GEORGE EDGELL INTERVIEW
AS ONE OF OUR 6 SHOWS IN ‘6 WEEKS: IMPOSSIBLE POP UPS’ SERIES, WE SPOKE TO george edgell ABOUT THEIR WORK. VIEW george’S SHOW HERE.
Who are you?
Hi! I’m George Edgell and I’m an artist based between London and Brighton, UK. I’ve just recently graduated from Camberwell College of Arts where I studied Fine Art Painting. I make acrylic paintings that tease football’s unlikely potential for informing and making crossovers with abstract painting. In doing so, I explore ideas around rules, perspective and surveillance, whilst also what it means to be a spectator in a screen-age generation of encountering images.
Can you tell us about the show ‘Zonal Marking’, what’s in it?
The show’s title, ‘Zonal Marking’, is a play on the name of a tactic in football: though be- ing something technical and specific to the game, it also describes quite literally what I’m doing with my canvases when I paint on them. This very direct and playful interpretation as a means of abstracting an original reference, like football, is an approach that under- pins my practice and the show – repurposing the visual iconography and systems of foot- ball for their abstract potential in painting. The show features a range of work made over the final year of my degree, and is somewhat an extension on what I’d proposed to exhibit for my degree show (which unfortunately couldn’t go ahead this year!). It is what I hope will be an immersive gallery experience, even so online, as you encounter an interactive gallery space lined with artificial grass.
How did you come to the idea of mixing painting and football through the line painting (e.g. you talk about rules, rectilinear space, etc.)?
I used to make entirely abstract paintings, though without much direction or anything I could really identify with on a personal level. I wanted my paintings to have a reference point I could get stuck into and develop whilst also feeling more specific at the same time. Something to inform my work – not necessarily wanting my work to become about a subject matter or representational thing – but as a means of tying my studio inquiries together, like a motif of sorts. I remember watching a football stream with my housemates one time and becoming intrigued by a seemingly dumb potential in the way the geometries of the pitch might act as formal devices in an abstract painting. Football being some- thing I’m obsessed with anyway, it seemed like the perfect influence to collide with my work, particularly given that the two worlds (of football and fine art) don’t generally cross- over. I enjoy this crude abstraction of the language and systems of football my work brings – a reference completely unrelated to art, but now transformed and forced to function in an art context. I since began unveiling interesting parallels between the sport and the conditions of painting itself, which have opened up new ideas in my work in terms of rules and rectilinear space, as you mention.
WHAT DRAWS you to (painting) grass?
Football pitch aside, there’s something genuinely satisfying about the outcome (I think personal satisfaction in my work plays a huge part in why I paint). Grass is essentially a
big expanse of tactile detail that is so familiar to us but often overlooked as a seductive visual. In my paintings I’m also bringing the grass off the floor and onto the vertical axis of the wall, where an audience instead confronts it face-on which I find interesting. Though sometimes tedious and monotonous in its painting process, it’s also quite therapeutic and an absorbing experience. I came to realise that my grass’s process actually said a lot about the action of painting itself. The repetitive contact between brush and canvas in the rendering of each blade reminds of the hand labour involved with producing a painted im- age. I find this observation interesting, particularly in relation to the technological influences in the peripheral of my work (i.e referencing football livestreams, digital functions etc.) – thinking about contrasting and transitioning notions of authenticity vs simulation; material vs artificial ideas etc. occurring within my paintings. Grass is also fundamentally material and tactile by nature, as well as a gestural form – the perfect visual vehicle to explore paint via.
Why do you paint football stadiums? Does this relate to surveillance?
Similarly with the abstraction of the pitch, I look to the stadium as another formal structure to exploit in my work – this time particularly for dividing and building up composition. Stadiums are full of different lines of view and direction, and are constructed of industrial shapes which lend well to building up space in a geometric painting. In terms of the stadium as an environment itself, it fulfils its purpose as a space for spectating, where an audience views and encounters a game from a number of different angles. This presents ideas that tap into thinking about experiences of viewing that my practice is concerned with. The notion of surveillance can also be found within football in many ways: in terms of how the game’s monitored and delivered to an audience (in the ground and remotely across the world), being significantly relied on now via the assistance of technology and screens. Instant replays, simultaneous camera angles, VAR, livestreams, shares etc. There’s something in the constant relay and reproduction of the original event involved here that I think says something about the nature of today’s reception of imagery and the navigation of real things in the modern world.
Do you see your painting of football as an exploration of masculinity, or is that beside the aesthetic point?
It’s not something my particular practice is concerned with in the studio – I’m primarily interested in an abstraction of the subject through seeking aesthetic crossovers and exploring external ideas via football, rather than my work necessarily being about the implications of the sport from an autobiographical perspective (not consciously anyway). That being said I do acknowledge the association with these sorts of themes that are tied to the subject, and perhaps there could be something within this to be said for as to why the crossover between the two football and art worlds/audiences feels somewhat playful or awkward in its process. I enjoy bridging this gap, and in a sense neutralising or even undermining any of the game’s loaded values through a purely aesthetic ambition in my work.
Who or what are your influences? You’ve mentioned in a past interview Tomma Abts, Enrico Bach, Raoul De Keyser – abstract, often geometric painters. You have a clear subject, football; does it lend itself to forms of abstraction?
I’d say I’m mainly influenced by artists for specific moments in their work that inspire me. Rather than exclusively researching a broad subject matter, like football, I’m currently drawn to researching individual aspects from different artists’ work that will inform in-the- moment decisions in my practice, either referential or theoretical. For instance, it might be the way Hockney develops space and texture in his garden paintings, or the use of aerial view as an abstraction tool in Ed Ruscha’s monochrome urban photographs, or the themes of surveillance and technology in Hito Steyerl’s conceptual films. I’ll look towards abstract geometric painting to understand the language I’m often drawing parallels to in my work, including the historical painting values of said genres and the rules of their own, which I consider playfully in crossover with football. I’ll also quite often have instagram open for a flick through, or refer to the images I save on my computer desktop to provide impulsive points of inspiration in the studio. Football is just a starting point for me – a vehicle to explore my ideas that spin from it.
How will your paintings change (i.e. the experience of them change) being seen on screen?
I think this is an interesting one, relating to an idea in my practice touched on earlier to do with evaluating the experiences of viewing real things like paintings, live events, sport etc. in the flesh, vs virtually via pixel reproductions (the latter becoming ever more prominent today). The experience of viewing art (or anything) in the flesh is all about a physical en- counter and its bodily experience that is arguably unmatched by the screen’s reproduction. I think this particular experience is generally integral to the value of art (and any entertainment for that matter, i.e being at a football match vs watching it at home on a lap- top). This is not to say the screen is not as legitimate in inducing such experience – it’s a different kind of one. There are obvious changes the screen brings in terms of the flatten- ing of surface and texture, sense of scale etc. But the screen can equally offer many new possibilities, for instance, as an interactive artists tool for mocking-up and showcasing accessible to a potentially endless audience. There are already transitioning notions be- tween materiality and virtuality within the information in my paintings, which ultimately exist in physical, material space of a painted format, so I think viewing the work then back on the virtual space of the screen will act as yet another form of inception which could be interesting. The digital ideas belonging to the screen I incorporate – such as overlaying/ duplicating/resizing of information – will reunite with their original screen context.
Where can we keep up to date with you?
You can follow me on Instagram here: @georgeedgell_, or alternatively check out my website: www.georgeedgell.com. I’ll keep you posted on shows, announcements, as well as all my latest work. Thanks for having me!