Coventry based artist Martin Green is renowned for his use of found objects, which he has collected and categorised for decades. These form the medium for his art and his recent project “How do I know if I’m addicted” comprised of a site specific installation and live curation event at the inaugural Coventry Biennial of Contemporary Art last year. We interviewed Martin following the event to find out more about this project, and what influences his creative practice.
What type of artist would you describe yourself as?
On my instagram page I use the strap line Artist, Writer, Live Curation Events, Sculp-poetics, this description starts to broadly outline my interests and approach.
How has your practice developed over the years?
My current practice is about making/finding a series/sequence/collection of small sculptural components/elements. Sometimes a mass of components are assembled together in response to an exhibition environment. Hundreds of small pieces are arranged to command, transform and challenge a large architectural space. The components are arranged differently each time depending upon the idiosyncrasies of the exhibition space. The individual elements are placed in reaction to the floor they are directly placed on. The placement of the components is influenced by my response to the history and proportions of the floor.
As an art student I made abstract paintings with un-stretched canvas while at the same time collecting street and bin ephemera, but I kept them as two very separate disciplines, stretching me thin in opposite directions. The three most recently completed pieces explore the qualities of double sided paintings and collages displayed alongside found, transformed or acquired objects.
You are renown for use of collected, found objects – how do these relate to the themes you explore in your work?
I have been drawn to found objects since 1976 when I compulsively started to collect passport photographs, which were discarded in the vicinity of photo booths mainly in Central and South London. Over 13 years I amassed thousands of found photographs, a street archive, a document of a specific time. After a period of not street collecting I exhibited 19 found photo booth photographs in a 2008 group show, Beauty and the Disregarded, curated by Lorsen Camps. The exhibition prompted me to ask myself the question, ‘if I started collecting again what would I collect’. This question resulted in a archive of baseball cap peaks, cigarette lighters, wheel weights, hub cap retention wires, sea potatoes, inhalers, mascara, make up brushes, umbrella canopies, piano peel, baggies, zip pulls, suitcase wheels, brick sapping. This collection is the antecedence of my current practice.
I often have no obvious relationship or connection with the found object and I force myself to find a response, a back-story and a new myth; through this process I make work that can change direction and produce outcomes that I would not envisage or predict. I see the completed sculptures made up of two parts, one that originates from inside the studio and one that is from outside the studio, the outside world so to speak. These two parts define both my creativity and the environment where I live and work.
Who and what do you draw inspiration from?
Visiting galleries, the momentum of studio practice, using my past as a source material, making the unknown and an addiction to being distracted, is what feeds me.
Tell us about your project for the Coventry Biennial of Contemporary Art – “How do I know if I’m addicted?”:
‘How do I know if I am addicted’ is a generic theme for all of the work that I have made since March 2017, the specific title for the piece placed in the office well at the CBCA is – ‘Tell me what is the term for drawing the face of an idealised deity over a self portrait?’ ‘Tell me’, for short, comprises of 90 double-sided paintings that are made in batches of 5; the first and last sets of five are based on an absurd theory that wild birds are adopting national identities and their plumage is changing through the influence of flags and aeroplane insignia.
Which found objects were used in this piece, and what was the significance of them?
‘Tell me’ includes 270 found nitrous oxide canisters wrapped in snippets of colour photographs from daily newspapers, wire that is left over from the process of dismantling a lot of note books that contained confidential data, found yellow V bristles from road sweepers, small pieces of BT wire found around the vicinity of the green street boxes, small mounds of dirt that came from the process of cleaning the Coventry Cathedral tapestry, Sutherland Grime.
Please explain the distinct shapes of each of the paintings exhibited in the installation, and why they were double sided.
The double-sided paintings have a front/intended side and a reverse/accidental side, qualities that I see in every day objects as distinct from the qualities of art objects.
I describe the shapes as architectonic, relating to architecture; in this case the shapes have the Coventry Ring Road T columns and the New Cathedral as their starting points.
In the version of ‘Tell Me’ at CBCA each of the double sided paintings balance on three coated nitrous oxide canisters, each positioned next to a hole/scar in 1950’s industrial lino.
The terms “acquiesce” and “dissent’ were repeatedly used in your drafted plans for the installation and live curation – forming the way in which the work appeared to organised. Please explain the importance of these terms to “How do I know if I’m addicted?”
There were three pieces on show at CBCA, 1.Tell Me. 2.Acquiesce and Dissent. 3.Mirror. ‘Acquiesce and Dissent’ comprises of 16 double-sided diptyches that were placed in an office cupboard alongside colour-coded tables that are based on an administrative aesthetic that I use in my full time employment.
‘Acquiesce’ means that you do something reluctantly but without protest and ‘Dissent’ is the opposite of Acquiesce. This piece references the dilemma of being an artist and at the same time having to work full time at another occupation to pay the bills. Acquiesce is how I describe my response to this dilemma / reality.
How did you create the backing soundtrack for the live curation?
‘Tell me’ was placed in an abandoned newspaper / editorial office. Part of the vast false blue tiled floor had been removed to create a well that revealed a floor that originates from the period when the building was first opened. 1950’s industrial brown lino peppered with a matrix of scars from where the stunted pillars that held up a false floor had been ripped out to leave holes in the lino that exposed the warp and weft of the hessian backing. I noticed that if you carefully stroked the remains of the hessian it played and sounded like a toy guitar, of the 100 scars 60 played and were recorded and was used as background to the live curation event Acquiesce and Dissent.
Have you any plans to continue to develop the project further?
I have removed a long section of the lino from the CET building and I will incorporate it in the next showing of ‘Tell Me’.
What’s next for you as an artist?
In 2017 I took part in eight projects, so after an intense period of exhibiting I now need an intense period of making new work. I am planning and in dialogue about a project that coincides with the 70th anniversary of the death of Kurt Schwitters.
Where can people go to find out more about your work?
I am happy for people to visit me at the studio by appointment, email email@example.com and follow me on Instagram