Conor Harrington

Conor Harrington

London based artists Conor Harrington and Chloe Early have a joint exhibition opening tomorrow, Saturday April 18th, at the influential Kinsey/DesForges gallery in Culver City. Both have shown work individually in group shows in the United States before, but “Chasing Castles” marks the first showing of a full body of work stateside for both artists. It is also the first time the pair’s work has been exhibited together.

Chloe Early

Chloe Early

AM loves the multi-layered aesthetic of these talented artists, who took some time to answer a few questions for us ahead of the show. Check out the interview as well as some preview images after the jump…

Arrested Motion (AM): Can you tell us a little about the choice of name for the show? “Chasing Castles” sounds a little familiar, but we can’t quite put our finger on it. We tried to Google it, but we just have an infuriating Euro-techno-pop tune in our heads now! What is the theme of the pieces created for this show?

Chloe Early (CE): The show is really just a collection of our individual work sitting alongside each other. We wanted a title that could accompany both our differing objectives and themes. “Castles in the Sky” is the phrase that we had in mind at first as something unattainable and illusive, daydreams etc.  It developed from that. Conor is responsible for the chasing bit so I’ll let him divulge that…

Conor Harrington (CH): Yeah I’m aware of that terrible Euro dance tune, so thanks for reminding me. I think there are a lot of similarities in our work already so there was no point in changing anything. “Chasing Castles” is as Chloe mentioned above, ultimately a dream or a fantasy. Fantasy is a strong theme in both our work with my re-enactors fighting a war they’ll never really experience and Chloe’s visions of a skewed utopia.

AM: This is the first time that you have shown your work together in a two-person show. Some of our readers may not know, but you are partners. How long have you been scheming a joint showing of work? Are the pieces in the show from each of you two sets of individual bodies of work or did you find yourselves finding inspiration from each other and adapting the work as things progressed in each other’s pieces?

CE: I wouldn’t say we schemed this show – the opportunity presented itself and we thought why not? The works are two separate bodies of work and I would say have no more or less overlap in theme or style than usual. We approached this in the same way we approach our normal work, i.e. we have separate studios, work on our own stuff and meet for lunch to chat and visit each others studios for tea and a look daily.

CH: We influence each others work constantly no matter what shows we’re working on. As Chloe says, we have tea in each others studio once or twice a day. I’ll have been working all morning and then Chloe comes in and I can tell from her face if she’s into what I’m doing or not. And then I say “ok, what’s wrong” and she squints her eyes, grimaces slightly and says “hmmm, I’m not really sure about this bit.” I rarely overrule. Chloe is the only person in the world who’s opinion I take into consideration during the painting process. Painting is such a personal process. Every artist has their own individual philosophy and belief system. I can’t take advice from someone who doesn’t know me or know what I hope to achieve from my work.

AM: We think there is a lot of harmony in the work that you both create and when we first spoke about the show, Chloe, you mentioned that you would be making at least one collaboration piece. We understand that you are now not doing that. Any particular reason why and do you think that we may see a collaborative effort sometime in the future?

CE: We would like to do it at some stage in the future but this wasn’t the right time for a few reasons.

CH: Collaborating is a funny thing. It can either work wonderfully or look shit. It can either take out the best in both artists or dilute their individual strengths. I think our first collaboration will have to be for ourselves and not for a show when there are external pressures.

AM: Are you both planning on being in Los Angeles for the opening? Have either of you been to Los Angeles before?

CE: Yup we are both going and looking forward to it, anywhere bigger than London will probably make me feel dizzy but I’m sure Conor will hold my hand and be my compass.

CH: From what I understand of LA it seems like my idea of hell. I love big cities but I love big cities that you can walk around and chill out and enjoy the old village-y areas. Neither of us can drive and everybody says we need to be able to drive in LA so we’ll have to see what happens. I think LA has a negative image among artists because it’s perceived to be such a huge plastic glamorous place. But it is also home to one of my favourite record labels Stones Throw and Kinsey/DesForges of course so there is obviously a very interesting creative side to it too. One of my friends came back recently and loved LA even though he had expected to hate it.

AM: Conor – you are known equally for your impressive outdoor murals. We particularly love the one around the corner from StolenSpace as well as your gallery pieces. We hope you will be putting your mark somewhere on the streets of Los Angeles.

CH: Definitely. But I don’t know where yet.

AM: Chloe – we have not seen your work in an outdoor setting before. Any plans for you to get up a ladder?

CE: Not really even though I do enjoy a lot of street art, obviously through Conor and in a previous life I’ve been in a position where I could have done it myself if I wanted to. When it comes to my work I’m quite a shy and slow creature and as I said earlier I like working by myself in my own space and time. Also it always seemed a very male thing to do – the artistic version of a dog peeing on a corner.

AM: Conor – Spell-check doesn’t like the spelling of your name! We presume that the single “n” in Conor is the Irish spelling of the name. You both moved from Ireland to London a few years back. How do you like living in London? How do you think things may have been different if you didn’t make the move and stayed in Ireland? Do you think that London offers more opportunities for artists than other places may do?

CH: Conor is the one true spelling, anything else is just fake. 🙂 The surname O’Connor has 2 “n’s”, the first name always has just the one. London is great. It was difficult at the start though. We were both working crap jobs when we first moved over in 2004 and had to paint in the evenings and at the weekends. Thankfully everything fell in to place; I guess London is the type of place where that can happen. The streets are paved with gold after all. If we had stayed in Ireland our “careers” certainly wouldn’t have progressed but more importantly neither would our work. Being in one of the art capitals of the world, being around so many other artists and regularly visiting the Tate, White Cube etc has helped us really push our work forward.

CE: I’m happy here now but it took a while to settle and find our feet, obviously we were at a bit of a disadvantage when we first got here in that we didn’t know anyone but when opportunities presented themselves we have always been very eager to prove our merit. I’m equally sure that would have been our aim if we had stayed at home too, Cork where we are both from is a great place but sadly suffers from second city syndrome, the temptation to leave was always over powering.

AM: How did the two of you meet and get together?

CE: In Cork where we are from, both aged 23 – I encountered Conor first from the mysterious “?” tags I saw on the streets and then found some photos of his paintings in an envelope in the gallery I was working in at the time. I phoned him up and he came in, had his first solo show with us and then we ran away to London together 6 months later.

CH: Yip.

AM: As you are partners and work together; how do your creative processes differ? Can you each tell us about how the “average” Chloe or Conor piece develops from start to finish?

CE: We don’t work together – Conor’s studio is too messy for me, living together is hard enough! And his music is too loud. I have plants and peace in my studio. The process of making a painting is pretty hard to explain but it’s like a conversation with lots of long silences.

CH: Yeah, I’m afraid we don’t want to give away too many tricks. I use oils and aerosol. They are both oil based so they go well together except they are on opposite ends of the drying spectrum which is really good for manipulation. A painting takes about a month from start to finish, depending on size and I can only paint with very loud music on.

AM: There is high level of visual representation of architectural forms within your paintings Chloe and Conor; you seem to capture a dynamic feeling of movement in your pieces. You both use and represent people strongly in your pieces too. Conor, yours seem to be very masculine, and Chloe yours seem to have a very feminine, almost glamorous representation. We’re curious to know if this is a conscious or sub-conscious act? Can you tell us what some of the images in your past works have represented?

CH: Yip, my work is all about masculinity and symbols of power. In the last 2 years or so I’ve been working with images of historical reenactment. They look the part and play the part but they’re not real soldiers. It’s all surface, style and fantasy. I like this idea of portraying a false sense of power.

CE: My paintings seem to be on a kind of see-saw at the moment between landscape and figurative painting. What I’m trying to get at is some kind of representation of a place where things are not quite as they seem; the rules have been turned on their head. Abandoned urban landscapes and theme parks sit side by side inhabited by people plucked straight from travel ads. I want to say something about the contrast between how we are living and the things we occupy our minds with – there is an edge I hope to the beautiful bodies and pretty butterflies, I always think of the paintings as slightly apocalyptic but uncertain as to whether a disaster is imminent or we are encountering some kind of redemptive rebirth…

AM: We think that both of you prefer to create ‘bodies’ of work when putting a show together, with a common theme inspiring each piece you create. Is this how you both generally work or do you find that you may come up with an idea that just doesn’t fit the show? Would you tend to put to one side to finish later or keep on going whilst the idea is fresh?

CE: I think when I get an idea I usually act on it but then sometimes you notice that things take a while to come around, you have an image for a while and then it is the right time to use it. There is always a thought process in a body of work but I would say new ideas tend to feed into that.

CH: It’s always bodies of work. I’ve been out of Art College for nearly 7 years (yikes) and my work has been one gradual progression over those years.

AM: How do you feel when you’ve finished a body of work? Is there relief, or any kind of mourning for the passing of that particular creative phase?

CE: Mixture of relief, happy, worried, excited about the next paintings, anti climax all rolled into one.

CH: Absolutely. Too many emotions really. Moments of satisfaction amongst long periods of presumed failure.

AM: Beyond this show at Kinsey/DesForges, what does the rest of 2009 hold for Chloe Early and Conor Harrington?

CE: Solo show at StolenSpace in October + my screen prints will eventually come out hopefully some time in 2009 + group shows – London and NY.

CH: My next show is at Laz in November, really looking forward to that. And as with Lazarides there are always a few projects bubbling in the background which I’m not allowed talk about or I’ll be killed. But they’re really exciting.

AM: Thanks to you both for taking the time to speak to us. Best of luck with the show and we hope you enjoy your visit to Los Angeles!

Discuss this show here.
Discuss Conor Harrington here.
Discuss Chloe Early here.