During a month in London’s so-called spring earlier this year, New York-based artist Austin Eddy uprooted his practice from Greenpoint Brooklyn to west London for a month. As part of a residency at Liquitex International Residency Program at Griffin Gallery, Austin was given the opportunity to invest time in a series of works, checking into the space every day and treating it like a nine to five job. The result is a painting a day for 30 days, each nestling in nicely with the artist’s other portfolio pieces, but with a slightly different subject matter built from new surroundings.
Recently, fans of Austin’s works will notice his pieces becoming more and more sculptural. Reliefs, as he puts them, are thickly layered shapely paintings that the artist has garnered a devoted following for. Despite the use of paint within the pieces, when I meet Austin in London he admits “I haven’t painted with a paintbrush since graduating college”. The reason for switching up his practice for the residency is partly logistical, Austin can’t carry large canvases back home with him, and working with paper, acrylic and brushes has been an inspiring break.
These logistical reasons were firm in the artist’s mind before he travelled to London. “It’s been sort of natural,” he says of the residency, “but the week before I came here I spent a lot of time trying to figure out stuff… generating ideas of trying to paint on paper and I knew that was what I was going to do when I got here.” Working with these materials, Austin has been reflecting the days he’s had while in London. Most days he would run in the park, for instance, noticing the difference in wildlife compared to New York, “you have peacocks that run around and swans everywhere!”, and channelling details subtly into his paintings.
London’s personality and the way visitors begin to understand its intricacies is also hinted at abstractly in Austin’s paintings. Getting to know the city through running, Austin also explains that while in London he wanted to do the tourist hotspots too. “Tate Modern, Tate Britain, V&A, National Gallery, ICA, and some of the cheesier ones like the Jack the Ripper the museum, that was very sweet with life sized models kind of falling apart.” In turn, some paintings from certain days are heavily multilayered, with patterns of the same shade of paint applied again and again. Others are more paired back with collages of paper, but a swan figure makes a regular appearance as Austin points out, “they’re all roughly based off the same forms”.
Working at the same small size throughout the residency has been refreshing too. “It feels more manageable in a way,” he begins to explain. “Paintings take like five or six months to make at home, but being able to produce 20 or somewhat drawings over two weeks feels pretty great.” Being able to revisit the same space and work for a certain number of hours each day has also been a new experience. “Here I’m trying to take advantage of as much time in the studio as possible so it’s really trying to come in Monday to Friday. At home, I’d take Tuesday off and come in on Saturday or whatever. But, it also never really feels like work because you’re trying to explore something rather than completing a task.”
Back in New York and settled in his usual studio scenario, Austin comments that “looking back so shortly after returning, the whole experience was quite memorable,” he says. “It was an eye opening experience, I can’t remember another time since being a child that I was away from the daily grind of the city and being transplanted into a foreign place.” This detachment gave the artist a sense of freedom, “unattached to my physical studio practice and feeling personally allowed to venture outside of my comfort zone,” Austin continues. “I guess you never really realise how often you get in your own way while you are ‘comfortable’.”
Taking note of how his month away allowed Austin to “loosen up in terms of subject matter and painting in general,” the trick the artist hopes to continue is “remembering to keep trusting yourself,” he says. “Other than that I still just can’t get over the fact that almost every museum is free and that there are peacocks roaming around the parks in the city.”
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