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Interview with Adam Batchelor
In a recent interview, fellow featured illustrator and “Good for Nothing” curator Dillon Froelich asks Batchelor about his work, his inspiration, and his expectations for the future.
The hyperrealist detail in your work is absolutely remarkable. Do you think coloured pencil is the best way to achieve such precise detail? How long would you say it takes to complete each piece?
There are other mediums that would produce a better detail, but I just love the simplicity of pencils and paper, It feels very democratic and not elitist at all, the art and ideas i make are for everybody, there’s nothing really complicated about it, I like to use simple means to convey important messages. The drawing I’ve done for the show took about a month to complete, including the planning which took about a week or so, I had to make sure each product was right, and to make sure that it worked for an American audience. I thought it would take a lot longer and didn’t expect to finish it so soon. The time it takes varies with every drawing, but i do think it is important to spend time on the work you make, don’t rush things.
Do you think living in England has a significant effect on your style and inspiration?
Sure, of course, English culture, our way of life, our media affects my perspective, It has allowed me to have both very liberal views about the world and taught me the importance of being critical of our establishments and our government. I would like to make more art about England, and i would like to learn how to make art that is more political in nature.
Most of your artwork is clearly inspired by modern culture and the effects of globalization. Would you say your influences are drawn from current events reported in the somewhat exaggerated use of the media today or from historical pretenses?
Two years ago i took part in a volunteering program where I lived with a family in a small community in Nepal and with other volunteers we helped to build a secondary school, with no machinery, this took about a year to complete, with each group of volunteers coming and working on the project for a few months at a time. My experiences in Nepal changed who I was as a person. Nepal is the 15th poorest country in the world, and to witness the issues and problems many face day to day, made all my problems that I was facing at the time seem completely irrelevant, we have so much, and we take so much of it for granted, being there helped me to reform my perspective of the world and consider things I wouldn’t necessary have considered before.
My goal is to make art that can act as Activism, and i want to make a more conscious effort to try and combine the two. People can be so apathetic to people facing real problems. Take what is happening in Gaza for instance, our leaders are doing nothing. This kind of thing just enrages me. I followed to U.S elections since July and watched the millions of gaffes Mitt Romney made, It was incredibly saddening to watch a man running to be arguably the most powerful man in the world show a clear disregard for people facing poverty and for minorities living in the U.S facing so much hardship. I don’t understand how you can put profit over people, it’s disgusting.
All my influences are drawn from global issues, they are sometimes drawn from current events and i definitely keep on track with what is happening out there. History is important though, especially for context, It’s important to gain a greater understanding. I’ve been working on a project that focuses on two tribes of hunter gatherers and the issues they face with modernity, and i’ve been researching a lot about early human hunting techniques, such as persistence hunting, where you run your prey down to the point of exhaustion. I’m also a runner so find that stuff so interesting.
I’m assuming your Google image search history must be pretty intense. Do your visual references usually come from the web or do you have a collection of books, newspapers and encyclopedias? Are there some components of your work that are entirely fictional?
I collect National Geographics, I’ve got hundreds. I want to start collecting LIFE magazine as well. I have a pretty massive archive of images and even if you don’t notice it I research everything about a subject and try to keep the attention to detail as high as possible. The problem with collecting images off the web especially something like google images is that you won’t totally know for sure how many other people have used that image for something, so even though i do tend to try and use images that are from creative commons, it is important to search hard for that perfect image, and also picking interesting and irregular subjects helps to keep things original. And that’s why it’s important to not get lazy about it, appropriated imagery is a massive part of my art practice and so i have to be through and creative about finding images to use. There are some components that are fictional or added, but not often.
In regards to the theme represented in Good for Nothing, how do you feel social networking will impact future generations?
I totally like using Facebook and twitter to post and spread information to and with other people, i think that is the single greatest thing it’s done for us in terms of mass communication, twitters role in the arab spring and the occupy movements was really important, if not vital.
But, not everyone uses these sites for that, like consumerism, social media becomes ingrained in daily lives because it becomes the platform for how we build and make new relationships with our friends. I think it’s quite scary just how integrated it’s become, and what’s worst is the sheer amount of data it collects on people for advertising.
I was born in 1988, (so not that long ago!) so i’ve been fortunate to have grown up without the internet always being there and being so ingrained, I had dial-up for years and years, before wikipedia there was Encarta, an interactive encyclopaedia and you had to really know how to search for stuff, nothing was quick. I still like that though, it all seems too easy now, wheres the challenge. Now, everything is so connected, you can post photos of what you’re doing at any given time of the day and everyone you’re connected with will know where you are and who you’re with.
For my sisters generation it’s different, it’s apart of life, not something new that appeared and became popular when you were a teenager. It’s like that for every generation i guess, that’s why people say kids aren’t what they used to be, things just move forward. We just communicate with each other differently. Person to Person, letters, telegrams, telephones, emails, mobiles, social network.
But nothing has radically changed the way we communicate like Facebook or Twitter i don’t think.
The use of Twitter to communicate exactly what one thinks about and share that with absolutely anyone is definitely setting new precedents on how we now communicate with each other, there is something about twitter that makes us believe it’s okay to say certain things that we wouldn’t on any other form of pre-existing social media, telephone, email, letter. It’s like there is a veil of anonymity that allows you to say what ever you want and feel like you’re not going to get caught. For some reason, twitter has made everyone believe that we all have a voice and what we say is important. But instead we ramble on about irrelevant information and insult people.
For instance, in the UK there have been multiple cases of people using twitter to abuse, harass, bully and defame others. You can face prosecution for posting something grossly offensive to thousands of people, and some say this threatens freedom of speech. Twitter allows anyone to publish what is on their mind to anyone around the world, whilst not requiring it’s users to adhere to the same standards of the media, newspapers, i believe it will highly damaging if we all suddenly became self publishing via the internet, a line has to be drawn.
We’re looking forward to having Batchelor’s politically charged artwork at The LAB Miami. You can come check it out beginning December 7.