Interview by: Tahlia Sanders
I met Colin Smith at the Curtin Design Grad Show in December and was immediately intrigued by his restless energy and wide-eyed enthusiasm. He told me he was an artist and when I asked him about his work, he replied bashfully that his next exhibition would be on circle jerking. I knew for sure then that he was a man to watch.
A few weeks on, Hot Soup announced that they would be hosting a collaborative exhibition between Colin Smith and Jack Caddy. I went along to the opening night with high hopes of circle jerkery and controversial art.
The night was drawing to a close when I arrived. The bands had departed and the few remaining guests were sprawled on the surrounding couches or dancing languidly to the DJ’s tunes. The lazy vibes served to enhance my experience as I took in the discomforting presence of the art in lonely, quiet reflection.
Colin’s art varied in tone from lighthearted renditions of celebrity icons on dinner plates, to a tapestry with handwritten tales of everyday love and heartbreak to foreboding, to murky-toned paintings of people gathered in blank-stared congregations. Where Colin’s circle-jerking clue had left me anticipating explicit erotica, he had instead provided something much more effective: a suggestion of cold and sinister intimacy.
Jack Caddy’s work perpetuated the darkly evocative tone hinted at by Colin’s. His paintings depicted a fractured snapshot into lechery and fetishism, with a heavy focus on sex dolls and virtual reality. The back of the gallery had been set up with cushions as a viewing space for an eerie video piece. I watched as it flicked between a bare cyber-reality and claustrophobic close-ups of a plastic face being suffocated in a plastic vacuum bag. It was obvious that a great deal of thought had been put into both artists’ works.
I wanted to find out more about the process that lay behind such dark works of art, so I reached out to Colin and Jack for deeper insight.
What inspires your art?
Colin: For my overall practice, I don’t really know yet. Honestly, I’m just fumbling about trying to enjoy myself and what I get out of that, I like to put into my art. There’s lots of good art, but my favourite art is art I can have a good chuckle at and say ‘truuuuuu’ to. At the moment I’m quite inspired by how we’re still coping with the death of God by just chillin’ and enjoying a good feed with our friends.
Jack: I’m inspired by things that feel both familiar and unfamiliar at the same time. Humanoid robots with silicone skin, bio art, science-art crossovers.
What is your process when creating your work?
Colin: I do a lot of writing and research based on personal experiences and historical influences whenever I have a small thought, as a way to get all my ideas together. At the moment my work is very theory/philosophy-based which is getting in the way of my actual making process, so I’m trying to move away from overthinking. But as I write, I get a better idea of what media would be appropriate [and] what will make my work compositionally stronger. I sketch these out and overlapping themes become more apparent in my work, which is what I build from.
Jack: When starting a new project, I collect tons of images, research and mull over the concept before beginning the work. I don’t like creating any new or appropriating imagery until I have a solid foundation of research and source material to work from.
With this body of work, I began with first hand experiences of giant sex stores in Japan. I was so confused as to the amount of relationship replacement services that were available [there]. Coming from Perth, the commoditification of everything was surprising. I had expected stereotypical serene landscapes, [and] I was interested in this unexpected, highly saturated sexual undercurrent prevalent in the [Japanese] cities.
Taken from this idea, this project was exploring the fetishism of everyday domestic settings, and ‘idealised fantasies’ created in private spaces.
What was your intended message with this body of work? What do you hope viewers take away from seeing it?
Colin: I was questioning the need that people feel to be with other people and what meaning that gives any of us. I wanted to highlight the important role that friendship plays in our lives in terms of coping with crisis of mortality and existential loneliness.
I hope viewers will understand that the relationships they will form during their lifetimes are iconic and that sharing a meal together is one of the loveliest things you can do. I hope people get a good chuckle out of seeing Simon and Garfunkel and Britney and Madonna staring up at them as they scrape up their last spoonfuls of sweet and sour pork and gaze lovingly across the table at someone they would consider a friend.
Jack: This body of work is an exploration of ‘idealised fantasies’ created in private spaces.
Exploring the idea of commodity fetishism, I am analysing the connection and disconnection of this one sided relationship that exists with sex dolls, how a relationship replacement service is elevated to that of a real relationship, and the idea of replicating and preserving an inanimate partner. I am asking questions about what is ‘real’ and what is ‘fake’ love.
A friend, after seeing the show, told me she felt sad, which I thought was really interesting, the way she was responding to the lonely aspects of the one sided relationships I had depicted.
Why did you decide to collaborate? Can you tell me a little bit about the collaborative process and how your pieces work together?
Colin: Jack and I get along well! We went to high school together and now we’re continuing our studies at Curtin University where we met Ellen who’s been running HOT SOUP with Sam and Kate for the past 6 months. She gave us the wonderful opportunity to exhibit our recent work.
For this specific exhibition, our work remains separate, although overlapping themes that explore meaningful relationships are present in both of our works.
I’ve collaborated with Jack recently though on a project that was driven by how gay culture is projected on the Internet. We ran a blog together where we collected data, expressed our thoughts related to the theme and responded to the blog’s content through a series of paintings; three of which I included in my part of the exhibit. I would absolutely love to continue working with Jack.
Jack: Living in Perth and also being at the crossroads of the Internet really coming of age, we both found that the anonymity available online was influential in shaping our sexual identities. So, a shared blog space seemed the most relevant choice of collaboration. Working together in this way was really beneficial in understanding each other’s direction in the project.
However, for this show there are overarching themes of exploring meaningful relationships, both platonic and romantic, between our separate bodies of work.
Colin is so good to work with. It’s been heaps of fun.
In what artistic direction do you see yourselves moving in future?
Colin: I’m keen to work more sculpturally. I feel my work is still lacking some sort of element. I feel that my ideas would be expressed a lot more clearly three-dimensionally and it would be much more engaging, as opposed to painting, which is what I’m comfortable in. I want to look at how painting and sculpture can work together.
Jack: Moving away from the erotica aspects of the project, I’m still interested in this idea of constructed realities. There’s this strange space that exists in reality TV shows that you can tell are controlled in the show’s drama. There’s also something about their superficial aesthetic and ‘I’m just like you’ marketing that’s intriguing to me.
HOT SOUP is open from 11am today (Sunday the 24th) and the closing party tonight will be your last chance to check out Colin and Jack’s thought provoking exhibition.