Being an artist can often be a pretty solitary experience. You lock yourself away and produce very personal work and only really show it to people once its finished. Even artists who enlist help from people in physically producing their work still bear sole responsibility for their creative ideas, for what they are showing the world. It's like revealing your soul, opening up yourself to people. It can be pretty personal and nerve wracking.
At the start of 2016 we decided that we wanted to embark on working together, and we began to take the first steps in what we hoped would be a long and interesting journey. Neither of us had ever collaborated with another artist before, so creatively it was new territory. We have very different creative processes and earlier this year we set ourselves a creative challenge. To produce two entirely separate bodies of work, that could sit together, co-exist, but produced in two totally different parts of the UK.
We started exploring themes and ideas that interested both of us but were always mindful that we have two very distinct styles and artistic practices, painting and collage. It was a real challenge. Could we work together? Could we co-curate two bodies of work together? How could we unite two totally different styles, could we produce work as a pair even though we would be living and working four hours away from each other?
One of us (Robi) works in collage. Inspired by sacred geometry and daily meditation practice, using recycling and discarded objects and cutting them into delicate petal shapes to create a larger image representing a thousand petalled lotus. The lotus is related to the chakra system, the spinning colours of light in different energetic locations of the human spine. Taking everyday waste and turning it into something, representing the connection between the physical world and the infinite.
The other (Chris) a painter. Working for a year from a studio in Epping Forest, drawing the surroundings. Starting with the stripped back woods with no foliage, like the bare bones of the structure and using the fundamentals of painting; light, shadow, colour and form to tell a story.
So far, so different.
Rather than trying to compromise our personal styles, we began to think about celebrating them. Exploring the co-existence of opposites and more specifically, how they interact. We are a real Yin and Yang and although we have many similarities and beliefs, our styles couldn't be more different.
So we got started in May this year, one of us in London, one of us in Devon. One surrounded by family, the other living with friends by the coast. Working together but separately. It's about what grounds you and allows you to work to your best ability. One of us carrying on with regular daily life, taking the kids to school, the other starting a long day's painting with an early morning surf. Our working days couldn't be more different. We spoke of course, about what we were both doing, about how our work would look, about colour, but neither of us saw the other's work. This was real uncharted territory. We both love vibrant colour but we use it very differently, would the end result work in synchronicity? We imagined our two bodies of work next to one another, and tried to take everything back to the basic elements of our individual artistic practices. Taking two stories and creating a happy middle ground where they can co-exist. Producing it was strange enough, but when we came to curate two separate bodies of work together it was even more unusual. Normally an artist is faced with a white space, but we when you are working with someone else you have the added challenge of being faced with the inevitable blank canvas of the space but also a complete other body of work and a completely different style to consider. Painting meets collage.
Ultimately working with another artist is about trust and about belief. You have to work with someone you know and have faith in, that you can open up to and not be afraid to be honest with. You can tell them if you think something sounds rubbish and they won't get offended. If you can share ideas, even over the phone as in our case, the process can really deepen. Our journey really evolved towards the end of the summer, when we began to use each other's discarded work to create new pieces. These are some of the most interesting and unique pieces we've produced, collages created entirely out of disused paintings. Taking the discarded and giving it a new life, a theme that runs through both our work.
Chris Moon & Robi Walters, Disseverance. Maddox Gallery, 9 Maddox Street London W1S 2QE. www.maddoxgallery.co.uk | Instagram @maddoxgallery