Ian Segrave works full time as an art handler, and balances his art practice between that and family. I’m into these small abstract paintings that bounce between heavy paint and light gesture. Find more at the links below!
Can you tell me a little bit about you?
I’ve recently done an alternative MA – Toma. I found this a great way to push my art and focus it.. I’ve got a scatterbrain way of working and found the past year a great way to really find my feet as an artist. I am based in Leigh-on-Sea in Essex, but I work in the art world, as an art installer. I used to work for a Mayfair gallery but now work for a specialist install company. I go to the artist studios and clients, which is great to see the full spectrum of the art world, and have met some amazing artists/collectors.
Earlier in the day I could be installing Egon Schieles, Auerbachs or Constables, to then go back to my studio and work on my own work… I work full time. I have a wife and a young baby, but I am a prolific art maker. I write poetry and sketch most nights… you could call it ADHD but geared more towards art, or as my wife calls it – an obsession (lol)
When did you first discover art, or realize you wanted to make it yourself?
It’s always been there for me, as a child I would make overly complex figures from my K’Nex. I would draw (on the carpets and walls), and I would sit on the window sill and watch the world go by, taking it all in. My mum used to be an art teacher. She doesn’t have any images of what she used to make, but I know she had correspondence letters from Francis Bacon when she was at Uni. My dad is a maritime artist, working very graphic and tight to portray what interests him. He would always be in the garage painting, or taking me and my brother down to his boats at the weekend, on the river Crouch in Hullbridge or down Old Leigh. Naturally when I was at school we were encouraged to choose a career… I chose to do a B-Tec in Fine Art after getting an A* in my GCSE.
What do you like most about working where you do?
Driving. We drive around London, from East, South, North and West. It isn’t the tourist routes, we see all the grit, the artist studios, the glamour of the Westend, the houses of the gallerists (Cristea’s is amazing)… we see the 1% and connect with them as equals. Everyone values their art and the best install demands respect. My colleagues are also artists; my boss was at Goldsmiths alongside Lisa Milroy in the 80’s and encourages us at every given chance. We’re in Bow, near Brickfield, ASC, LAF and ACME studios. It’s a great location for London’s art scene.
What ideas are you exploring in your practice?
A million at once. As previously stated I’m a bit of a fidget brain, I can’t help it. I use painting, as I’m a sketcher, a word maker a rhymer a player of dreams and a dreamer of thoughts, holding on to that daydream that stays with you then dissolves and you have to put it down on the canvas before it escapes. The prolific making helps me catch these, when I sit on things they become stagnant, they cease to mean anything. I’ve been on a journey with my art, only in the past 6 months or so have I been confident enough to present what I want, not what I think I should be making. My work now resembles sketches that I was doing 10 years ago, but it feels like me now, every painting finished is something off my chest, similar to how the poems although quite abstract they hold something, they are meditation tools.
What is your process like?
My research gets logged mentally, things like Frieze art fair, seeing everything, Instagram, a program on television, holds… settles in my mind. I have a very descriptive memory, possibly a form of autism; my Dad’s autistic, but I don’t think I am. I like materials, the way paint works, how it conflicts with mediums and other paints. I like the lack of control. I use linen and unprimed materials and work on both the sides of the material. It’s a bit of a fight though. Some paintings happen instantaneously, others take months. They change, evolve and wipe back until I am happy. I am inconsistent, but I know this so I use the inconsistency to evaluate when things are working, but know that if they are not then I can take them back and start again.
I skateboard. I don’t land every trick, but I know how to do them, and after a few tries I will land it.
Is there any subject or theme you’ve been particularly interested in lately?
I always hate comparing myself to other artists, but there are quite a few I am trying to be like in ways, but individuality is everything right? So let’s say I’m a paranoid conspiracy theorist lately, I think that aliens and demons exist and that every horror film or Stephen King novel I have ever read or seen is real. And why shouldn’t they be? Reality is in the eye of the beholder. I think that one day I could create my own alternative reality, but for now I’ll stick to my paintings.
What is the strangest thing you’ve ever had to do for art?
Wow… asking the person who HAS. There are loads of situations and oddities. I’ve done my fair share of fabrication – from assisting with a world record-making Chinese whispers in form of a performance art piece; to making a castle-sized ‘Star’ from breezeblocks (Gilberto Zorio), being offered MDMA by Tim Noble and having endless drinks bought for me by Harry Blain… I’ve packed up Tom Freidman’s ‘cursed plinth’ which meant I had to allow an invisible 30cm above the plinth to keep the ‘integrity’ of the curse. So many stories to tell. I’ve been doing my job about 10 years now, and every week really does bring strange scenarios, but client confidentiality ‘n all means I have to keep my hush a lot of the time.
Do you have a day job or other work that you split your time between?
Everything I’ve said above really, but just to emphasise, I’m one of the unlucky ones that has to work full time to pay the bills. I work Mon to Fri 10-12 hour days and have to fit in studio time and looking after my baby son. I suffer from bouts of insomnia and depression so I use my ‘normal’ times to create as much artwork as possible. My wife as supportive as she is can be hard work. Life is all about finding the balance of art/family and friends.
Do you have a mentor, or a piece of advice (or both), which has influenced your practice?
”Don’t write about your work before you make it, once it’s done it’ll explain itself” – Jonny Green
A good friend and great artist, helped me get out of a hole where I kept thinking about what I wanted before I actually made anything.
Is there any piece of advice you would offer to others?
Be yourself, don’t make art for anyone else art ain’t a craft to show off with, it’s a personal thing, it needs to connect with you, speak for you and be your voice.
What does it mean to you to have a “community?”
I hate people, I hate community art. I’m one of the few selfish artists that creates as a personal means, I don’t wish to enrich others, I’m a keen believer in ‘self’ and solipsism. That sounds bad, I don’t mean it to, but I’m just not a charity case. I have lots of friends, my art community is big, my ‘mate’ branch is big. I’m one of those people that fits in, and my close friends range from strippers, drug dealers, artists, stock brokers to accountants and art techs. at the same time I have no mates, someone who confides with everyone really has no honest voice… I often think that my art helps me be myself. Everyone grows up, my mates move away, ex lover disappear, truth settles, and ways to cope end up being hard to maintain.
What is your studio like?
A mess. I’m anal with organisation and perfection with every aspect of my job — the studio is the opposite. I know where everything is. It’s a protest to my wife’s cleanliness, a protest to normality.
Do you have any routines or rituals in the studio that get you into the mode or mindset to make your work?
I listen to repetitive songs and drink beer or energy drinks. I can only work in the evenings. I tried day times before but I physically fidget. The time to think, to relay the art, is in the evening I think. I’m big on piano at the moment – Maxence Cyrin, but also Shahmen and as always Slipknot helps… I repeat a lot of Max Richter’s ‘November,’ trance music for the subtle mind.
How significant has attending art school been on your practice?
Alternative MAs are the way forward, if only the UK was more like Europe – Dusseldorf Akedemie, Wrights Akademie etc. This would be really good for the aspiring art world.
What do you find most daunting, challenging, or frustrating about pursuing art?
I feel as though modern life does not accommodate for the artist. I have to lie in my insurance quotes about what I do, people don’t get me a lot of the time… acceptance is the main challenge, but hey, my parents are happy so that’s all that counts.
How would you define “success” in art?
Art is a life choice. Success is knowing that physical things have been made as an extension to my own mind and body, a thing that exists as a thing external to me yet holds a personal resonance to myself. My dad is close to his end… his art is what will last, and this is a comfort I think. I can see him in his paintings, and it’s nice to know he won’t die, because his art is also him.
Are you involved in any collaborative or self-organized projects?
I’d like to say yes but the truth is that I can flutter between a few if I wanted to, social butterfly and all, but honestly no. I was a part of an alternative MA programme, but I think that now it’s over I’d like to cut my ties with it, I have my sights set higher…
What are you working on right now?
Drawings, works on paper and new linens that are finer than previous ones, I need to get some decent work in order as I have a well-known curator coming to do a studio visit with me = Step My Game Up!
Anything else you would like to add?
I love Daisy Parris’ work, seeing that gave me more confidence to say and be what I want with my art…