Ricky Swallow - Interview


Published Sunday, 3 July 2005

Interviewed at Gertrude Street Artist Space in 2000.

Introduction

Hi I'm Ricky - this is one piece of a body of work that I'm putting together for the Contempora 5 exhibition which is forthcoming.

Peugot Taipan

This piece is called "Peugot Taipan Commemorative Model". It is basically a reconstruction totally built from scratch - it's pretty much 100% PVC piping and plastic sheeting which is the materials here called foamex.

The idea was basically using the BMX as a subject matter, quite a personal icon if you like, somehow reconstituting or remaking, - it has the appearance of being an almost like an industrial model as well as being a commemorative model. And it is basically built working straight from the original, in that sense that it looks like the original just that it has been sprayed. So it was built with the piping that I've had forged, building each piece separately, as you would with an architectural model, and then it is all pieced together so that it is locked together into about six different pieces - the wheels drop out.

As with a lot of my work it sort of involves the changing of quite manual or industrial labour into artistic or personal labour. So in some sense the things that link the work is actually that exchange of processes and how I've gone about constructing the works.

As you will see with the other works as well I've become quite consumed with detail, like all the detail on the tyres has been hand cut and pieced together; the chain it actually moves, it's articulated, so it was very much about trying to make an authentic replica, almost a replacement if you like.

Evolution in order of appearance

This piece is called Evolution in order of appearance - it is basically small cast resin skulls that plot the history of the evolution of man. Starting with the first one which is a gorilla skull and we move onto a skull from the Zing period,;the third one is referred to as Peking Man and you can see a vaguely more human resemblance coming into the skull. The fourth one along is a human skull, which is obviously recognisable and the last one is a robotic skull based on Terminator 2 and the model kit which you can get.

The process I went through to model these is basically using an existing model skull and quite traditionally moulding them and then casting them so I've actually editioned this piece.

Basically how I've made them was originally moulding them in plastic and putty and then making rubber moulds of them. This is a mould, it's just a two piece mould, you can see the two sides and the jaw bone was cast separately from a another smaller mould. This (the mould) is made of a very flexible rubber so you just pour the resin in, it cures in about half an hour and then you pop them out like that and clean them up.

You can see with this one here how the jaw is a separate piece - it's the gorilla one. This piece is also like a few other pieces of mine where I sort of plot an alternative history too things through model making. The idea of a standard evolving line is kind of interupted with the inclusion of the robotic skull in there. Also that science fiction theme feeds into a lot of my work, as you will see in the next piece we're going to talk about.

Model for a sunken monument

This piece is called "Model for a sunken monument". It is basically an enlargement of a 3d puzzle which I've scaled up out of proportion to look like its quite monolithic or monumental. I've used Darth Veda as a subject before and I'm interested in him because obviously he is quite a popular reference to people of our generation. But also it is quite a minimal character - I like the idea of softening his surface or making him kind of more malleable or molten if you like.

This was a more ambitious piece for me - I had to get people in to help me, just because of the pure size of it. And basically cut it out of mbf wood, I think it is about 87 pieces all together and they were screwed together as sections which lock into each other. I like the idea that is much heavier than it actually looks. All the detail is achieved by the changing sizes of the layers. And what I said about the last piece being interested in alternative histories I guess with this again …also is a reference to the end of Planet of the Apes where they find a Statue of Liberty sunken into the ground as a kind of hint to the lost civilization that is going to be marooned or turned upside down.

The Movie Included a Stop Button for Wimps

This piece is called the "The Movie Included a Stop Button for Wimps" and is one of 21 models that was exhibited at the "Melbourne International Biennial". They're all models that are build ontop of old 50's and 60's portable record players. So you can see the detail on the front that it is an HMV record player. They originally started as being miniatures of museums and themes kind of changed a bit. There's normally a rotating action, but on this one it's just kind of an action of this carriage, which is a virtual reality capsule.

Again it involves detail and finicky crafting and making - again it's made out of architectural plastic and rendered in monochrome. I like using the monochrome because it makes things more like models than sculputes and what I like about models is that they always seem to read as something proposed for the future or something that has gone away. They're never actually in realtime so I like that idea of the way they operate in terms of time if you like.

With these, it was about making spaces that people interact in as portable environments or portable scenes from that environment. The figures are never moving it always just through an action it's almost like this action is the last part of the scene that hasn't been frozen yet.

It's achieved with this display an offset turning disc that then rocks this carriage backwards and forwards. It's also a very classic scene, a very reckognised kind of urban landscape if you like, a kind of contemporary landscape in that sense.

Interviewed by Martin Shub (in 2000).

© Discovery Media, 2000.
This interview is one of 28 taken from the ARN2 CD-ROM published by Discovery Media.

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