0 Love It

Meet the artist: David Blandy

The Brighton-based artist chats about his childhood love of computer games and the influence of Japanese culture on his immersive art

1/6
Anjin 1600: Edo Wonderpark

© David Blandy

2/6
Anjin 1600: Edo Wonderpark

© David Blandy

3/6
Anjin 1600: Edo Wonderpark

© David Blandy

4/6
Anjin 1600: Edo Wonderpark

© David Blandy

5/6
Anjin 1600: Edo Wonderpark

© David Blandy

6/6
Anjin 1600: Edo Wonderpark

© David Blandy

A childhood spent glued to the TV hasn’t done David Blandy any harm. The 37-year-old Brighton-based artist has built a stellar career out of his love of pop music, cartoons and computer games, weaving together strands of history, animé-style fantasy and touching personal stories to create endearingly quirky films. A recurring reference point has been the artist's late grandfather, a Prisoner of War in Japan during WWII who never spoke of his ordeal but kept his rice bowl, using it as an ashtray until his death. ‘It was a kind of memento mori,’ says Blandy. ‘Of course, in the end it was the smoking that killed him.’

Taking over the Rose Lipman Building, a former library and community centre in Hackney, which is now an arts project space programmed by Create London, Blandy’s latest exhibition, ‘Anjin 1600: Edo Wonderpark’, focuses on the story of William Adams, the first Englishman to set foot in Japan, in 1600. In three large-scale animated cartoons that blend the styles of traditional Japanese woodcuts and contemporary manga, Adams’s journey to the Far East flows into science fiction, while Blandy’s cartoon alter ego roams alluring Oriental landscapes dressed as a space-age Knight of St George.

Visitors to this extraordinary exhibition will embark on their own quest, journeying through rooms containing sculptural installations that resemble the command centre of a space station, a traditional Zen garden and a Japanese tea pavilion, where the films will be screened. Can we all relate to William Adams?
‘Adams is an enigma. He was pretty much a voyager from another planet, coming to Japan with his alien shipbuilding technology. But I think lots of people, myself included, search for themselves out there in the world, in other cultures and other things, like books, TV and films.’

Are these films based on specific cartoons from your childhood?
‘I wanted parts of them to look like those Saturday morning cartoons I grew up watching, like "Ulysses 31" – the Japanese reimagining of Homer’s "Odyssey’", in space! My introduction to Greek myth was through this veil of cultural appropriation.’

‘Were you ever made to feel that cartoons were off-limits as art?
‘Using comics and games really grated with some of the tutors at art school. They just couldn't see the value in it. But my godfather, who's also an artist, told me when I was young: “If you want to be an artist, watch more TV.” He was half joking, but I didn’t realise that.’

Is it true that a computer game once made you cry?

‘Yes, "Final Fantasy 7". It was one of those moments when you realise you’re involved in a visceral experience. Like the first time I played "Resident Evil" and the dogs came through the window – there was genuine terror.’

Is it important to you that your work appeals to a wide audience?
'I’m interested in how creativity is displayed everyday through people's passions. I suppose I’m looking for an expanded idea of folk art that encompasses grime MCs and hardcore fighting games. Sometimes I think of my role as an artist as being like a finger, pointing at things, saying “this is interesting, this is true.” I suppose I’m lucky that I share my passions with a lot of other people.’

Did you draw the cartoon ‘you’?
‘No, I’ve often used a fictionalised "me" as a way to think about this strange idea of being an artist, but five years ago I contacted the Japanese manga artist Inko and asked her to interpret one of my films. She made a beautiful comic. I’ve worked with Inko a lot over the past five years.’

Has your cartoon appearance changed?
‘He’s a symbol of Blandy, I guess, rather than a representation. As it’s been redrawn, the image of me has become something quite separate from my appearance. Maybe I should get a haircut.’

Read more art interviews

Doug Aitken

We talk to the man behind the Barbican's spectacular 'Station to Station'

Read more
By: Freire Barnes

Richard Wentworth

What's one of our greatest sculptors doing making a giant painting for a car park roof in Peckham?

Read more
By: Martin Coomer

Fiona Tan

The Amsterdam-based artist known for her immersive film installations talks to Time Out about her two London shows: ‘Inventory’, which takes inspiration from the eclectic Sir John Soane’s Museum, and ‘Ghost Dwellings’, an installation which focuses on natural and economic disasters in Detroit, Cork and Japan.  You don’t live in London, so what attracted you to Sir John Soane’s Museum?‘I noticed that when I was preparing for a show in Rome I kept thinking about Soane’s. I had been doing a lot of research into collections and considering how long we’ve had public museums, and his place is very much a starting point to think about that. And of course, it’s fantastic.’ What aspects of the museum did you want to focus on?‘I focused on the areas (where) he hung what he called his “marbles”: all the architectural fragments and things he collected from ancient Rome and Greece. I’m not interested in trying to replicate the museum. Why should I? It’s a unique place and everyone should go – and everyone does, I think. Instead, I was very interested in the idea of the original and the copy, because there are a lot of plaster casts on display. It got me thinking about the medium.’ Is that why you chose to shoot the film on six different formats?‘Basically I decided to choose not to choose. Usually when I’m preparing a piece I make tests with different cameras and I thought maybe it’s interesting to bring that to the forefront in ‘Inventory’ – the fact that there are all these mediums a

Read more
By: Freire Barnes

Sanya Kantarovsky

Moscow-born, New York-based painter Sanya Kantarovsky has teamed up with performance artist Ieva Misevičiūtė for his show at Studio Voltaire, which is inspired by Mikhail Bulgakov’s surreal, satirical novel about the Devil’s visit to Moscow, ‘The Master and Margarita’. On the opening night, Misevičiūtė performed on a stage shaped like ‘Behemoth’ – the book’s diabolical black cat. A film of the performance is on show in the gallery foyer, while the cat remains as a sculpture-cum-bench from which you can admire Kantarovsky’s spellbinding paintings. Time Out caught up with him. How did the show come about?‘The show came out of a collaborative process with performance artist Ieva Misevičiūtė. Most of the figures in the paintings are based on a series of gesture studies I made of her movements in my studio. When she performs in the gallery space there’s an indexical relationship between her body and the gestures in the paintings.’ How conscious were you of making work for a former church?‘I was responding to the history of the space as a church, which made sense with the novel's Christian meta-narrative.  I approached this as a site-specific installation rather than a straightforward painting show. There was an internal debate about how the space would exist after Ieva's performance because her presence throws the status of the paintings into question. When Ieva is on stage, they comprise an environment for her performance and become contingent on her body.’  It’s very dramatic

Read more
By: Martin Coomer

Thomas Struth

The German photographer tells us about not being seduced by propaganda and photographing the Queen

Read more
By: Freire Barnes

Peter Kennard

The British artist tells us about a half-century as one of Brit art’s original bad boys

Read more
By: Martin Coomer

AA Bronson

Time Out falls under the spell of this trailblazing artist

Read more
By: Martin Coomer

Carol Bove

The sculptor talks about experiencing art, bringing colour into her palette, and her love of crushing things

Read more
By: Freire Barnes

Jonathan Horowitz

The New Yorker Jonathan Horowitz tells us about pop art, perfection and painting Beyoncé

Read more
By: Martin Coomer
Show more

Comments

0 comments