Tuesday, 14 May 2013

INTERVIEW: Moose Allain

I have followed Moose Allain for a long time on Twitter and enjoying his off kilter sense of humour without realising that he also creates stuff as well. In selecting the above image as the vanguard of his work, I wanted to share something with the text-based humour that I've come to enjoy. You will not see a better use of the phrases "Flenching Plate", "Perspiration Loons" or "Drainage Runnels".

His creations are refreshing, organic reflections of his plays on language via Twitter. Though it feels a little strange being more than 140 characters in length, Moose took time out of his busy Tweeting schedule to answer a few of my questions and provide a few good laughs and insights...

I first got to know you when we exchanged some witty banter. You were something of an anomaly on my timeline like a kid at a party quietly speaking in tongues in the corner but in fact probably making more sense than anyone else. How has Twitter influenced your artwork?

Ha! That's a nice, flattering description. I will accept your compliment because it reflects something I've always tried to do – not just on Twitter, but in my life generally - which is to be original. Now Twitter is completely hardwired into my mind, and I think that's mainly because for me it's a creative channel. I think people use Twitter in all sorts of ways, but for me its shape is usually: “output/ a bit of replying”. In other words, I seldom have time to read the tweets of the people I've chosen to follow. Other times I would describe my Twitter activity as: “hosting”. This is sometimes in the form of a hashtag/RT process or asking a question e.g. What is your local word for an alley way? And RTing the replies. Sometimes I improvise a story in tweets. That tends to divide an audience – some people love them, but I can usually expect to lose about 30 followers when I do it. So I use Twitter in varying ways, various techniques, ultimately trying to engage an audience, entertain and be original.

My main interest in Twitter is language & the play of language. I think I've, fairly successfully, managed to integrate Twitter into my 'practice' (not a term I like). I think it means I've become a lot more than a visual artist, which is great because I'm just as interested in words as I am in images. I think some of the artists I like most, the word 'art' doesn't really cover it. They just do interesting stuff with their lives, use art as a way of exploring the world – I'm thinking of people like Adam Chodzko or Sophie Calle – 'art', whatever that is, is a sort of by-product of these processes. Well, that aggrandises my work far too much, but in the end it's about connecting to people en masse as well as individually. Twitter is perfect for that, it has opened me up to an audience that you then have to perform for. It has not only opened me up to an audience, but to all sorts of collaborations. I could go on about this for ages but I'll stop there.

Recently @40elephantsmob had a selection of her tweets turned into the brilliant animation Mummy Needs Gin. Have you considered turning your tweets into something more? (film, book, etc) 

Yes. In short. I have made little books of my tweet stories a couple of years ago. I don't have the patience for animation, but I'd be happy for someone else to make them! I work with a local film company, Meat Bingo, here in Devon – we're about to start on our third project. We are lucky to have the writer David Quantick as a key member – he's from Exmouth, and Twitter has got us together. Anyway, there's potential there. I'd love to do a book of them, illustrate them myself… But I have so many projects in my head I know I'll probably never get round to.

"...I was a child who didn't want to be like other people. I suffer from reverse peer group pressure."

Who is Moose? Where did he come from? What makes Moose tick? How would Moose introduce himself to a stranger? 

Oh goodness, I don't know! I don't really like thinking about myself really. I am extremely grateful that I've got to a stage in my life where I can describe myself as an artist. So many interesting things are coming out of it, all sorts of projects, it feels like I'm at the beginning of things, which is so exciting. Before this I was a disillusioned architect. That's where I came from most recently. Looking at my adult life, it was a lot of drifting about never really being happy because I really wanted to be an artist but didn't think it was possible. Going back to your first question, I was a child who didn't want to be like other people. I suffer from reverse peer group pressure. That's stayed with me.

How much planning goes into your drawings and how much comes about organically as you work?

It's nearly all organic. I seldom pre-draw, I just have an idea and run with it. It's very liberating.

Your work on Stephen Fry's 100 Greatest Gadgets have integrated "Drainage Runnels" and "Perspiration Loons" into my vocabulary. How did you approach this project and how much of a collaboration was it with Mr. Fry?

Actually this was a quick job, which is why I resorted to collage. I had no contact with Mr Fry, simply a sentence for each of the 3 ideas which I had to illustrate. I had used the technique before for a range of cards, so I thought it would look just right and reflect his gentlemanly subversive character. The language was an important part of it, for me, although I'm not sure how much it came across on the TV. It was great fun to do.

What instigated the creation of We Meet in the Shadows and how did it develop?

A couple of years ago I decided I wanted to work bigger and with colour. Previously I'd been working tiny on my desktop so this was an attempt to loosen up a bit. It also reflected a return to architecture, in so far as I could dream up places again. The technique is to put on a wash of background colour – it's all acrylic paint and inks – then drop ink onto it and move it around with bits of plastic, straight edges, starting to form shapes. Next stage is to pick out black lines with the same straight edges, I also use a little wheel. After that I go in with the dipping pen and add more architectural detail. The final stage is to add figures and find a story in there somewhere, a theme. So the subject ends up being a response. This is very much the organic process I mentioned in the last question – I like to react.

"...I am trying to be entertaining and, this can sound trite but I don't believe it is, my work is also about bringing joy"

How would you describe your subject matter or the content of your work? 

The subject matter, well it's mostly stuff that's in my head. Be that visual art or writing or the two combined. In other words, I'm not an observational artist. But I am trying to be entertaining and, this can sound trite but I don't believe it is, my work is also about bringing joy. I think people really respond to that. I hate being asked what my work's like partly because it's not really like other people's work and also because it's very varied. I usually say “It's more like illustration, quite graphic and cartoony, mostly from my imagination”. That sort of covers it, but that really only describes the visual art, which isn't the whole of it by any means.

What was the last artwork to impress you and why? (painting, illustration, film, music, etc) 

The last to impress me. That makes it a bit easier. I've just downloaded the recent ATOM TM album and there's a couple of tracks on there that I can't get enough of. A couple of days ago I went to a talk at the Royal Albert Memorial Museum in Exeter about the BP Portrait Award exhibition which is on there currently. It was fascinating because I am interested in painting, but the winning portrait is amazing and I had quite an emotional response to it. It's called Auntie by Aleah Chapin.

It's a painting of a smile and it smiles at you in a most incredible way – to the extent that you hardly noticed she is an naked older woman.

"...there are artists earning millions from being up themselves, so they've a right to take themselves seriously I suppose."

Do you think the art world takes itself too seriously sometimes? 

The art world… it's so big it's about the same size as the real world, so it's hard to generalise. Some of it is shockingly up itself. On the other hand there are artists earning millions from being up themselves, so they've a right to take themselves seriously I suppose. You look at people like Damien Hirst and think it must be odd to make art that is really only ever about money now. He's like King Midas. To be honest I don't really see myself as part of an art world as my main interactions are with people who aren't in it, if you know what I mean. Just people who like my work or want to commission something or just tell me they like it. I didn't go to art school so I don't feel burdened by the need to explain myself. Artist's statements, by those who have been through the art system, are hilariously pretentious, homogeneous and meaningless. So, to be enjoyed at that level at least.

Are you working on anything at the moment or have any new projects in the pipeline? 

Lots of work comes about via Twitter these days. All sorts of interesting propositions. I'm just about to finish working on a project for Tate Britain – a family guide leaflet for their upcoming Lowry exhibition. It was a great privilege to be asked to contribute. I have various writing projects in the pipeline which may or may not come off. A new film to collaborate on, more walls to draw on, a big commission which desperately needs my attention, more fun to be had on Twitter and with Vine and Instagram, Oh bloody hell I've got so much to do I'd better get on

Thank you, Moose.

World of Moose
Moose Allain (Twitter)

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