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Greetings this week go to Charles Gershom Neal! Manchester resident, Fine Artist, Technologist, musician, tea obsessive and beardy hat lover. That's a lot of adjectives for a larger than life character! Graduating in 2013 from UWE, Bristol with a BA Fine Art (Hons) degree. We managed to slow Charles down just long enough to ask him a few questions!
1) Hey Charles. Busy 2014? Tell us your plans!
Busy indeed! As well as planning some new work and exhibitions for my own fine art practice, I am enthusiastically engaged in several exciting new projects. Ranging from some good old fashioned art prints, to interactive sculpture and abstract performance sound art to Hip Hop producing!
16BitGlitch is a tech art project where I am working with a range of artists to produce electronic artworks and electronic music devices, with the emphasis being on low fi technology. We also provide technical support to artists through workshops and 1-2-1 tuition.
HappySpaceSloth is a very new entity which is a group of recently graduated Fine artists who have got together to make their work a little more accessible to the public. Currently HSS is focusing on very limited print runs of prints created from the work of some very exciting early career artists across the globe.
3) How have you gotten to this point in the road?
The road has been long and winding, the start is probably an exhibition I saw in my hometown by French art Paul Granjon. He was the first artist that I saw turn technology not just into art, but FUN art. This inspired me to quit my IT job and embark on the long process of retraining and embracing the artist world.
4) And what gets you motivated in the morning still?
Making, making and more making. I love making things: objects, sounds, devices, systems. The second I wake up I have the need to make things. It does mean I end up working on probably too many things at once sometimes!
5) Sounds like you have fingers in lots of pies. How do you prioritise it all?
Google documents and a comprehensive collection of tea and teapots. I have tea for every type of project management scenario. Mellow oolong for the contemplation moments through my own special blends of chrysanthemum and honey suckle for brain food, or the good old Yorkshire Gold if you just gotta get stuff done!
6) How do you personally combine art and technology? Where do you find the balance?
I think the combination of art and technology is a pretty natural process. For example when painting became photography, then film, digital film etc. It's always evolving to reflect the time we live in. Today we live in a world with incredibly accessible technology that only as recent as 10 years ago would have been space age stuff. Within my art works I find that my most successful work is when I combine older and more mature technology with conventional art practice to bring new life to ideas. I often recycle disused and broken machines when making work. This approach is especially visible on my musical devices, where I make electronic instruments from scratch.
7) Where do you get your inspiration from?
A lot of my inspiration comes from everyday objects. I am obsessed with how things fit together in the bigger picture, how different things affect and influence each other, and especially through technology, how they affect our development and lives as species. This is then built on by extensive scientific and artistic research, a combination of which is key to how I approach things.
8) What advice would you give artists who want to use technology in their work?
Don't fear it! Learn by breaking things. If you pick up the instruction book before picking up the device, you are only going to learn how you're supposed to use it for a specific context, and not the best way to use for you and your creative freedom.
9) Who in the world of art and technology is capturing your eye at the moment?
I’m currently really into building sound machines, and a real inspiration is Tatsuya Takahashi. He is the lead designer for a series of really brilliant synths from Korg. These devices really capture the current zeitgeist surrounding technology and art, especially with the idea of the hand made. All the devices he has designed for korg are built with the idea of hacking for art. The designs are published online, and the devices themselves have all key points marked up inside ready for a tech artist to get down and dirty with the solder.
10) So finally - come on then, as a techy - Samsung or Apple?!
Well its a pretty straight forward one for me this as I believe in technology being something that should have the least number of barriers and the biggest number of choices. Unfortunately Apple just does not do this for me, they price new artists out, and lock you into a closed (albeit very pretty) system, So I’m going to have to go with Samsung on this one!