Neil Jefferies: Let’s start by talking a little about the work you made at University. What did you create for your degree exhibition and what was the inspiration behind it?
Alan Goulbourne: I created a piece called Left To Right for my degree exhibition which was about trying to represent music through a mixture of installation and painting, I was taking all the same sort of elements you would have, when making music, tone, rhythm, pace, melody and trying to adapt them in a visual context… adapting the wood and paint rhythmically into a progressive path that ebbs and bows, across the canvas
I was guided vaguely by the writings of Kandinsky and Kupka in my interpretation of colour to sound associations. It was really just messing around and trying to get elements of music in to a piece of Visual Art, but ultimately it was mainly about just experimenting with different mediums and finding some sort of harmony. That particular piece, “Left to Right”, was inspired by a folk band, “Dirty Three” but previous pieces had been inspired by all sorts of music, I did a piece titled “Neptune” inspired by Gustav Holst’s, “Planets” work “Neptune”. Then there was “Resonance”, a wooden piece, similar to the Chapter hoardings work that was intended to represent the instant moment, that single burst of sound that explodes through the room, but in this case across the board.
NJ: Since graduating you seem to have made the leap from the wall and the canvas to installation, what drove that?
AG: I liked the idea of working in all mediums, exploring them all, to gain experience in everything, adapt it and bring it towards what ever ideas you have. A freedom to roam. Its good to express your-self in as many different forms as you possibly can. It helps your language of expression grow, I feel that the more different mediums I use the more I grow as an artist. I don’t think I will ever stick to a single one, I don’t like the idea of closing myself off to other places, other ways of making stuff, my work could end up becoming tedious or stale. I like the idea of being able to find life in every new medium I try.
So, It wasn’t any sort of leap, just a progression, nothing really planned, I did not think I want to move into this medium now and stay there, I just moved on to another type of work that didn’t involve a canvas. I still could return to painting… when I can afford the paint.
NJ: Do you have a strict plan of action before starting a work or do you just have a vague idea and then let the work develop as you work?
AG: I will have a vague idea in my head, it’s a bit hazy but obviously there is still structure to it, it will then progress as I work. It will always change but it will always be for the better, there are always going to be new things I think of when making, compromises I have to make also… its all just part of the process.
NJ: After graduation you worked as an assistant to artists Heather and Ivan Morison year. Was working with them a good experience?
AG: They are a hard working couple who really put there heart in to it and are not afraid to get there hands dirty and build the work themselves… I admire that, its great to have been a part of the team they put together. Its good to watch artists get involved fully in the making of there work. There are obviously parts were artists can not be fully involved in the making of a piece of work however I think its important to be involved hands on as much as possible. They put there blood and sweat in to it… well that sounds stupid, but you know what I mean, there is no sitting back and letting other people get on with building there idea. I’m the same, I always want to be there making my own piece, obviously there is a risk I wont be able to do something but then I’ll jus have to get around it.
NJ: your commission for chapter was the first piece of work you did once graduating. Can you elaborate on the piece of work and the thinking behind it?
AG: When you’re given a commission to work on a site, what’s going on there at the time is pretty important, why you have been asked to make work, its all important… so that was all involved in my thinking about what to do. For Chapter it was all about expressing the explosion of the new, the energy, capture the growth and regeneration in to something new, and that was what I was trying to do in the explosion. It is this big burst of something new… the new Chapter and then that just ebbs into the cityscape that is the rest of the hoarding… away form the bang.
I enjoyed the fact it was outside, it was not just for Art lovers but, everyone else that lived around there. I enjoyed working on it, during the day, outside, you had people who don’t go to Chapter, old people that just live there seeing this spiky contraption going up on the wall and being initially concerned, but then… they liked it. I finally got some good feedback. I enjoyed that feedback, there opinions were very valued.
NJ: I guess working out in the open you were exposed to all these people questions about what you were doing and what it meant. Do you enjoy talking about your work?
AG: No…no. I understand it is required, but I like the work to speak to itself and I don’t like it to have a defined meaning, I try and leave things open. So that anyone can read into it as much as they want it can cater for all kinds of people. There is a depth to it, but it is not on the front page, its not saying this is exactly what this means or saying this is so deep. It’s not, its always open for people, that makes it easier for people who do not know a huge amount about Art to enjoy my work.
NJ: I was reading about the troubles the ‘B In The Bang’ is having at the moment and couldn’t help but think there was an aesthetic similarity between this work and the Chapter hoardings. Did you have health and safely breathing down your neck?
AG: Well at Chapter there was concerns about the spiky bits of wood, and people getting impaled on it, but then its like that with any out-door work, there is always going to be red tape, but Chapter were awesome, really helpful. Its all just things to test you and help you grow. I have had to learn to put up with and work around any restrictions that have been thrown up.
NJ: Obviously, you have now been nominated for the Jerwood prize for Beehive, a collaboration between you and Marielle Hogg. Can you tell me a little more about the proposal you have submitted.
AG: The outer structure will be modeled on a beehive, built of wood. People will go in on the ground floor and go up a level to a room completely encircled by six walls gridded with 2x2 lengths of wood facing inwards. In the room there will be a switch to start this rotating movement. The grid will have 2x2 individually moving in and out of the grid, creating a wave that ebbs and bows away from the wall towards the spectator and back in one smooth movement.
It’s about trying to reflect life in a simple motion, I was inspired a bit by waves, a wave its pretty f**king powerful but it’s made up of just lots of tiny insignificant particles. That is what you have in Beehive, small particles of information all moving together as one body and creating a power full motion. Tom Jarvis, who was in my year at Uni and a friend was a big influence, he made kinetic sculptures and we were feeding ideas to each other… I became really interested in the idea of making a kinetic sculpture. I had a rough idea of what I wanted but then Marielle was able to help complete the idea in concept and purpose essentially completing it.
NJ: Will people be able to go in on their own for long periods or is it just in and out?
AG: Ha, that’s up to the fire and safety person to decide, initially one or two people, it is supposed to be just a calm room that people can go in and have a moment where they can just be surrounded by these patterns and continuing movement that resounds around them. Very atmospheric, when everything is revolving around you in harmony. It is a complex system, people will know that but what they see will be smooth, continuous and somewhat simple. I like the idea of people being able to go in initiate the movement and just stay in there on there own. I like the fact people will be able just to be in front of it, not trying to read a narrative in to it, just absorbing it, allowing your mind to wonder off.
NJ: Along with the written proposal you made a scale Marquette for exhibition. Do you think it represents your proposed idea well?
AG: Yea, making the Marquette has been a mission, building the large one if I get the commission won’t be such a problem, but the small scale one is difficult, its so hard to find the parts.
NJ: Do you see your collaboration with Marielle Hogg a lasting thing? Do you plan to make more work together?
AG: Yes, definitely, we will always both have our solo projects but there will also always be the opportunity to work together. I love working with her, she has been my rock and muse, helped keep everything ordered and together. like I said, originally I had this idea, but it was she who helped finish it.
NJ: What are your plans for the future, Ma, move to London etc?
AG: Keep making work as much as possible; generate as many new ideas as possible. I think the best thing I can do is get as much work done as possible, get it out there for people to see. I think I have learned more outside an institution then I did inside of it. I have a lot more freedom now but also there is a lot more pressure, it’s not just a case of I’m doing this for a degree but I’m doing this for food and a roof over my head.
NJ: What do you think of the Cardiff Art scene? Do you feel there are a enough opportunities for you graduates?
AG: Its good, but there does need to be more opportunities for artists, the council needs to show as much interest as possible in the young talent of Cardiff. A lot of talent is going to waste with people moving away from the city, I can certainly name 20 or so very talented artists who are just not making work because there are no opportunities to show it, and so they will either give up or move away to find opportunities. Ideally if I could move any were it would be to the countryside, I know that as an artist ideally I should be in the city, that’s were my art is shown and I do like to be affected by the big city but ultimately I prefer to be out in the mountains. I would like to see the council put more effort in developing young talent, there is no need to ship in these big names from abroad to show there work when we have such talent here.
(1) The Artist: Beehive: Proposal Scale Model.Outside 2009
(2) The Artist: Beehive :Proposal Scale Model. Inside 2009