The emerging Scottish artist Charlie Anderson is known for his epic scale pop art paintings. At first glance, they appear to be cut-and-paste collages – layered fragments of advertising billboards, newspaper cuttings and street flyers – but Anderson creates the post-punk effect purely through painting. A recipient of the Meyer Oppenheim prize from the Royal Scottish Academy in 2010 and the British Airways travel prize in 2009, Anderson has exhibited in Edinburgh, London, Lugano and Los Angeles, where he currently resides. His latest show, ‘No One Gets Out Alive’, opens at Berlin’s new MILA Gallery this weekend. AnOther caught up with the prodigious painter ahead of the opening to talk motivation, reputation and self-reflection.
“Charlie has pissed off art collectors, curators, graffiti writers, three world-renowned artists, has been threatened by a leading London gallerist, and has been punched in the face by an Edinburgh artist” – interesting bio, care to elaborate?
Process is paramount to my work, and I often feel that the actual art is in the creation and processing of ideas, and the paintings are just the by-product. So the reason my bio focuses more on myself is to get that idea across – that it’s not necessarily about looking at a painting on a wall, it’s about understanding how it came to exist in that way, and my actions and reasoning that preceded it. I’m also fascinated that there can be so many implications of painting something; from potential lawsuits to hate mail. That kind of thing was early days for me though when I first started painting – I’ve learned a lot since then!
Who or what inspires you?
I’m inspired by cities really, walking around and looking at everything that is stuck on the walls. For me it becomes a testament to its time and to where I am when I’m looking at it. I’m also hugely inspired by a number of artists; Mark Bradford in particular for his use of found material to create intricate map-like collages and Sigmar Polke for his surreal use of imagery from daily life.
"Process is paramount to my work, and I often feel that the actual art is in the creation and processing of ideas, and the paintings are just the by-product."
Your work is partly influenced by political campaigns. Do you consider yourself a political person?
Far from it. I think that aspect came from living in Edinburgh and the recent issues regarding Scottish independence. There are a lot of signs plastered around the city, whether put there by the council or just local people putting them in the windows of their houses, so referencing them in paintings just became part of living in Edinburgh and documenting life there.
You’ve recently moved to LA from Edinburgh, that’s got to be quite a culture shock? What inspired the move?
I really needed a change of scene, Edinburgh became boring for me and I wasn’t particularly inspired by the art scene there. A lot of artists I look up to are based in LA so it made sense to spend some time here. I’ve also got some murals to paint and collaborations. It has been a huge culture shock but an amazing one!
You’ve collaborated with Ringo Starr and Ricky Hatton, who would you like to collaborate with in the future?
It’s hard to say who specifically; I think the ideas come first. I’d love to work with film but that idea is under development still so until it becomes clearer in my head I can’t say who exactly. Also music, I’d love to somehow make music more directly connected to my work. There are loads of people. I guess I’ll have to wait and see!
Where did the title of your exhibition ‘No One Gets Out Alive’ come from?
Often when creating my work I wonder why it is exactly that I’m making art, and what the purpose of art is. For the show I decided to make paintings using images from found magazines, postcards, collectibles, souvenir posters and flyers. Some of these things once held value for someone and some of them are just cheap kitsch but they all shared the same discarded fate so when bringing them all together in paintings I guess I am glorifying them in a way…exploring the difference (or lack of) between them and the history of how the images came into existence. I suppose the title relates to the transient nature of these things, to life in general and ultimately to the paintings I’ve made, which won’t last forever.
You’ll be creating a large scale on-site piece for the Berlin exhibition. Do you know in advance what you’re going to be doing or is it an organic process?
I have some stencils and images that I've already cut that I’ll bring with me but it will come down to being in front of the wall and taking it from there. Once I start it’s usually a spontaneous process.
Charlie Anderson: ‘No One Gets Out Alive’ is at the MILA Kunstgallerie, Berlin, until December 21, 2012.
Text by Frankie Mathieson