Andrew Lacon was born in Dudley, West Midlands
He studied Fine Art Photography at the Royal College of Art and Photography at Plymouth University
Andrew currently lives and works in London and Dudley
A conversation between Alex Waters and Andrew Lacon
AW: I wanted to start by talking about the title ‘A Magnitude in Albion’. The use of the name ‘Albion’ seems to evoke both a historical grandeur as well as something quite traditional, almost quaint, conjuring up images as seemingly disparate as William Blake’s poetry and West-Brom football club.
AL: Well I hate West-Brom. But I do occasionally go to a pub called the Albion to watch the Wolves matches. My use of the word ‘Albion’ is mainly to do with a traditional reference to England. All of my work is about England and the way we look at England. It’s almost a taboo to be proud to be English. With reference to Constable and traditional English landscape painting which is about putting ownership to land, I’m interested in this space which, in one sense is my space; its personally mine, I want it, but it also belongs to everyone. All of the titles in the show have a double meaning that play on the English language in this sense. For example, ‘The Common’, it depicts a council estate which is a common / shared space, but also in a derogatory sense the word ‘common’ refers to a social statement ‘common people’. With ‘Land Matters’, the word refers to the physical term ‘matter’ and also the idea that land is important. When you give a piece of land a title, even if it is something like ‘wilderness’, it puts a status on it; it claims it as something or somewhere.
AW: The word ‘magnitude’ is also interesting. Is it a magnitude in physical space, a historical depth, a conceptual weight, or a combination of these ideas?
AL: It is a mixture of them. These spaces could be anywhere; they exist all over England. For me, the metal fence spike sums up the phrase ‘this is England’. Everyone ignores the idea of class these days, it’s almost like it doesn’t exist, when if anything it’s as strong as ever. And through the difference in class structure you have different views on the same spaces. My work is full of contradictions, which is in part a reflection on myself. I come from a working class background but having left that space, living in London and studying a masters - you can’t go from a college called Royal and still call yourself working class - that background still remains in myself and in the work; I constantly revisit it and make work in response to this.
AW: Your work for this exhibition uses a mixture of photographic techniques. The c-type print - an object familiar to the worlds of both fine art and everyday life - and a form of Daguerreotype that relates to an antique world and the very origins of photography. These two forms of photography seem to be at odds with each other; one commonplace and reproducible, the other a precious, handmade, one-off object.
AL: It all references photography, I’m a big photographic geek. Historically, Daguerreotypes were made from silver so they were very expensive and the only people who could afford them were the rich. They were a treasured object normally depicting family members, but also a celebration of technological breakthroughs of the time and were used as a status symbol. I find it interesting how photography started off like this, then through the development of the technology, (the box-brownie being the first cheep mass produced camera), it began to lose its value. Even now it is looked on that a digital print is not as valuable as a c-type print. With regards to the hundred prints [Obstructed, 2011], it references the idea that these are throwaway objects. A painting is a painting, a sculpture is a sculpture, but photography is always seen in the context of an edition. With the one hundred prints, they are all hand made and individually cut, so although they are essentially the same, each one is an individual object with slight discrepancies. I personally see the photograph as an object. Once it is framed it becomes physical; it is physically in a space, its not flat or two dimensional, there is an objectness about it. For me there is no difference in value between the prints and the gold objects. But people would naturally assign more value to these gold objects, which seem to be more precious.
AW: In several of the works the photographic image has been interrupted or sabotaged in someway; a stack of prints with a section cut through them; a print with an area carefully blanked out by a screen print; and of course, as we enter the gallery we are confronted with a large print that has seemingly slipped from its frame. Could you talk about the need to affect the works in this way?
AL: It’s mainly to do with where I sit as an artist; am I photographer or a sculptor? I started out working with sculpture and three-dimensional forms, then moved to photography and felt as if I had found my voice. But there is this feeling that the photograph alone is not enough. I’m interested in where we stand on the photographic work just being a photograph on the wall. The idea that it is just a piece of paper, but mounting it in a gallery it gains rigidity and takes on preciousness. I’m interested in how this can be played with and personalized. I love the photograph and the photographic process, but I feel it’s never quite enough; the sculptural side of my practice needs something else from the photograph. The relationship between sculpture and photographic composition is very strong; it’s a matter of considering physical forms and their relationship to space.
Visit This Is Tomorrow for a review of Andrew Lacon: A Magnitude In Albion, by Daniel Campbell Blight