The most important thing you need to know about visual artist Oliver Cartwright is that he’s a very rational person. Ask him about why he uses lines in his works, why he moved to Korea, what he’s inspired by, and what he’ll be if he were a machine, and he has an answer to each one. We like it. We don’t want just another “I-dunno-I-just-feel-like-it” attitude, do we?
Hey, Oliver. How are you? How was your weekend?
Great, thanks! My weekend was good. I’m currently spending time with family as it’s Chuseok (Korean Thanksgiving).
Most of your works are built around line work. Why the interest in lines?
In product design, you’re taught to build a framework of lines called construction lines, which are the initial foundation of creating drawings. After much experimentation, I worked out I could use construction lines in my fine art. These lines are obvious in some of my works and sometimes not so obvious depending on the style I have used. My project My Machine best exposes this where I leave lots of sweeping lines in the finished drawings.
I noticed you like using ballpoint pens for your works.
I started using ballpoint pens years ago after failing with so many other mediums. Bic pens gave me the aesthetic quality I wanted, and are adaptable when working in my various styles.
Where do you get inspiration for your works?
It mainly comes from music as I spend most of my time working for musicians. Right now I’m listening to ISIS, Flying Lotus, Nomak, East Of The Wall, Old Man Gloom, and The Matrix OST.
What’s the story behind the My Machine project?
My Machine is all about my drawing style, which juxtaposes abstracted mechanical design, with sketch style line work. I draw fractured machines that convey nothing other than my artistic vision. This project will become an animated film as well as models and a series of artworks as things progress…
With technology taking over every part of our lives, I think the realm of art and design should provide challenges to make people think again. I could simply draw robots, but I want to create images that don’t convey one message. Drawing everything in a sketch like style gives my work this “in progress” feeling so I can get away from the polished outcome.
Why the move from Cambridge to South Korea?
I started my career in my apartment in Cambridge back in May 2009. After a year, I decided I wanted to head to Tokyo, a place I always wanted to go. I didn’t really have a plan when I got to Tokyo. I just wanted to lose myself there, see where it takes me. From that point onwards, my life changed forever. After making new friends, I met the girl of my dreams and am now married to her. I lived in Tokyo for one year and left just after the earthquake in March. My experience there was unforgettable personally and for my career as an artist.
I have been living in Korea for about 6 months now and I’m gradually getting used to it here; it’s definitely a new chapter in my life after Tokyo.
What inspires you the most about living South Korea?
Korea is an interesting country to live in, far removed from my lifestyle in England and even Japan…The thing about being a foreigner is you’re able to live this “hybrid” lifestyle, which fuses your own experiences with ones so culturally rooted. Living in any culture you are sold a “self” you live up to, but when you’re no longer attached to those things that made you, you. You’re like a fish out of water trying to make sense of who you are again. It happens a lot when traveling, but when you live in another country it’s more profound and you start to see life as a whole new beginning.
If you could bring one of those artworks to life as an actual machine, which would it be?
I think turning these images into models is something I will work on later. I want to convey the sketch feeling into the three dimensional representation, so the overall model has character. As for its functionality, I would leave that out as the project focuses on aesthetics. To give a better impression on what I want to achieve, check out Umberto Boccioni’s “Unique Form of Continuity in Space.”
If you were to become a machine, how would you design yourself and what special features would you include?
Modern technology seems to separate us from reality, while at the same time gives us this artificial feeling that we are connected. So based on this I would design something that would enhance my surroundings rather than give me an artificial substitute. For instance, if I was wandering in the countryside, I would want to have a stronger connection with the reality I am experiencing, like a deeper sense of smell and vision. Maybe a special feature would be to include a flying capability because viewing life from above really does change your perspective on things.
What do you think makes a visual artist legendary?
I think, to be a legendary visual artist, you should have an uncompromised vision, to take risks in order to build your inner vision.
What’s next for Oliver Cartwright?
Current commercial projects include a film and various hand drawn animations. As for personal projects, I will continue My Machine, which is top of my list in terms of goals over the next two years. In the coming months I am taking part in an exhibition in Los Angeles with a bunch of excellent artists from the US. I have recently teamed up with super talented art representative Jennifer Disisto of Art Duet, Los Angeles, so I see this as a new adventure. I plan to improve my Korean language skills as well!
Introduction by Reena Mesias
Interview by Zoe Laurente
For the full story, grab a copy of STATUS November 2011 issue