Artist Interview: Ric Warren, ‘Site Acquired’
For ‘Site Acquired’, which runs until 7 May, Ric Warren has transformed the garden at Mount Florida Gallery & Studios into an open-air installation of sculptural partitions, boundary fences, and geological features. Here, Becki Crossley speaks to him about the development of this large-scale project and the challenges presented by the space (and the ever-changing Glasgow weather).
Ric Warren, from ‘Site Acquired’
Mount Florida Gallery & Studios is a unique space providing studios (it’s in the name!) for an eclectic mix of artists working in Glasgow’s Southside, as well as an intimate white cube gallery space. The modest garden outside is a huge part of the studios’ charm, a space used for much more than just the odd BBQ or spot of plant potting. For resident artists, it’s a place for forging metal, painting signage, chopping wood, hosting preview parties… oh, and stretching in the sun with resident studio dog Ted.
Ric Warren’s work “explores man-made versus natural demarcations of territory”, so it makes sense that this green space in the built-up area of Mount Florida influenced him. While the GI 2018 programme makes use of many unconventional spaces, Ric Warren’s ‘Site Acquired’ takes place in one of only a handful of open-air venues for this year’s festival.
Becki: A lot of your work is informed by spatial politics, and you created an open-air installation for this year’s GI. How does your work respond to the specificities of the space?
Ric: My digital collages and sculptural installations take reference from architectural structures, social signifiers and geological features that designate, demarcate or disrupt (often contested) spatial territories. I am interested in the various ways humans claim or assert their presence in space and how individual and collective identities are evident within a landscape. Previous artworks have been informed by these themes within a predominately urban context. For this show, I wanted to develop work that expands out of the purely urban context and into more natural / rural space, as well as taking the opportunity to work on the large scale allowed by the gardens.
My exhibition is installed in the tarmac driveway that leads around the corner to the wooded grassland, simplistically representative of built and ‘natural’ environments. The specific context of Mount Florida (especially on match days, due to it being the home of Hampden Park, the national stadium) as an area has informed much of the work. Within the exhibition there are references to casual sportswear, graffiti, fly-posting and stickering. The blank sticker shapes for example, are taken from the football team supporters clubs and political slogan stickers that appear around the city, and particularly in and around Mount Florida.
B: What attracts you to the tension between urban and natural that features in your work?
R: I have always been interested in highlighting the hardening of the built environment through anti-design measures intended to limit use of certain spaces by disrupting flat surfaces (such as the anti fly-posting batons used on construction site hoardings, anti-rough sleeping spikes on benches, anti-skate-boarding bumps on steps and railings). The works for this show were initially developed during a residency at The Bothy Project on the Isle of Eigg, where I began to consider the natural formations and uneven geological features that demarcate and disrupt rural spaces.
I am also interested in the presence of ‘urban’ aesthetics within the natural landscape, playing with these juxtapositions and similarities. Lichen and fungal growths are referenced in the works, creating comparisons of symbiotic organisms in relation to territorial markers and symbols of collective / gang identity.
For example, in ‘Caps, 2018’, the peaks of baseball caps protrude through a wall, creating a visual and linguistic reference to ‘cap mushrooms’ that grow on the side of rotting trees.
Ric Warren, from ‘Site Acquired’
B: In what way does Glasgow facilitate you as an artist?
R: In relation to recent works and research, Glasgow’s geography has been influential in the development of my practice, it’s very easy to live in the city and get out to the countryside. I have been based here since 2005, when I moved up from Yorkshire to study at The Glasgow School of Art.
It is currently still affordable to rent both a flat and a studio (although, I am aware of the irony that events such as GI contribute to the intensification of gentrification processes that may make this less viable) in a city that has an active and interesting arts community, that is respected and recognised internationally.
B: How would you summarise your GI experience as an exhibiting artist this year?
R: Wet, cold, and heart-warming. Realising a project outside in the rain is not without its difficulties. The project didn’t receive any funding and it has only been possible through the in-kind support of Mount Florida Gallery & Studios, HSBC’s overdraft facility and the fantastic help of my hardworking, skilled and time-generous friends; the experience has reaffirmed how great some of my pals are. I’ve also enjoyed meeting members of the local community, welcoming visitors to the area and eating most things on the menu at the amazing Malacarne cafe.
B: Anything noteworthy coming up in 2018?
R: I’ll be taking some time to process this show in the studio, working on a publication of the exhibition and research from The Bothy Project residency. I am also looking forward to finding time to develop an artistic collaboration with Rachel Walker and we hope to launch our casual sportswear concept brand ‘RW: Relaxed Workout’ soon.
Learn more about Ric Warren at ricwarren.com.