Glenn Anderson at work
Grinning skulls from chip forks and junk
By Tessa Burwood
Birmingham artist Glenn Anderson talks about his journey to artistic success.
Skull from Jibbering Records exhibition
If you happen to meet Glenn Anderson, don't be fooled by his calm, unassuming appearance - he is a very busy man. He has been described as "the most modest and elusive of artists", has just opened a solo exhibition, and shows his work worldwide, from Jibbering Records in Moseley to Lab 101, Culver City, California.
Despite all this, he's incredibly grounded, even humbled, by his own talent: "It chooses you, know what I mean? You become a slave to art, but good things come out of it."
Beauty from the junk
His latest exhibition, entitled Live Every Day Like it was Your Last, includes works exploring the recent death of his best friend, and cycles of urban decay and rebirth. Skulls built from found objects feature heavily, grinning with yellowed teeth made from fish and chip shop forks, and picked out in bright colours, like Mexican Day of the Dead masks. He brings together skeletal structures from everyday detritus, turning them into beautiful, magical objects.
The Bull Ring Centre
"Those pieces of work all relate to the smashing down of the old Bullring, the filling in of the subways. It was dark, it was seedy, it was murky, it was miserable, it was Birmingham and it was great. I think building this Selfridges was a massive fraud." His work is nothing if not opinionated, but it is positive and invigorating- something that has brought him to the attention of both corporate and private interests worldwide.
A body of work
He's also launching his website this week (www.glennanderson.co.uk)- the culmination of a decisive move to concentrate solely on his art. He compares his different pieces of work to his own family: "my cousins, you know we're all different shades and what not, but there's something in our faces that binds us together. Within my work, there's something tying it all together, hopefully when my website's up it'll all kind of link in-all the members of the family coming together- there'll be some kind of thread."
Mixed media piece (detail)
It started in the playground
During his school days, lessons were not learnt in class, but from those around him who engaged and interested him. "The educational system that I went through was quite appalling to be honest- an Irish Roman Catholic school, still within its old school mentality. There were strong elements of strange institutional racism and neglect, in spite of a few nice teachers. In lessons I'd basically sit there drawing."
When he began learning from a schoolmate how to cut Afro Caribbean fades and patterns into hair, he felt he was studying something worth paying attention to: "The guy who taught me was a year older, a lot better than me, he showed me the ropes and I looked up to him. I was really feeling these patterns that he drew. It was like, I want a piece of this, I want to be doing some of this." Other pupils in his classes would ask him to write their names in his style, and from then on, making marks of any kind became his obsession.
Birmingham Open submission (detail)
Uni was "the crossroads" for Glenn
He went on to study graphic design and illustration at Demontfort, and his working practice has grown and changed over the years. He works in mixed media, using simple tools like ballpoint pen and correction fluid, along with aerosol paint, and practically anything else that comes to hand: I've always worked in mixed media- it keeps the palate vibrant, I just like to change things and keep myself excited, take on new challenges." His pictures are painstakingly intricate, sometimes on a massive scale covering metres of bare wall, sometimes highly built up off the canvas.
Glenn's Keep A Breast submission
A step in the right direction
One example of his work that has attracted international attention is his recent piece for the Keep A Breast Foundation, who create plaster busts of women, which are then decorated by prominent artists from all over the world, before being auctioned for charity. The proceeds go to breast cancer research and prevention. Glenn's submission was chosen by Timeout Magazine to feature in their article to promote a New York exhibition of the work. He takes this as a sign that he's moving in the right direction: "I'm doing the right thing, and it's things like that, in this madness, that keep you motivated."
Glenn has "dropped" his work all over the world, from American art galleries to nightclubs in Cambodia, but he's not very interested in creating a "cool" brand image for himself. He connects with the world around him, through his art: "You open up doors and people get a flavour of who you are. It's not really important to me that when someone sees my work, they know it's by me, because I just want to share my ideas around."
Commission for Sound Control, Birmingham
A 30 metre canvas
So what's the next step for Glenn? He's entering the Diesel Wall competition this year, which was set up five years ago "to salvage what precious public space there is left, and to fill it with something worth saying." The winning submission will fill a canvas up to 30 metres across, on long term display in Manchester, Zurich, New York or Barcelona.
last updated: 25/04/2008 at 19:11