"This state of tension between masculine power and the homoerotic within these spaces is what draws me to these spaces, alongside my own awkwardness and fantasies of the sporting and its aesthetics."
Could you tell us a bit about yourself. How long have you been a practicing artist and where did you study?
I’m Alexander Glass, I’m 24 and I was born, live and work in London. I’m not sure where the line is for being a practicing artist and being an art student but I studied for my foundation in Central Saint Martins and went onto the University of Brighton to study Sculpture and am now currently finishing my MA in Sculpture at the Royal College of Art. I consider myself primarily a sculptor but my practice extends to video installation drawing and more recently writing.
Your work has a lot of humour in it, often with references to sporting activities. Could you talk about this and your process?
I think humour will always have a place in my art, even now when I’m attempting to take on darker and more critical positions with my work. In previous installations I have attempted to re-present sites that I consider to be strongly associated with sexuality and desire and create my own worlds of transposed materiality within them. Towels made of silicon and t-shirts made from shower curtain, creating an uncanny and unreal image of known spaces.
I think this material strangeness also sometimes lends itself to humour and narratives of disappointment, especially with works like ‘Another Flop’ which is a limp diving board.
Sites of sport are very loaded and potent spaces, through cinematic and pornographic presentation they easily slip into to the homoerotic because of the close proximity of physical and partial nude same-sex activity. For the male homo-erotic this is potent precisely because it is traditionally such a ‘masculine’ space, but there is an interesting dichotomy there. Brian Pronger who is a theorist in physical education has discussed this in his book the ‘Arena of Masculinity’ in which he suggests a homoerotic paradox, where homo-erotica always finds itself in masculinity and masculinity itself in order to retain its power must reject homosexual implications. This state of tension between masculine power and the homoerotic within these spaces is what draws me to these spaces, alongside my own awkwardness and fantasies of the sporting and its aesthetics.
Tell us a bit about how you spend your day/studio routine? What is your studio like?
When it comes to studio time, I tend to be quite strict with myself, especially as my masters is beginning to come to it’s end I feel like I need to make the most of what’s being provided. So I treat the studio as a 9 to 5 not that this is the most productive way to work but it keeps me focused.
I think this year my studio practice has come into it’s own. I’ve been working much more closely on the making part of my practice and allowing narratives to evolve out of the objects that I am interested in, that relate to the overarching themes of my work. At the moment my studio is a mess of different projects I have been simultaneously working on, I’ve been casting all sorts recently, swords, shaving razors, cod-pieces and football sock clad legs. But in the next couple of weeks I will be clearing out and taking assessment of what I have achieved over the past few months and try and figure out what I want to carry forward into the the forthcoming degree show.
What artwork have you seen recently that has resonated with you?
It may be slightly obvious but I really loved seeing the David Hockney at the Tate Britain. A few of the paintings I’ve seen before, studied or written about and Hockney has been an inspiration for a while. The quality of the swimming pool as a setting for my own art practice has remained an important one for the past two years.
One of the things that surprised me when looking more closely at some of his painting and studies was the affinity I felt toward his representation of furniture within his portraits, when you study the paintings, the surrounding props become so important in establishing the atmosphere of his sitters. The frequently modernist architecture and design seems to contribute to the languid and contented atmosphere of his very aspirational LA 1972 imagery. Furniture as strategy to create an atmosphere of the aspirational or narcissistic is something I’ve been working with in the studio recently.
Where has your work been headed more recently?
Recently I have found that there can be a separation between the intention of what my work presents and its execution. There are new elements that I have been trying to bring into my work, that I have struggled to sculpturally articulate. I wrote my MA dissertation on ‘Homo-erotica and Horror: Thematic Potentials of the Sport Space’ which investigated the reason why particular sites including the swimming pool, the gym, locker room and communal showers are used in cinema advertising and pornography as both legitimising scenarios for the objectification of male bodies and violence towards them. I mainly looked at the teen-high school movie and its horror counterpart as an investigation into the presentation of masculinity, which has been an incredible framing device for my current practice.
From this, I’m slowly attempting to inject my work with notions of the horrific or creepy within my installation aesthetics. The foundation of my work is the aesthetics of desire and conventions of masculinity. The aspirational, the bodily and the image surface are all important ideas within this and I want to show corruption through these ideas and in my work. The abject, the narcissistic and violent are beginning to hover over the polite presentation of previous work.
How do you go about naming your work?
I think there are a few conditions for the naming of my work, I vary between suggestive puns and references to pop culture. The most important thing being is that it is a lead-in to the wider themes of my work. An old tutor once told me that a title should only be a lens with which to see an artwork through and that advice has always resonated with me. I don’t want my title to become an academic statement but rather and sort of teaser trailer or sound bite that lends itself to the theme of desire that my work is founded on.
Is there anything new and exciting in the pipeline you would like to tell us about?
The most exciting thing I have coming up is the RCA degree show which opens on the 23rd of June. This Masters is something I’ve worked very hard on so I feel very ready to start getting my graduating work together. I think we have an incredibly strong year and I can’t wait to see what my friends produce It’s going to be a great show.
I’m also working on a research document in I am isolating moments in mainstream cinema where male leads use white towels as a stand in for a censor bar or a tease for the possibility of nudity, whilst also displaying there leading man physicality. I’ve currently got about 45 different films, so any more suggestions are very welcome. It’s a very fun project to work on.
All images courtesy of the artist
Published date: 5/4/17