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The online editorial and curatorial project for systems, non-objective and reductive artists working in the UK

Website: Chestnuts Design

Interview with Cedric Christie by Judith Duquemin

August 2015

©Copyright Patrick Morrissey and Clive Hancock  All rights reserved.

JD    When I came to your studio in Hackney Wick, we had an engaging and informative conversation about reductive art from the mid twentieth century to recent times. We related this discussion to your national and international exhibition history, and your values, influences and approaches to making art. We discussed the studio work for your upcoming exhibition: When Colour Becomes A Beautiful Object. And An Object Becomes A Beautiful Colour, at Flowers Gallery, London, opening on 4th September, 2015. This exhibition is new work, comprising sculpture and works on paper that negotiate the “boundaries between painting and sculpture and the formal interactions of colour, shape and surface” (press release, Flowers Gallery, 2015).


For this interview for Saturation Point, I’d like to focus, in no particular order, on your aim or intention; your field of creative inquiry; the methods you employ; why you do what you do; outcomes; and general information about you.


Describe your new project and how it emerged?



CC    The last show at Flowers Gallery - When Painting Collapses, You Have Beautiful Sculptures  - was all about the materials (of the scaffolding and what the balls were held in). I needed to take this further and focus on the object of colour and the relationships between colours.  The work for the upcoming show - When Colour Becomes A Beautiful Object. And An Object Becomes A Beautiful Colour - includes wall-mounted works which are channels in either black and white or stainless steel, holding coloured spheres. They started out as free-standing, but now I am much more excited about them as wall pieces. When I put them on the wall, I discovered space around them; people who come to see them have to bend their neck to see the side - it’s intriguing.


The screen prints for the new show are related to the wall pieces. I’ve said: “how do I take this object that is incredibly strong, and flatten it?”, and it’s given something to me that I’m really excited about. It isn’t just a replication of the object, I’m saying: “here’s a sculpture and here’s another piece which comes from it, from a different perspective.”

Cedric Christie, When Painting Collapses, You Have Beautiful Sculptures, Installation View, 2013, Photograph by Paul Tucker, Courtesy of Flowers Gallery London and New York


JD    In our discussion you referred to the influence of the American artist Donald Judd on modern and contemporary reductive art. Judd was the leading exponent of minimalism in New York in the early 1960s. You also referred to the lack of impact of minimalism in British art. This seems to be a common cry throughout the world, helping to explain the persistence of concrete and non-objective art practices across all media. Has modernist abstraction become an excavation site for further analysis within newer contexts, without the rhetoric that once accompanied it? Some of your works appear to suggest this.


Given the reductive nature of your work, your references to geometry and architectural space, the exploration of colour, form and surface, the use of everyday objects and industrial materials, and your experimentation with the genre, how do you situate your practice within the present day?


CC    The mantle of Judd is like the mantle of Duchamp. Duchamp intellectually owns the ready-made (although you can argue about that) and Judd owns minimalism, or has been put on a pedestal. So there are two ways that I choose to look at it – you can either say: “all bow down to Judd”, or you can say: “I want Judd’s position”. Judd’s position is so locked in to the space, time and politics of his era, that as much as I admire what he has done, I would need to have  been making it in the 60s/70s with him. So I ask: “how do I move this on for me?”


I live in the 21st century, I live in London now – how do I present those ideas back to people (outside of America) who have a different idea of modernism? The way I’ve been looking at it is that it’s slightly broken, and so for it to exist for me now, it needs to be slightly wrong - not quite resting in that moment of peace. It’s an idea of making an object that can occupy that space of contemplation without you having to ask what it is – just allowing it to be, which seems to be the biggest challenge.


To have had work in a show with Judd has helped me to understand the foundations to enable me to walk, to take my own steps.

Cedric Christie, Pink Painting, 1996-2009, Photograph by Paul Tucker, Courtesy of Flowers Gallery, London and New York

JD    We know that the use of steel and industrial pre-fabricated materials were adopted by the early minimalists to eliminate evidence of craftsmanship in the work of art, enabling it to stand alone. How has your early occupation in the metal trades influenced what you do?  


CC    I think it has totally influenced what I do, because I have a practical understanding of the materials. The nice challenge for me in making art, is that you have the ability not to put (industrial materials) in their correct order, but to give them their own value as a material. Normally things go together or fit to make things work, but I can choose when it works or how it works.


JD    Following on from that, explain your attraction to motoring and motor cars as a vehicle for visual communication. For example, the ‘muscle car’ which features in your portfolio. Further, Pink Painting is a crushed car presented as a wall work.  That car, and others displaying text, were exhibited at Documenta Bootleg, in Kassel, 2007.


CC   Cars are interesting to me because of what a car means: its one of the few objects which you buy and then try as hard as possible to keep the same as it was when you bought it. I grew up with this whole thing that “you are the car you drive”.


It seems that the muscle car was all about an idea of power and wealth – and sex - the idea of a muscle car is attractive. I am thinking about it as a kind of a medal – and what is a car if it isn’t a medal?




The first project with a car started when I had a car given to me by General Motors for the Art Car Boot Fair, and I had to do a project with it. So I went to galleries and said “I’m doing this project, this is the deal: it’s going to cost you this much money to get involved, and you have no control over what’s going to happen.” The first gallery to say yes was Faggionato’s – I just went into Gerard Faggionato’s gallery, I didn’t really know him. He said: “You’ve come into my gallery, you want me to give you money and I don’t know what’s going on?” And I said “yeah”, and he said: “OK then, I’ll do it.”


The logos I put on the cars were part of the idea of the artist as a brand. It was a very public piece. On the one hand you have the public who look at it and say “I know this, it’s Esso or Golf, but I don’t know Serra, what’s Serra?” And then the art world who look at it and say “why is it saying Picasso?” They are both saying: “that’s part of my world, but it’s not my world” – and it was a moment of fusion that a car has an ability to do.


From that project I looked at how I could take it slightly further. Most people’s ideas of modern art, through to contemporary, involves artists who have exhibited at Documenta. So I bought a car to represent each year of Documenta, (the door number was the year, and under that was the curator of that year, and on the car the racing logos were the names of the artists from that Documenta,  from 1955 up to 2007). What was interesting was that as the cars got newer, the artists got less well known. The ’55 car was established, part of our modern history…

Cedric Christie Black Crayon, 2015 (c) Cedric Christie, Courtesy of Flowers Gallery London and New York


Cedric Christie White and Red, 2015 (c) Cedric Christie, Photograph by Paul Tucker, Courtesy of Flowers Gallery London and New York


JD    The new works, incorporating glossy, coloured spheres housed within strategically hung, hand-painted brackets of angled steel, are three-dimensional wall works that play on our perception of colour. It seems they are a continuation of other projects about this topic. Describe the series, in terms of new developments, and how they communicate in the gallery space.


CC   In the earlier pieces with snooker balls, I bought the material that I housed these objects in (the actual channel). The nice thing about the new works is that I’ve made the channel. That takes it into a whole different space as an object. It also becomes more about the colour selection. What becomes really nice about it, is that you identify the object with things that you know by their colours, and you start associating them with the objects. In the blue and white one I instantly saw the 350 Shelby Mustang. It’s like the colour has its own life within the object that it’s been placed next to. The white on white is like the Cadillac Eldorado, which is beautiful and glossy – I like that idea, that the colour has a previous ownership.

JD    Titles feature in the overall impact of your work. They sometimes mirror each other, contradict, or refer to predicaments of art history. For example, When Painting Collapses You Have Beautiful Sculptures. Describe your reason for incorporating text, either into the title or a body of work?


CC   Text is something that I find interesting because it’s the way that you come to history – but it’s also the way that you can misguide or misplace someone. And I don’t use text to complete the work – there is usually a gap, where the viewer completes the circle. I give it 95% and the viewer gives it 5%.


I keep notebooks with thoughts/words. And I connect the two. I think: this will jar that work, and create a space in between what you know and what you don’t know. A kind of invisible material to the object.



JD    Looking through your exhibitions, line appears in many works, as grids, curves, rope, pipe, symbols, text, geometry, line-ups of objects. What is the significance of your use of line?


CC    I think it’s a direct thing that can be said in that one moment. That’s a personal thing for me - how much do I have to say, when there it is - it’s all there in that moment. Lots of lines: it is saying more? Is ‘more’ better? There are times when more is better and there are definitely times when more isn’t better.


Line is something that has always been there since the First Maximum Break, which was a line, or a sequence. If the line is absolutely right, it is absolutely ‘on it’ for me. The grid has become something that is really important, because it is now reducing space so that it can define its own space.

Cedric Christie, When Painting Collapses, You Have Beautiful Sculptures, Installation View, 2013, Photograph by Paul Tucker, Courtesy of Flowers Gallery London and New York

JD   Finally, as an established artist, you have strong views about the social responsibility of the art establishment. As a visiting professor at Bath Spa University, what advice do you have for emerging artists forging a career?


CC   I think that you have to be prepared to mess up. And just want it. If you need to get something back then it’s not incredible, because you’re not in control of it. You’re in control of what you can give it, but not what it can give you back.




Cedric Christie: When Colour Becomes A Beautiful Object. And An Object Becomes A Beautiful Colour is at Flowers Gallery, Cork Street, W1, from 4 September to 3 October www.flowersgallery.com


Cedric Christie White, 2015 (c) Cedric Christie, Courtesy of Flowers Gallery London and New York


Cedric Christie, Blue, 2015, Stove enamelled stainless steel, Photograph by Paul Tucker, Courtesy of Flowers Gallery London and New York


Cedric Christie, Installation View, When Colour Becomes a Beautiful Object. And an Object Becomes a Beautiful Colour, Photograph by Paul Tucker, Courtesy of Flowers Gallery

Cedric Christie, Installation View, When Colour Becomes a Beautiful Object. And an Object Becomes a Beautiful Colour, Photograph by Paul Tucker, Courtesy of Flowers Gallery