Sam Porritt talks to Susie Pentelow on the occasion of his solo exhibition, ‘Grist to the Mill’, at VITRINE, London.
What can viewers expect from your upcoming solo exhibition at VITRINE, London?
At VITRINE, London I will show a single piece called Grist To The Mill. It is a kinetic artwork consisting of a number of moving cogs with faces drawn on them. I am excited to see the piece when it is finished as it will bring together a number of things that I have been thinking about for some time.
A few years ago I made a large series of drawings of faces. This developed into another body of work where I would apply the faces to objects so as to animate inanimate things. Latterly my drawings have been more abstract, the result of repetitive mark making. With these, I am trying to make hypnotic images that play with depth and have the effect of being quite disorientating.
One preoccupation that has shadowed all the work I have made of late is the idea of progress, what progress means for an individual and the society in which they live.
VITRINE is a fairly unusual gallery - a sixteen-meter space enclosed behind glass. Did this influence what you planned for the exhibition?
Yes, VITRINE is a unique space! It is the first time I have made work for such a venue. I think that I would have made it had the opportunity to show it here not come up, however, VITRINE gave me the impetus to make it now. I think that it is a good setting for the work as it is wall based and built to run 24/7. There is so much going on in the vicinity of the piece; it is a public artwork yet protected by the force field of a gallery, the work is exposed yet shielded from the elements.
Tell me about the title ‘Grist To The Mill’ - how does this relate to ideas in the work?
‘Grist to the Mill’ is a seldom used phrase that at some point had lodged itself in my mind. I thought to use it for the work as it means that something (the grist) is to be processed (milled into flour.) To use it as the title occurred to me at the same time the piece came together in my mind. I see the work as a merger of equals between the title, the object and the drawings of faces, with each element playing its part. The movement of the piece actually has the cogs grind on itself without payoff but the slippage between the work and the title is key.
There is an interesting relationship in this work between the steady, mechanical, movement of the cogs and the expressive, spontaneous facial expressions drawn onto them. Can you talk a bit about this?
I think it is interesting to think about the work in terms of speeds, the relentless turning of the cogs and the gestural drawings of faces. The lines depict faces with just enough information to convey a character and its emotion. The faces are fast, momentary, flashing yet tethered to a steady and somewhat mesmerizing mechanism. It might be said that we are hypnotized by technology, or rather; hypnotized by our own ingenuity. I think that ‘Grist To The Mill’ has something to say about this.
‘Grist to the Mill’ opens on 29 September. What is coming up next for you?
Next up is a sculpture that I would like to realize but it is a long way off, due to scale and cost. Other than that it’s back to the studio and to drawing, which is where I can usually be found.
‘Grist to the Mill’ runs between 30 September and 12 November at VITRINE, London, SE1 3UN, with a private view on Thursday 29 September, 6.30-9 pm. For more information, visit http://www.vitrinegallery.com.
Find out more about Sam Porritt’s work at http://samporritt.com.