Plato’s Lair May 2018. Mixed media installation, remade action figures. Cheeseburn Sculpture Garden

Hello, could you tell us a bit about your practice?

I draw on a variety of interests including history, political philosophy and storytelling; to create allegorical, dystopian and strangely disturbing sculptural works.  My work reflects an interest in the power of art as a cultural and political critique; as described by the literary theorist Terry Eagleton:

“…one of the great humanist functions of culture is to open some daylight between its self and the rest of our social practices and institutions so it could actual operate as a critique of them.”

In May 2018 I unveiled Plato’s Lair a site-specific installation at Cheeseburn Sculpture Garden, Northumberland; commissioned as part of the Gillian Dickinson North East Young Sculptor of The Year award 2017. The work is influenced by Plato’s story The Allegory of the Cave featured in his seminal work ‘The Republic’.  My figurative work aims to test and often satirise accepted wisdom and conventional truths; for example, constructs such as the hierarchy of human over animal.

 

What are you exploring at the moment?

I have directed a film of my piece Plato’s Lair currently on display at Cheeseburn Sculpture Garden.  The film will screen at my Master’s Degree show at Newcastle University.  Like the original installation, the idea for the piece comes from the philosopher Plato’s story The Allegory of the Cave featured in Plato’s seminal work The Republic.  Plato asks us to imagine people shackled all their lives facing the wall of a cave where flickering shadows play; and how this will become their only reality.  It occurred to me that a modern way to represent the flickering shadows is to think of a movie screening at a cinema.  For however long that illusion is our accepted reality it becomes even more topical when thinking of ideas like fake news.  Hence for the degree show piece, the room it is going to be setup much like a cinema, where the public is the audience and within which there are also some smaller characters.

 


Plato’s Lair May 2018. Mixed media installation, remade action figures. Cheeseburn Sculpture Garden

 

Have you found there’s anything in particular that has influenced you over the years? What inspires you?

Within my work I draw on political philosophy a lot, which fascinates me.  My last major piece as mentioned above was inspired by themes and ideas running through Plato’s ‘The Republic’.  I also have an interest in fantastical world building and the power of stories.  One artist I often go to for inspiration is American John Alexander, his paintings have so much energy.  He blends nature and humanity with political themes and a dose of black humour; it comes out as this sort of crazed narrative tour de force, I love it.  It’s a shame that he doesn’t seem to be that well known in the UK.  I came across his work for the first time quite by accident in a second-hand book shop.

 

Where do you work? Could you show us a picture of your working environment?

My current studio is at Newcastle university, the Ex Libris gallery.  Where I will be exhibiting during my degree show. It’s a large gallery space which should be great for what I have planned.

 

What’s on your bookshelf/what are you listening to or reading at the moment?

There is quite a mixture from art to politics to fantasy so What’s Left by Nick Cohen is happily sitting next to Terry Pratchett’s Small Gods.  Right now, I’m reading George Grosz Art and Politics in The Weimar Republic by Beth Irwin Lewis and listening to The Falcon of Sparta by Conn Iggulden.

 

Could you give us between ten and twenty words that define your practice?

Sculptural, fantastical, dark, political, allegorical, dystopian, intricate, stories, ideology, power, people, nature, satirical.


Innocence: February 2017. Clothed Mannequin, security camera, Fiberglass, leaves.

 

Where can people see your work?

They can see it at the Master of Fine Art degree show at Newcastle University.

Preview: Friday 24th August 6 – 9pm
Open: 25 August – 8 September 2018
Mon – Sat 10 – 5pm

And the last chance to see Plato’s Lair at Cheeseburn Sculpture Garden:

On the 25th, 26th and 27th August and 1st and 2nd of September
11am – 4pm

http://cheeseburn.com/

www.peterhanmer.com

 

Our last featured artists, David Lisser and Lucien Anderson, asked “why do you do what you do?”.  Could you answer their question please and think of a new one for our next featured artist?

Really simple answer, I do it because I enjoy it. The world building, political philosophy, the fantastical and the storytelling.  My art allows me to explore all my major interests.

 

My question for the next artist is: If not this, what would you like to be doing?


Open.  January 2016. Various animal bones, concrete balloons and other mixed media,
63L x 57W x 50Hcm.

 

Photo credits:

  1. Paul Stephenson and Colin Davison Photography.
  2. Paul Stephenson and Colin Davison Photography.
  3. Peter Hanmer
  4. Peter Hanmer
  5. George Skipper