Artist_Iain HalesMeet the Artist

Iain Hales

Can you describe your work in three words?
Colour, texture, form. 

What got you into the arts? How did you become an artist? 
My grandfather was an artist, I first learned to draw and paint with him. As a child, I don’t think I always knew that I wanted to be an artist, but I knew I wanted to do something in the arts. I was pretty academic at school and was encouraged in that direction, so I first studied psychology, art history and philosophy at the University of Glasgow… but soon realised I’d made an error and that really, I wanted to go to art school. A couple of years (and some evening classes) later I got into Edinburgh College of Art. I completed my studies with an MFA at the Slade School of Fine Art in London and have been making art ever since. 

What drew you to sculpture? What interests you most about the medium? 
I’ve always been fascinated by the things and objects that surround me, their textures, colours, materials. I love looking at how things are made, trying to understand how they’re put together. What attracts me most with sculpture is the way it exists in world, takes up space. I also love making things with my hands and composing objects in space. 

Colour is a fundamental element in your work. How do you choose hues?
Towards the end of the first year of my Masters at the Slade, I began to embrace colour. At first, that engagement with colour was very tentative, working with the inherent colour of things I found around me like the blue of a plaster board, the black of gaffer tape or the yellow of a Selfridges bag, all of which I used to make work at that time. However, in the second year I really began to research it properly.  Now, it would be unthinkable for me to make a work without its colour being of central importance, even if that colour is black. I’m really interested in the perceptual phenomenon of synaesthesia. I often have the sensation of almost taste or mouthfeel when I look at colour, like I’m biting into the colour. I think that’s why I’m often drawn to using ‘tasty’ colours in my works.

Within your work, you often ask the question ‘what would a painting made by a sculptor look like?’ How do you explore this relationship between sculpture and painting? 
I’m somewhat obsessed by painting and the very notion of composition. Traditionally, sculpture is supposed to be seen in the round, an object to be viewed from all angles. I have become very interested in the idea of ‘flattening’ my sculptures and consciously thinking about a ‘best’ position from which to view the work. I’m interested in the idea of the work assembling and disassembling itself as the viewer moves around it. Most of my works address the slippage between the notions of back and front, volume and flatness. With some works – for instance, the grid-based works I made in 2012 – I address this sense of mutability more directly. Each component is simply hooked onto the metal grid, alluding to the potential for each work to be rearranged. Unlike painting, composition in my sculptures is never quite fixed.

Your series ‘Villa Charlotte’ was inspired by a villa near Zurich. Can you tell us more about the importance of architecture in your work? 
I’ve always been interested in the notion of space, or rather the way space makes us feel as we enter a room: the ceiling height, ornamental elements, the way light pervades an interior… Architecture encompasses all these elements and is, by nature, very close to sculpture. My series Villa Charlotte was inspired by a subtle architectural detail I noticed in a villa where I stayed in the summer 2014, near Lake Zürich. I first spotted the form used in the bathroom window, then I started to see it everywhere in the house. This series ended up being a celebration of this motif, which resulted in a dozen iterations, each using different materials, textures and colours. Sadly, Villa Charlotte was demolished a few years after I produced this body of work. I like the idea that this series is an echo of this beautiful house that no longer exists. 

What are the things that inspire you most when creating? 
I love observing the way things are put together! My work is often triggered by very incidental things I see in everyday life: a decorative pattern, an obelisk in Rome, a physical action such as piercing a receipt on a spike, a colour, or the particular shape of a handrail. I revel in bringing together these glimpsed things, that might otherwise feel unrelated, in interesting juxtapositions that hint at new meaning.

Who are the artists that have inspired you most? 
For different reasons, David Hockney and his LA paintings filled with exuberance and optimism, Malevich and the Constructivists, De Chirico… mostly painters actually. I also have a profound respect for British sculptor Phyllida Barlow, whom I had the privilege to assist for a few years after graduating from the Slade. 

What interested you about joining Canopy Collections?
I was particularly interested in seeing contemporary art in domestic settings. For a lot of people, it’s not easy to imagine how art can live in their house, how it might become part of their everyday environment. I love encountering artworks and objects when they rub-up against the everyday detritus of living. Kettle’s Yard in Cambridge is an amazing example of this: living with art, supporting emerging artists and celebrating it as part of one’s lifestyle. I also felt Canopy Collections was a great opportunity to show my work outside of the art world, and open it to people who can be intimated by this world. 

Do you collect art from other artists?
I have a very small, but growing collection of artworks. I’d certainly love to buy more, especially ceramic works.