Hello, I’m Alex Fawson; I’m thirty-one years of age and a fine artist working and living in Walsall, United Kingdom. My practice is primarily centred on and around portraiture, either in oil/acrylic paint or graphite. However I would not like to limit myself to specific media or subjects, and regularly engage myself in video, mixed media and jewellery making. I have been “professional” (by which I mean I produce art as my main source of income) since the beginning of 2015, but I have been producing work and interested in art since an early age.
When choosing my subjects at school I decided to follow a more academic path, but continued to produce work and experiment in my own time, knowing that I could always pick the Art back up, should I wish, at a later date. I therefore went to the University of York and graduated with a BA Hons in Philosophy. I was particularly interested in the philosophy of aesthetics. This interest in philosophy I feel is evident in my work, whether that work be a highly conceptual piece of my own design or a more prescriptive commission piece. After leaving York, however, I decided to pursue a future in art and enrolled on a Foundation year in Art and Design at Walsall College of Art and Technology. It was here that I was given the opportunity to experiment with a whole range of media and received the tuition and guidance to develop my own style and practice. During this year I produced a number of large scale acrylic paintings, quite loose in style and often focusing on a close-up part of the subject. Generally speaking, these were exploring the concept of the viewer deciphering the paintings’ subject, as in ‘Look Closer’ and ‘Look Closer Too’ (a concept that would be developed further in later works).
A year later I once again went to University, this time to study Fine Art at Nottingham Trent. Although it provided me with some space to work and some guidance, I felt the course was geared more towards simply producing as many “Professional Artist” (whatever that may be) as could be enlisted on the course. Almost a conveyor-belt for artists. It lacked, for me at least, that personal touch and an environment where experimentation and individualism was encouraged not simply prescribed; for that reason I left after the first year to return back to Walsall College to partake in the newly created Higher National Diploma in Fine Art. Whilst on the course I developed my technical ability and produced some of my more photo-realist works in oils, such as ‘Jimmy Stewart’ and ‘If You Could Invite…’ (A work that plays on the question “If you could invite five famous people, alive or dead to a dinner party, who would you have?” and the most popular five from a survey exceeding 200 were then depicted).
My influences are vast and varied, but I would have to say that Lucian Freud, Jenny Saville (my work, ‘Plan B’ being in direct conversation with her, ‘Plan A’) and Chuck Close are a few of my favourite artists. The former two because of their unforgiving honesty when portraying the sitter; whether it be a self-portrait or that of someone else, they manage to convey a sad truth which, although explores a more down-beat side to humanity, I find strangely uplifting. As for Chuck Close, not only is his sheer technical ability admirable, but his later experiments with colour fragmentation to create an optical illusion that becomes whole when viewed at distance is something which has had a definite influence on my own work. Throughout my art education I have been producing pixelated paintings (like that of my last piece) inspired by his work.
Process is an important aspect to my practice, as is the manipulation of image using technology. The latest piece I’ve completed “Heidi” (43 x 34 cm), took over one hundred hours to complete and at least thirty of those were taken up in the planning stage before any paint was applied. Using technology I was able to detect and co-ordinate over 1000 colours to be individually painted in 1,462 squares. Once this planning had been completed I used my colour chart and co-ordinates to hand mix each colour/tone and apply it to the relevant square on a gridded canvas. It is intended to examine the idea of distance and perception, forcing the viewer to interact with the work by stepping back to see the whole come together. Another aspect of the work is a more playful exploration into the philosophical question, “What is Art?” by taking a pre-existing “low level” art form, such as ‘Paint by Numbers’ and turning its essence into something which produces fine art. I decided therefore to create two identical pieces of work to exaggerate this aspect of ‘Painting by Numbers’, for once the colour was mixed I could theoretically produce multiple works which looked virtually identical.
I could mention endless theories, concepts and meanings behind my practice, but (despite the above paragraph) I don’t believe that matters. I uphold the belief that art is subjective, and despite there being objective qualities connected to any and all disciplines in art, the cliché, “beauty is in the eye of the beholder” still pertains. How many times have you seen a work and said to yourself, “I like that… I don’t know why, but I like it.” The mechanisms behind such reactions are beyond my understanding and remit as an artist; I’ll leave that to the theorists. I believe that my practice should be concerned with illuminating, exciting or exploring the human condition and what it is to be in this world. This is not to say I believe anyone who produces art should have the same concern, or that I strive to do this in all my own work; but it excites me more when undertaking such a project.
This approach to art continues in my view on the “Art World”. I strongly believe that anyone, whether producing work as a hobby or craft in their own home or producing art in order to obtain money, is an “Artist”. Whether that art is “good” or not is down to either the satisfaction of the artist in the work or the opinion of those viewing it. For me, although I enjoy public approbation, ultimate judgement of a piece of my work comes from my own appraisal. It is this feeling of personal accomplishment and the satisfaction I derive from the creative process which led me to become “professional”.
Selling work is somewhat different, as the monetary value of a piece of work is derived solely from what someone is willing to pay. As well as selling commissioned pieces and my own work, I also supplement my income as a free-lance artist, delivering workshops to all ages and abilities covering a range of media and skills. I deliver these workshops primarily in schools, and in galleries; currently I’m working with The New Art Gallery Walsall. Although I thoroughly enjoy being immersed in art and delivering workshops, my first love is, and will always be, in the creation and the production of art.
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