Ahead of our next fair, we sat down with Alexandra Gallagher of Contemporary Collective, the talented artist who inspired us to bring her playful 'Selfies With Bond' to life for our Battersea Spring campaign (below). Read on to get her take on the rise of 'selfie culture', why she's naturally drawn to the surreal and which artists she most admires.
We love the contemporary twist you’ve put on the classic James Bond series. Can you tell us a bit about the inspiration behind ‘Selfies with bond’?
Selfies with Bond was created for a series of work exploring the intellectual landscape of the internet. The series first came about when exploring the idea of the computer being the window to the outside world. With so many people now living their lives through the internet, I wanted to explore what it would look like if it were a physical, tangible thing. On the internet, we all start out on a level playing field, there is no social status, religion, sexuality, physical beauty, age, colour – it can only go with what people put in. Even the most dark and twisted aspects of humanity are there. People can be whoever they want to be. I find it fasinating what people choose to put out there into the 'world' of the internet, what they find important to them and how they would like to be perceived. I also find it fascinating how the internet has changed over the past ten to fifteen years. It seems a place that is more curated and less candid. People are more aware of how they look and what they say, but it feels like it’s morphing into something sterile. Something that, rather than bring us together, pulls us further apart. We are sold an idea of the perfect life, which whether we want to or not, we all seem to unequivocally seek.
What drew you to explore the surreal in your work?
I’m not entirely sure. I’ve always loved surrealism and the concept behind the movement, but it is a genre I came to accidentally, rather than deliberately seeked out to explore. I guess I think in a very surreal way, I always have and my mind moves very quickly and creatively, so I found it fitted well when trying to express myself as an artist. I also love that there can be a lot of humour in the surreal. I don’t believe in taking ourselves too seriously all the time.
Jenny Saville was a huge influence on my work when I was at college and when I started out doing portraiture work, but now I seem to absorb everything. I love so many different artists and they’re usually very different in style to my own. I admire artists like Monica Cook, Ellen Rogers, Malcolm Liepke, Henrik Aarrestad Uldalen, but honestly I’m totally obsessed with art, so I think it would be hard to just pin down one or two that are the most influential. I probably take a bit from everything I look at, constantly learning.
Growing up my father was the most influential. He was an art teacher and painter himself and he taught me how the old masters used to paint. I've found a lot of inspiration in art history for my most recent work and I use a lot of the understanding of how to paint in my digital work, even though it's not a traditional format.
It has also been pointed out to me a few times that my latest pieces remind people of illustrations of Kit Williams and his book 'Masquerade', which was one of my favourite books growing up. I used to spend ages looking at it, hoping I’d found all the hares. So I’m guessing, without realising until recently, that he is also a huge influence on my work.
Prints can be a great, more affordable way to bring some personality and creativity to your home. Can you tell us a bit about your process?
My collage prints are made mainly from found digital imagery or photographs of my own. I work in photoshop to cut elements out and manipulate them. I start with one element that speaks to me, that sparks something. I never plan a piece, it’s a very organic process. I find using photoshop keeps that spontanity, I lose something when I plan a piece or use a sketch book. Like it’s overthought. I guess that's like surrealism in its truest sense – my work is from the subconscious.
I also find Photoshop brilliant for sketching a painting out too. I often use the same process as I would for creating a collage, and then sketch it up onto a canvas to render it in oil paint. I try not to be too formulaic with my work, as I feel I’d lose something in the pleasure of creating it if I did.
If you could summarise your works in three words, what would they be?
Wow that is a tough one… Colourfully bizarre and surreal
Behind the Battersea Spring campaign
Global Lead Designer, Emma Dakeyne, said of the making of the Battersea Spring campaign: “When we first encountered Alexandra Gallagher’s ‘Selfies with Bond’ we were shaken and, it goes without saying really, stirred. Her bold use of cultural icons inspired us to create a tribute to cinema’s most beloved spy; a character who is at once a suave dresser, a sharp thinker and a home-grown hero that can effortlessly and elegantly overcome any barrier in their way. Like secret agent 007, we believe that great art has the potential to save the world – entertaining us, empowering us and enriching our lives through our shared experience of its beauty, creativity and meaning.”
Header image: Alexandra Gallagher, Swing Prism, mixed-media, edition of 5, £1,250, available online with Degree Art.
Artwork images from top to bottom: Alexandra Gallagher, Selfies With Bond, digital print, limited edition, £1,250, available online with Degree Art.
Alexandra Gallagher, Flawless Pink, collage, limited edition, £500, available online with Degree Art.
Alexandra Gallagher, Apocalypse Beach, aluminium, limited edition, £1,250, available online with Degree Art.
Campaign photography: John Wright, Motel Studios.