Friday, January 22, 2010

Gavin Turk interview


As one who has always shown disdain for those who believe that products, creators, from Western centres are automatically superior I was kind of taken aback by my excitement at the prospect of interviewing Gavin Turk. I like to think that it wasn’t an ingrained response but rather one related to the fact that I was living in London during what I consider to have been the height of his career. A fact which he sort of acknowledged when he remarked during the interview that the lifespan of an artist’s career has shrunk; that it no longer lasts a lifetime. He partly blamed the, er, media for this. I am not sure I altogether agree with that: I can think of many artists who are enjoying life long careers. But I suppose his point was that the pinnacle of their career has perhaps been truncated by overexposure.
It’s doubtful that Turk got to read my interview but if he had I think he would have been most pleased by the way in which his artwork Blue Elvis was further distorted by being reproduced in the newspaper. My editor was concerned that the image had been degraded but I assured her that it would have been much to Turk’s liking.

Right, the interview: 

I don't have any nuanced non-verbal gestures to go on; only Gavin Turk's voice, marked by a British accent. Telephonic interviews are always a tricky business: a bit like eating with your eyes closed. But I can easily picture his visage; it is a signature motif in his art. Of course, it is disguised somewhat, as he characteristically superimposes it on images of icons such as Che Guevara, Andy Warhol and Elvis Presley or its likeness appears in lifelike wax self-portraits, such as Pop (1993). He by no means employs straightforward portraiture; in Pop he presents a portrait of a hybrid being, born at the intersection of popular culture and celebrity myth-making.
He fuses elements drawn from a variety of personas: Sid Vicious pictured singing Sinatra's My Way in the pose of Elvis Presley playing the part of a cowboy in a movie, an image which Warhol silk-screened. They are copies of copies of copies - public figures like Turk, who are not presenting themselves but are mimicking other figures. Their real identity is obscured by pastiche and stylisation, they have become caricatures of themselves and others.

"I hope that people are able to see and not see what my images are. That they can recognise an image but don't quite recognise it. I think that art should somehow check people's preconceptions, that somehow it suggests that things aren't quite what you thought. There should be an inbuilt awkwardness with images," explains Turk.