In a series of interviews, we talk to our graduating artists about their practice and process…
Jean-Baptiste Lagadec (BA Fine Art), who is showing a series of paintings in Degree Show One, spent the first two years of his degree working digitally. But something wasn’t right. “I wasn’t happy with myself and I didn’t know why”, he explains, “at some point I realised that I was working on my computer morning to evening, when I had a break I would still be at my computer, then I’d have dinner and watch a movie on my computer. When the tool for leisure is the same as the tool for work, it’s problematic.”
Looking to break the monotony and lethargy he felt working at a screen all day, Lagadec took a year out for a Diploma in Professional Studies. He contacted printers and publishers, keen to engage with the realisation process, making things. Working at a screenprinters, Lagadec was energised by the daily practice:
It was fantastic. I was doing a bit less with my head but way more with my body. I was in contact with colours, solvents, the smell and the dirt.
He began the third year of his degree with a new sense of conviction but the influence of digital technology did not diminish. Inspired by Photoshop and artist Pierre Soulages, Lagadec began making his own painting tools. Taking the mark-making functions from Photoshop as a starting point, he made hand-held foam pads (called ‘PS Brushes’) as well as repurposed mops and water guns.
Finding pleasure in his process again, the painter worked up layers of ink and paint on wood using his new tool vocabulary. Layering became important, not only in reference to the construction of a digital image but also to painting as a 3-dimensional object. For Lagadec, the discipline has been redefined as an object by its relation to the digital screen. Paintings, now more than ever, are 3-dimensional.
Lagadec’s series includes reference to Ariadne’s thread that Theseus laid throughout the Minotaur’s labyrinth to mark his pathway back. Here Ariadne’s thread is Lagadec’s mark-making process; the viewer is invited to explore the layers of each painting, to piece together the chronological process of making in reverse. The layers of gesture build up, detailing the painter’s process and most importantly the pleasure of making marks:
In the past years that I felt I was working for art, I realised that I wasn’t working for myself, I was working for my tutors, for my peers and for art. I was working to convince everyone else that my work was valuable… If you don’t take pleasure in your work, it shows.