Christian Newby, Breton Study 3, 2013. Screenprint on muslin and hand dyed fabric; 166 x 128 cm. Image courtesy of Vitrine.
Christian Newby talks to Traction about his solo exhibition ‘Breton Wall’ at VITRINE Bermondsey Square.
How have your ideas for this exhibition developed over the last few months?
So I’ve had an idea for a film that I wanted to make with Ana [Newby's partner] and a friend from Glasgow but could never afford to make it. Part of this idea involved Ana making some ceramics amongst other things. The show for Vitrine functioned as a kind of stepping stone towards some of the ideas intended for the film.
Your works explore notions of authorship and authenticity. How are these ideas expressed in 'Breton Wall’?
Its no big secret to most people how things are made or, at least, that things are generally made by a group of people, resulting in a cultivation of skills. These works, to some degree, act out this process by producing a number of final works emphasizing production. The fabric pieces work in chorus with the ceramics to produce a series of formally driven works concerned with how tenuous or essential the role of the author can be.
The show takes its title from André Breton’s collection of modern ephemera. Are you yourself a collector of objects?
If I had an opportunity to live in a city that would allow me enough space to collect things I might be inclined to do that but at the moment I’m torn between that feeling of seeing something on the street and thinking that it could be useful one day and the notion that I could potentially get up and go from this place or some other at any given moment. But I do regularly buy flowers for the flat. This feels sort of feels like collecting but without all the accumulation.
Christian Newby INVITES Ana Martínez Fernández: Breton (nos. 1-21), 2013, Glazed Ceramic; Dimensions variable. Image courtesy of Vitrine.
Breton’s collection houses many mass-produced objects, but your own work clearly highlights the role of the hand. What attracts you to such process-based methodologies in the face of a growing culture of disengaged material production?
I generally prefer to make things myself because, ultimately, I am no master craftsman and I will inevitably make mistakes - many mistakes. These errors are usually welcomed but do, in many cases, reflect my diminishing attention span, which I would guess has a lot to do with non-material internet habits. I consume most of my reference materials and written information via the computer and at the end of the day I feel the need to make something of it. I don’t reckon I would be satisfied or find some type of closure with just the exhausted day to day process of looking at websites, etc.
Your choice of materials for the work on show at VITRINE hint at an interior setting, which is particularly interesting when considering that the space cannot be entered by the viewer. Was this paradoxical relationship developed consciously?
Not exactly but making curtains was one of the first ideas that I had. For whatever reason I denied that impulse but decided to work within a format that I’ve been using lately. But I guess when you start making work that stems from your surroundings, particularly your domestic sphere, then of course its gonna run the chance of being somewhat at odds with its presentation on some level. Within the work you produce the decisions you make for whatever reason and not always are they going to be the most effective in delivering whatever message you intended.
'Breton Wall’ runs until 23 November at VITRINE Bermondsey Square, London SE1 3UN. For more information on the exhibition, visit VITRINE’s website.
Find out more about Newby’s practice at christiannewby.com.