Amelia’s Magazine | An interview with King of Kitsch Luke Twigger

At first glance on Luke, mind you’d be forgiven for thinking that you had stumbled across a slickly designed online charity/tacky souvenir shop. Firstly, page there are the ornamental fawns, viagra replicas which you may well have seen nestled among the clutter in your Nan’s display cabinet. Secondly, there is the glazed winged-cherub, staring serenely into the distance with a violin resting on its shoulder, which wouldn’t look out of place on one of the dusty shelves of a country souvenir shop (except these ones have ipod docks – check them out here!). But look more closely and you’ll find that there is certainly more than meets the eye.

Original drawings of ipod dock series (courtesy of Luke Twigger)

There is no denying that Luke Twigger’s work is kitsch with a capital K. His work is, however, palatable because it is built on a foundation of the familiar, drawing you in, but also challenging you to think beyond the realms of conventionality and the expected with a postmodern twist on his subject matter. His creations frequently involve taking something purely functional and modifying it to the point where it no longer resembles its original form, challenging the viewer’s belief system in how an object should be defined. Drawing on the influences of kitsch culture to create objects made entirely by hand, Luke straddles art, design and craft to form an impressive portfolio, which is quirky and cool (and occasionally bizarre) in equal measure.

Original drawings of budgie speakers (courtesy of Luke Twigger)

From kaleidoscopic Chesterfield sofas to melting candles of the Virgin Mary, this eccentric marriage of classic objects/well known figures with something so out of context is what makes Luke’s work compelling. For example, take his latest project, The Three Mothers. Viewed as potentially sacrilegious by having a novelty candle moulded into the shape of Virgin Mary which can be burned, the project poses questions about the significance of the image and the function. If Mary lights up the dark, isn’t she essentially fulfilling her function, by guiding those who are lost? If so, how can this re-forming, regardless as whether it be viewed as burning, be blasphemous? One thing to realise is that there is always an intellectual layer to his work.

Coinciding with Frieze Art Fair this weekend, Luke will be collaborating with BEARSPACE, a pioneering art space in London exhibiting emerging artists who push the boundaries of contemporary art practice, for the launch of Christie’s new art fair, Multiplied, serving as a platform for emerging artistic talent.

In the lead up to the event, Luke talks to Amelia’s Magazine to educate us on his refined artistic style, Konsthantverk, and provides us with intriguing insights into some of his most ambitious projects to date.

Superkitschman illustration (courtesy of Luke Twigger)

You went to Loughborough University of Art and Design to do fine art but your work now seems to have more of a focus on sculptures – how did this evolution in your artistic style come about?
My time at Loughborough was primarily directed toward working in 3D. It started off quite heavily ‘conceptual’ but I just felt that it was something very tired and restricted. I wanted to work in a way that would have this conceptual weight but in a much more playful and enjoyable way that encouraged a great deal of experimentation and focused on the making of an object. I looked toward artists and designers working within these ideas and learned that process and manufacture could be used as a method to really enhance and amplify what it is they want to say. These artists and designers were mainly working in the Scandinavian countries and I was so compelled by their work, I booked a ticket to Sweden to find out more, which led to my work taking on a much more “Scandinavian” aesthetic and approach. I started using craft and a multitude of techniques to create work that magnified my ideas of kitsch and how to work beyond the “trash’ notion often associated with this term.

Your work has been described as ‘Konsthantverk’, a Swedish term which translates to ‘the handmade art object’. Can you tell us more about this?
This mainly relates to my style and methods of production; I work as an individual making things quite factory like, which results in everything being unique, in a sense, but not entirely original. I don’t want to make anything that is a one-off, as that would instantly fall short of any definition of being kitsch.

Original drawings of speaker designs (courtesy of Luke Twigger)

Many of your designs appear to fuse the traditional with the modern (e.g. your kitsch cherubic figurines which also serve as ipod dockers). What fascinates you about this combination of old and new?
What excites me is not necessarily the old and new aspect; it’s the idea of taking something purely functional and working it so much it that the function, which was once primary to the existence of the object is over-ridden by the form. I think this is essential to the manufacture of kitsch. A vase is the perfect example of this; it was created purely as a vessel but over time it has been exaggerated, re-styled, over-styled and elaborated beyond any functional sense, making its most basic of functions obsolete and giving way to pure aesthetical pleasure. I guess with functional undertones, which I think makes something that has the ability to both raise questions and pose answers simultaneously. In terms of my work, the function happens to be new as it must work within our regular lives and fit in with contemporary culture to make itself understandable. Victorian artists and makers made sugar bowls and inkwells; we as a society don’t have much need for these objects anymore, so its function must be relevant.

How would you describe your artistic style from a subjective AND an objective point of view?

Subjectively, I’d say that my ‘artistic style’ would be experimental behavior that manifests itself into a tangible and almost design led conclusion. Objectively, I like to think that my work encourages inquisitiveness, questions, answers and adoration.

Tell us more about your ‘The Three Mothers Paraffin Candles’ project
The Three Mothers Paraffin Candles were really an experiment into the Super-Kitsch, a prelude to my new body of work, ‘Super-Kitsch Manufaktur’. The idea was to take something that has been so over-used, so exploited and in a way so obviously kitsch; the image of the Virgin Mary, and push its Kitsch-ness so far by applying function to the form and using the image not in an ironic or subversive way, but celebratory. This object would not look out of place in the souvenir shops of The Vatican City and was made as something that should exist; making the Kitsch, Super-Kitsch.

Was there a particular reason you decided to choose the Virgin Mary for a waxwork sculpture to burn?
Entirely for the reason that I felt this should be something that exists; I think it raises interesting questions in the significance of the image and the function combined. Is it unholy to light the candle? Yet it illuminates the dark? I guess it’s a bit like a shrine in one object, although could also be deemed sacrilegious. Very ambiguous! But these were all after-thoughts; Mary was used because she is depicted on candles but never represented and I wanted to do that.

Is there a symbolic meaning behind this piece?
None whatsoever. I don’t use kitsch as an ironic or subversive device. It was made because the souvenir shops didn’t have them.

What’s next for you and where can we find more of your work??
I am currently working on a brand new body of work called “Super-Kitsch Manufaktur” that explores in greater depth what the Three Mothers Paraffin Candles touched upon. Using all sorts of Kitsch devices to create the Super-Kitsch: enlarging, representing, replicating, associating function and re-working the familiar creating something sub-familiar. This marks the departure of using found objects, which I feel is important to really strengthen my ideas of the Super-Kitsch. All the sculpting is made in plasticine, then moulds are taken of the original; effectively ruining it, therefore the work only exists in multiple, no original is ever kept. Every age spawns its own kitsch; I guess this is made to serve that purpose in time.

To view The Three Mother’s Paraffin Candles in action, click here, or to purchase the candles, visit his online shop here.

Luke will be exhibiting with BEARSPACE as part of Christie’s brand new art fair, Multiplied, which runs from 15th – 18th October 2010 (Christie’s, 85 Old Brompton Rd, South Kensington, SW7 3LD). In addition, he will be part of a group show at BEARSPACE, focusing on new objects/multiples and sculpture, which will be showing from 27th Nov 2010 – 15th Jan 2011.

Luke is also currently working on a collaborative project with illustrator, Mike Perry.

Categories ,Bearspace, ,Christie’s, ,Frieze Art Fair, ,Kat Phan, ,Loughborough, ,Luke Twigger, ,Mike Perry, ,Multiplied, ,postmodern

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