As the final month to enter the Aesthetica Art Prize is upon us, we catch up with last year’s longlisted artist Karl Singporewala to discover how being selected for the Prize has furthered his creative practice. Selected for his work Dial M for Monument, Singporewala now exhibits this piece in a group show for the HIX Award 2014, hosted by the Cock ‘n’ Bull Gallery in Shoreditch, London. Designed by Damien Hirst and judged by Tracey Emin among other leading art professionals, the prize presents a month long exhibition of the 20 finalists throughout August.
A: Dial M for Monument is an example of model components made on train carriages while commuting to and from work. What is special about this time and how do people react to what you are doing?
KS: For the past seven years I have been commuting between Sussex and central London. At 220 working days a year, 3 hours travel time each day, over 7 years; this already equals to over 4,620 hours of my time. This period of travel is a time of day where one has no control over the fourth dimension! I cannot make the train go faster; I cannot fix faulty tracks or change inclement weather. It’s a purgatory between two-worlds, a zen time where I pursue my craft.
Sitting on a train surrounded by silent commuters can be a peaceful experience and 99% of them are usually plugged-in to an electronic device. But you do catch people constantly looking over (mostly out of curiosity… occasional out of fear). Trains have the no talking rule much the same way as the London escalators rule to stand on the right. It usually takes a smile or two to let a commuter know that it’s ok to talk to me. If I see someone is interested in what I am making… I usually start the conversation, so they can ask questions. I even once gained a commission on the commute to London.
A: You often use folds and slots to hold your pieces together. What is the concept behind this?
KS: Where possible I try to use the original materials to intersect and collide. My basic rule of thumb for constructing on a train is: if the piece can survive a train journey into London, it can survive transportation to collectors around the globe. I started realising that glues and fixing agents tend to not be UV stable, so the last thing I want is for one of my pieces to start discolouring after five or so years. I do use a fixing agent when there is no other option, but I must add that designing a mechanical fixing as part of the sculpture or maquette is far more fun!
A: In your practice, does architectural and sculptural design follow the same principles?
KS: First and foremost, I am an architect. Therefore, any sculpture or artwork I conjuncture is conceived on a bed of architectonics. I don’t think architects see form and touch materials in the same way as sculptors. Anthony Gormley made a good distinction between the two arts when he highlighted that architecture deals with ‘social well-being, human-scale and how light can penetrate form’ while sculpture ‘acts as a witness, holding human feeling and thought and inscribes it within geological time.’
That’s not to say that the two arts do not transcend each other, we must remember Ian Ritchie’s nomination for the coveted building honour, the RIBA Stirling Prize, for his Spire of Dublin; which is still regarded as the largest free standing sculpture in the world.
A: Which creative practitioners inspire you?
KS: I generally enjoy the spaces of Tadao Ando, Renzo Piano, Louis Kahn and even the designs of Étienne-Louis Boullée. The inspiration I get from these spaces is not the design presented before me, it’s the well-being, the scale and human feelings the spaces evoke. Inspiration through design is dangerous, it can pigeon-hole the imagination! Luckily for me, I get to work daily with people far cleverer and out-there than myself, it also helps when your mentor is a vanguard of British architecture; so there’s never a shortage of inspiration.
A: What are your current and future projects?
KS: Buildings can take years to complete. I have worked as part of a great team on the Sainsbury Wellcome Centre for Neural Circuits & Behaviour in London for over four years now. I’m looking forward to this extraordinary building opening in the Autumn. One sculptural highlight of it will be an installation of Johann Sebastian Bach’s entire Musical Offering score along the 90 metre long colonnade on Howland St.
I have also recently completed a new architecture folly, titled Transparence de Triomphe, which is a monument to socially striving national integrity and intelligibility. As for my zen time on the daily commute, my wife recently gave birth to our fourth child, so I suspect I’ll have my eyes closed and will be dreaming of a project for the foreseeable future!
An overall winner for the HIX Award 2014 is announced on 1 September. There is also a People’s Choice Award, which is awarded to the artist who receives the most likes on the gallery’s Facebook page. To vote for Karl Singporewala click here.
See Singporewala’s work in the Art Prize Anthology here.
To enter the Aesthetica Art Prize visit www.aestheticamagazine.com/artprize.
Entries close 31 August. Prizes include £5,000 courtesy of Hiscox, group exhibition, editorial coverage in Aesthetica Magazine, publication in an anthology of 100 top emerging artists, art books by Prestel and art supplies vouchers courtesy of Winsor & Newton.