David Ogle is a Liverpool-based artist who has recently worked on a series of works focused on the Sefton coast. Here, Elliot Ryder catches up with him for a discussion on space and place.
If you had to describe your art style in a sentence, what would you say?
Experiments with the properties of materials, processes and environments; translating visual ideas through different forms of representation.
How did you get into making visual art?
After graduating from university (in Lancaster) I spent a couple of years without making any artwork and floated between a few different jobs. I didn’t feel any particular compulsion to produce my own work until I saw that there was an artist studio space being listed for hire near to where I was living at the time. I think it was more the idea of having my own studio than a sudden rush of inspiration to make art but I remember how exciting this prospect was to me at the time.
The studio was a small, windowless room (about the size of a single-car garage but with a higher ceiling) that led out into a sprawling communal warehouse space. It was having this space at my disposal that really became formative in how my work developed. I wanted to translate my drawings into something environmental, something that existed at a scale that would challenge the surroundings I was working in.
Naturally, having very little money to produce large-scale sculptural work, necessity dictated that these be materially inexpensive and this was what led me to the linear works using fishing line that were illuminated with ultraviolet light. With this approach I found that I could produce architectural-scale interventions into the space using a volume of material that could be carried around in a pocket and that cost a negligible amount to money (pennies) to realise.
Can you pinpoint a moment or a piece of art that initially inspired you?
I remember visiting the Hayward Gallery’s Dan Flavin retrospective (around 2006) and this being influential. I was attracted by the preparatory drawings for the artist’s sculptural works – pared-back, linear assemblages on graph paper with coloured pencil lines representing Flavin’s typical neon tubes. The translation between these works on paper and the glowing installations in the galleries below was, I’m sure, posthumously informing of how I approach my own work.
What do you think is the overriding influence on your artmaking: other art, emotions, current affairs – or a mixture of all of these?
Recently, a lot of my work has been informed by walking, landscape and the summation of the elements that amount to our experience of place (weather, time, topography, etc). I am wanting to reveal aspects of an environment that go unseen (such as how winds invisibly shape and re-shape a coastline) and capture something that is intrinsic to and inseparable from a unique location.
Naturally, the work of other artists is also influential, though it’s an eclectic mix I tend to draw from. My recent outdoor work for example, although formally disparate, was informed more by 19th Century Romantic painting (particularly Casper David Friedrich) than it was contemporary artists working with light or expanded forms of sculpture. There is something in these dramatised, imagined landscapes (typically depicting the remnants of human activity overcome by the power and indifference of nature) that has an enduring resonance for me.
Tell us a little bit about your current exhibition at the Atkinson in Southport?
I am showing a range of works that I have produced along the Sefton coast and presenting these alongside a selection of paintings from the museum’s collection that have documented this landscape over time. There is a particular emphasis (in the choice of paintings) on works that depict an environment in a state of continual flux and dynamism and the effects of this upon successive populations.
For example, the last piece in the exhibition is by Herbert Royle entitled Westerly Breeze, Ainsdale Sands (c.1920). I am showing this painting alongside a triptych of video works that show clouds of colourful smoke moving through the landscape at three different sites around Ainsdale (in the woodlands, the edge of the dunes and out onto the sand itself). The smoke visualises the movement of winds through the landscape (revealing the forces that continually shape the locations) and allows audiences to perceive this process more vividly.
The work resembles postcard-like memories of the landscape and the Sefton coastline. Does this mean the works you produce are solely focussed on memory and nostalgia?
Memory in a sense, but not a personal memory and I don’t feel a sense of nostalgia. It’s more that I’m wanting to document an event. Within one of the pieces, for example, Ray (2015), blue smoke slowly emerges from an underground cave that is suddenly illuminated as the sun breaks through overhead clouds, casting defined beams of light striking downwards onto a woodland clearing.
I want to revel in the elements of a place at a particular time, perhaps, as you say, to evoke the memory of an experience in a landscape (that would otherwise be lost), but more as a way of creating something that is defined by its connection to a particular place or time.
David Ogle’s exhibition The Last Night is open now at The Atkinson, running until 23rd March.