Intentionalism and the Arts

                       Interview with artist Craig Edwards


Q. What was the original intention of your piece and did that change as you developed the work?


A. The Keeper of The Estate (2009), shown here at the Charlie Dutton Gallery, is a triptych showing a man in various stages of dress from country ‘gamekeeper’ through to urban ‘chav’. I want the viewer to think about how their interpretation of the man changes, as they move their eyes over each image and then when viewing the triptych as a totality. I would like them to think about the apparent ‘naturalness’ of the relationship between the urban and rural. I think the absurdity of a country ‘gamekeeper’ in a council estate reveals the arbitrary relationship between the two concepts, as does the pun of the title.


Previously, I’ve presented work as a larger series of images, with each image hung separately and viewed methodically one after another. For this work I wanted to think about how I might show ‘the creative trail’ and how I might get my message, about the arbitrary relationship between the urban and the rural, across as one work. Hence the use of a triptych. One of the things that triggered this was hearing about the Intentists use of palimpsestism. Now, I’m not sure that this work really does show the process of its production, but I think it certainly hints at how I play with different ideas and visual strategies when developing work. However, I think my more recent image The Gamekeeper (2010), in collaboration with the highly talented Rhod Walls, shows clearly the process behind making the work, through the use of multiple exposures. My intention behind both works is essentially the same, to show how ‘mythical’ constructs such as the urban and the rural influence our perceptions of identity, class and nationality. However, I have been trying to find the most appropriate method of communicating that message.


Q. What role does the unconscious play in the creation of your work?


A. I think that too many artists use the idea of the unconscious as an easy escape from explaining what their work is about, or what purpose it serves. It’s all very well if the artist’s work is exploring the role of the unconscious in the making of their work, but I don’t agree with its general overuse by artists to explain their work.  The unconscious only plays a small role in the development of my work, as I’m very controlled when developing a piece. I work in stages, which is quite the contrary of what photography typically stands for: the instant. I would say that you have to control the process behind your work. Yes, something may happen unexpectedly and you are not really sure why. Yes, you might then replicate it, or explore it in your work further. But I think that you have to deal with that process and justify those changes against your original concept and ask does it help you communicate your message to the viewer?


Q Do you believe it is the job of the viewer to uncover the meaning of your work or to construct a new meaning for him or her. (As it how the work speaks to him or her)?


A. I would say it is the job of the viewer to uncover the meaning of my work, but it is my responsibility to ensure that this is not too difficult. For me, good work communicates its message to the viewer quickly and succinctly. However, it is a well-trodden assumption that the viewer may not share the same experiences or cultural knowledge as the artist to be able to do that. I think many artists seem to believe that the viewer is almost incapable of taking the time to really think about what is happening in a work. As a viewer myself I like nothing more than spending a lot of time thinking through an image.  I suspect that this interest probably comes from my first degree, which was in English. Perhaps this is why I am drawn to narrative work and take great pleasure in thinking through that narrative and what the artist intends to say to us through it: such as in the work of Ged Quinn and Gregory Crewdson, to name a few.


Now Jacques Derrida of course would say that to uncover some sort of inner meaning in a work is impossible, that you can never break something down to an inner core. One of the things I am interested in exploring is his notion of ‘differance’, that something only gains meaning depending upon its context. I hope that this is apparent within The Keeper of the Estate. My planned PhD research will go on to test Derrida’s thesis that cultural texts must be deconstructed from within their own discourse rather than from external reference, looking at the myth of the English countryside as a case study. Essentially, I am interested in using my practice to test philosophy.



Q. Do you think that all interpretations are equally valid, and if not what is our criteria to judge them?


A. People are entitled to their opinion of your work. It’s always very interesting when someone interprets your work differently to how you intended. I don’t think you can entirely dismiss that since you are always creating work for a viewer, you are always creating something to be seen and interpreted. So to gain an insight of how people do perceive your work is really important. For me all art is communication and you are trying to communicate a message, an opinion, which I suppose is an intention, so you would hope that for your work to be successful the viewer should understand what you are trying to communicate to them, or at least what issues you are exploring. I believe that all viewers are entitled to an opinion, but that they can misinterpret work. However, if this is happening then the artist needs to think about how they are communicating their message, as perhaps it isn’t clear enough in the work.


Q. Your work is ironic. Do you think irony is always successfully manifest in the work or does the viewer need a further context or reference to get the irony?


A. I suppose you are asking is the irony I use universal? Would someone who is unfamiliar with the culture I am drawing upon fully understand the irony in my work? I suppose not. It’s culturally specific. Nevertheless, I find it a useful tool to explore the issues I am dealing with. It is probably essential to the communication of my intention, as it reveals the arbitrary relationship between the binary opposition of the urban and the rural.


Q. Can the meaning of your work ever change over time or is it simply given new associations to new generations?


A. You can never control the context within which your work is displayed. My work this evening is in a gallery context, in a couple of weeks it might be in a magazine, in thirty years time it might be displayed in a retrospective alongside snippets from my sketchbooks, notes and other workings. Therefore, the meaning of the work can change in the eye of the viewer, whether it can ever change in my mind is perhaps another discussion.


On behalf of Intentism many thanks for your time.