Interview With Alun Rhys Jones

Earlier this year, in collaboration with the creative production agency V∆ND∆L, Art Pharmacy launched a physical space to compliment our online gallery. We are very excited to be welcoming our second artist Alun Rhys Jones to the gallery!

With his latest exhibition, entitled ICON, Alun continues his exploration of identity, commodity, media, and popular culture; themes that he acknowledges have undergone a radical transformation in recent years, and continue to have increasingly profound effects on society.

We caught up with Alun to find out about his inspirations, his process and some more details about the gravity defying installation that will be on display for the first time at V∆ND∆L!

Can you tell us a bit about the inspiration behind your work?
I tend to have an overarching concept driving each exhibition. This solo exhibition is concerned with the phenomena of celebrity in its many forms.  On first appearances Celebrity can appear banal and lowbrow, yet it surrounds us and is constantly affecting our lives. From marketing and advertising, through social media, television and all the way to the White House and the current 45th President of the USA, Celebrity has real, palpable and long lasting effects on culture, history, ethics and the populace.

A lot of your work explores celebrity, and the influence of the media and pop culture on the individual. Is there a particular element of that you are exploring with this body of work?
A recent study published in the Journal of Cyberpsychology reveals that the number one goal amongst children today is to become famous. Children no longer want to grow up to be astronauts, or doctors: now they want to be actors, singers and YouTube personalities. The study shows a huge shift in attitudes, values and beliefs.

In 1997, the dominant values expressed by the TV shows most popular among 9 to 11 year-olds were community feeling and benevolence. Fame came at fifteenth out of the sixteen values tested. By 2007 fame was first, followed by achievement, image, popularity and financial success. Community feeling had fallen to eleventh, while benevolence was now twelfth.

As such, I’m interested in the influence that television and social media has had on this change and its broader effects upon the individual and society at large. Andy Warhol famously said “In the future, everybody will be world famous for fifteen minutes." To coin a phrase this could now read “In the future everyone will really want that fame too”.

You've used a variety of different mediums for this show. Can you tell us a bit about your process? Do you get an idea, and then decide on a medium? Or do you go the other way?
I generally come up with an idea and then explore the best way to represent it; I like pushing myself to try different mediums and techniques and see how I can make a piece work. For example The #powercouple series of “Brangelina”, “Posh and Becks” and “Kimye”; respectively Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie, David and Victoria Beckham, Kim Kardashian and Kanye West were drawn in Adobe Illustrator on the computer, lasercut in aluminium and finally electroplated in gold, chrome and nickel to give the desired glossy finish that I was after. I really wanted the sculptural works to have a shiny, desirable veneer reflecting the aspirational nature of the cult of celebrity they allude to.

One of the most exciting pieces we have on display is the Red Carpet Installation. Can you tell us a bit about that piece, and how you went about executing it?
The Red Carpet installation, titled “ICON”, comprises a red carpet, bollards and ropes travelling across the floor, hitting the wall, turning at 90 degrees and continuing straight up the wall. The red carpet is an iconic symbol of fame and stardom and I wanted this piece to reflect the aspirational nature of celebrity, the desire, the glamour, the impossible dream. The work literally reaches for the stars, alluding to possibility, the infinite and of becoming truly iconic.

It was executed with precision, technique and a sprinkle of stardust ☺

A lot of the works on display deal with specific individuals. How do you decide who the subjects of your work will be?
The choice of specific individuals is always related to the ideas surrounding them. For example, the Self-portrait series of four photographs are all concerned with the depiction of masculinity, celebrity and image in print media. The titles of the works include “Self-Portrait as the Sexiest Man Alive” and “Self-Portrait as the Most Beautiful Man in the World” so the choice of who to depict was governed by that, as a result I chose the likes of Chris Hemsworth, Hugh Jackman and George Clooney to be the ideal subjects for the series.

ICON will be on display at 16-30 Vine Street, Redfern
6 April - 29 May
Mon - Fri, 10am- 5pm