An interview between
Sean Edwards & Ryan Gander, 27th March, 2007
RG: It’s recording. When were you last in the studio?
SE: Yesterday. I managed to spend about 10 hours in there, quite an intense
day of working. On a full day when there are no visits to Cardiff to get
materials I try to make sure that everything is in place for a 10-hour
RG: Is your studio at home?
SE: Yes. It’s in the house so travel’s quite easy.
RG: And where’s the house? How far is it from Cardiff?
SE: Abergavenny. 45 minutes in the car.
RG: So you’re going to do a show at Associates in a month. Have
you made anything?
SE: I have. I’ve made a series of paintings, I can show you an image,
just 4 pictures here with me though. There’s about 50 so far.
SE: I’m not 100% sure what will be in the show. The way I make work
is to make it and to arrive at a certain point where an exhibition starts.
RG: That’s really interesting because when I saw your work first
I saw lots of different pictures and it looked like it was work by different
people. It seems like the way you make work is to build a stock pile of
components or something.
SE: I think it is that. Part of my working method is to lock myself into
a studio for 10 hour days, 4 or 5 days per week, to create and not allow
exterior things to get in the way, like “oh I have a show so therefore
I need a coherent body of work.” To allow works to evolve by letting
works be next to each other and one thing gives way to something else.
Then hopefully at the end of a 6-7 month period when a show does come
up some sense will be made of it.
RG: And if it doesn’t?
SE: Well there’s some kind of logic in the non-logic. But it’s
also luck, I suppose, in the way that it does work or not. I think the
worse way to approach a show is with an idea of what you expect it to
look like. It’s got to be a gamble.
RG: Yeah. I think your components can seem to an outsider largely incoherent
in terms of the way they relate to each other. Would you say that’s
true or not?
SE: I think for an outside viewer it has to be picked at and scratched
away. I don’t think you can walk into the gallery and instantly
obtain one quick understanding of the body of work. I wouldn’t want
that. I want the viewer to work as hard as I’d had to work over
the course of the creation period in order to get an understanding of
what I’m trying to do. Art shouldn’t be a quick fix. I remember
when Bethan Huws talked about art, which can be like a McDonalds, it satisfies
you for a few moments but you need another one straight after, and I think
that’s quite a good analogy.
RG: Yeah, that’s nice. Do you think you have a specific audience?
SE: I wouldn’t say it’s a specific audience. And me, I suppose
I’m my own audience. When I’m working in the studio and building
up a body of work, I essentially have to look at it and make a lot of
those decisions that a viewer might have to.
RG: There’s questions I have to ask like what art school you went
SE: Ok. I started at Cardiff then went on to do Sculpture at the Slade.
RG: Are you a sculptor?
SE: I’ve started to call myself a sculptor more than I used to.
RG: Why’s that?
SE: I think it’s partly my sensibilities, the work I look at and
the way I approach work. Whether it’s painting or film I consider
them a sculptural object, in the feelings evoked in people…
RG: I quite like that but I think other people would frown upon the idea
of being called a sculptor because it narrows it, but the way you’re
talking about it is a sort of optimism about physicality rather than some
kind of close-mindedness about the process of making work. ‘Cause
what you’re saying is that the film is physical?
SE: Yes, I think that when you edit a video or film you deal with physical
procedures. Even on ‘i movie’ you’re dealing with cut
and paste, all of those things that somehow tap into the physical world.
RG: It’s like carving. That’s funny because I’ve never
thought about this before but traditionally there’s two forms of
sculpture, the one where you add on or the one where you take away. So
with editing, and you could say the same about text as well, you add and
SE: Yes. I’m working on a found text piece at the moment where I’m
subtracting text and making additions to it. It may or may not be in the
RG: What was the last show that you did?
SE: The Chapter residency and then the exhibition in the studio afterward.
I made a body of work for 4 weeks and we opened it up for 5 days.
RG: Did you show everything?
SE: I showed all the objects but not all of the videos nor a lot of the
drawings and smaller objects. I tend to make a lot of small objects that
don’t get shown. The bulk of them end up on my studio shelves.
RG: What do you do with them? Throw them away?
SE: No I keep them. I don’t think they operate as maquettes, but
there is a similarity. I haven’t established what the purpose is
for them yet. I’m considering Associates might be one of the places
where they will all come with me.
RG: Is there an overall thematic?
SE: No. I try not to have a theme. I find they evolve through a show,
through a working process and during installing a show.
RG: So really it’s quite a short time period for you to… if
a lot of the work is made in the site…
SE: A lot of the work is completed in site.
RG: Would you ever re-show a work? I’m just enquiring because I
want to know whether the specifics of the work is you playing magician
in the space.
SE: It’s to do with how we enter and position ourselves within a
RG: It’s the approachability… What about not living in London?
SE: It works for me. When I did live in London I think the work suffered
for it. I think there’s a sense my work is actually located within
the Welsh landscape. I hope that there’s a sensitivity in the work
that is similar to a sensation evoked when you are walking in the Brecon
Beacons or something.
RG: What else? Can you explain a bit about the video component that was
SE: The snooker video… I was looking at snooker and its relationship
to the way I was working and the show coincided with the World Snooker
Championships so we managed to get them to let me spend 2 weeks with the
table fitters documenting the installation of the tables. From the base,
to putting the slate on, laying the cloth, putting the cushions on and
marking out. The procedures I was using were similar to the procedures
the table fitters were using. It became about skill, precision, accident
and mistake. All of those things that we have to deal with as artists
and crafts people. It’s something I’m looking at in the studio
now, through repetition and doing these small gestural things, how a physical
sense of familiarity can be evoked in one way or another.
RG: Why do you want to have an exhibition at Associates rather than another
SE: Partly because it’s an artist-run space and I think that erm…
RG: It’s funny because I don’t want to call it an artist-run
space. The idea of an artist showing their own work isn’t as appealing
for me as someone else taking a standpoint from outside that artist enough
to say actually it’s really good to show.
SE: Yes, you’re running it to use your view point to select 12 artists
and that’s the reason why I curated the G39 show without my own
work in it.
RG: From what I can make out from your practice as a sculptor, or the
idea of an editor, the next step in that professional role is a curator.
SE: This is one of the reasons Michelle Cotton offered me the S1 solo
show, because of the curatorial stance I take over the work.
RG: Is there anything you want to ask me?
SE: No thanks. I was ready for the ‘what was the last exhibition
you saw’ question.
RG: Oh yeah, shit. What was the last exhibition you saw?
SE: Chris Evans at Chapter… It was good. One particular sculpture
I thought was very good. The sculpture for the Ahmed family, the strangulation
tree. I couldn’t grasp what the material was on the first two viewings
and then I realised it was bronze covered with pigment. Beautiful sculpture
Sean Edwards was born 1980 in Cardiff. He gained his BA Fine Art from
University of Wales Institute (2003) & his MA Fine Art from The Slade
(2005). Recent solo shows include an offsite project with Chapter Arts,
Cardiff, & S1 Artspace, Sheffield. He also recently curated a show
at G39, Cardiff, and teaches at the Cardiff School of Art and Design,