such trust and support, and encouragement to be whatever you want to be is exactly what we all need.
If you could ask the viewer anything, what would you ask them whilst looking at your work/coming across your work?
I prefer for a viewer to open up, so my question probably is something like: How are you feeling?
"I am proud to say, I have finished a Photography degree without using a camera."
"I don't think anybody should be working for free three-five days a week, for a minimum of six months for lunch money. I think it is destructive to our industry, and the majority of the emerging artists can not afford to live this way."
"The ability to create art the way I visualise it, without being conformed."
"Being an Artist is a way of communicating with others. Being an artist, and having the freedom to explore amazing topics, and finding a way to visualise it and let it live, is a way of understanding myself and others. I think being an artist can sometimes be extremely difficult, complicated, or rewarding. Everybody's mind works differently."
See Elika Bo's work online...