Martin Olsson is the first artist selected for our Artist Residency Program in the new Bankley Project Space. He will be joining us from December to March 2015, creating new work onsite and the residency will culminate in a solo exhibition at Bankley Gallery. The Artist Residency program will provide space and support to artists for experimentation and the development of new work which will be shared through public events and exhibitions.
Martin’s paintings are predominantly of geometric abstract nature and he looks for a balance between simplicity and the presence inherent in colour.
Lucy Harvey: Earlier this year I caught you discussing the motivations behind your work at a CG Associate session at Castlefield Gallery Manchester. Myself and the group were surprised to learn that you had a background as an illustrator and I was struck by the ways in which you saw abstraction as a way to negate narrative and counter the literal nature of this work. I wondered if you would like to expand on what drew you to abstraction and if you still see it as an act of rebellion?
Martin Olsson: ‘Rebellion’ is a strong word but I suppose not entirely out of place here. As drawing has always been something I’ve done it follows that the way I’ve seen images and the making thereof has been as a combination of variations to reach similar goals, namely that of giving shape to something literal or metaphorical. An idea is either suddenly hit upon or slowly arrived at and then there comes the period when that idea needs illustrating, explaining and made accessible to the viewer. Here the illustrating process is a tool for a rather predetermined goal and therefore the nature of the result similar. Abstraction purges the image from content in a way and what remains has very different qualities and properties. Often the most interesting thing about abstract works is why they were created in the first place. This puzzle takes some contemplation and it’s in the inducing of this state I find new parameters can be found and understood.
LH: Your painting Linkage III was shortlisted for the 2014 Bankley Open Exhibition by our judging panel for it’s strong composition and striking use of colour. Could you tell us about what inspired this work?
MO: It started initially as a homage to the line, but soon developed far away from this original idea to something akin to a statement about looking and how the way a visually barren surface kick the eyes round the work in a hunt for content. Nothing is ever totally ‘nothing’ because we can’t escape ourselves, the perpetually activating tool with which we experience everything. I deliberately turned the colour down and made the more pronounced protagonists of the piece the uninflected strips of white, black and grey. Seemingly purged from activity I wanted to show that some activity still remains, namely the activity we ourselves put into anything we engage with.
LH: As our first artist residency participant you’ll be based in Bankley’s new Project Space until March 2015. Can you tell us what you plan to work on during your time with us and what you feel the residency offers your practice?
MO: This residency offers me a chance to get a much wider perspective on what I do, what other artists that I’m yet to get to know occupies themselves with as well as what Bankley Studio&Gallery is all about. Beyond this I will first and foremost be working towards putting on a show in Bankley Gallery for the spring 2015 in collaboration with Gary Andrew Clarke, as our work share many similarities in both outlook and how they are constructed from sets of rules. I look forward to getting to know other artists at Bankley as it very much is a powerhouse of individual creativity over a wide range of disciplines. I also want to invite other artists for informal discussion meetings on different topics relating to what we do as individuals, as well as opportunities to share ideas and perhaps even the odd critique here and there! I’m also creating a Facebook photo album about my stay for good measure!