Brian Gibson talks about his interest in the impact technology can have on creativity – and how it is inspiring a new six month project – plus his work with the Patient Artwork Project and how he still hasn’t made peace with the title of ‘artist’.
Brian, who is the creator of deviation street magazine, met up with Outside In’s Laura Miles over zoom so you can watch the interview below, which is also available with subtitles, or check out the transcript which is joined by some of Brian’s artwork.
Anyone who would be interested in contributing to the magazine or the art/technology debate is asked to visit : https://deviationstreetmagazine.com/
Laura: Hello, everyone, and welcome to our new Artist Of The Month interview. I’m here with Brian Gibson, who I think holds every title at Outside In you can imagine from artist to ambassador, so it’s great to have him with us. So Brian, if you just like to start by telling us a bit about yourself and your work if that’s okay.
Brian: Okay. I started off always being creative but the idea of becoming an artist just seemed to be out of my radar.
I’ve been making art for a long time now. I went to do a degree in fine art as a mature student and I found that doing the degree course was quite difficult.
Not because of the actual work, but I think it sort of set set me off somewhere else. I went into therapy when I was doing my degree. I’ve been involved in Outside In since 2011 – first of all, on their step up programmes, and I’ve been doing workshops, and I’ve also been exhibiting work as well.
And, yeah, that’s kind of a brief summary of what I do.
Laura: So have you kind of made peace with calling yourself an artist now?
Brian: Not really. No, I haven’t. Yeah, I just have lots of issues around being an artist.
I don’t know why, but it’s just it’s one of those things.
I think, because a lot of the time, I’ve had to do other jobs. So I’ve never actually made a living out of just making art by itself.
Even when I was doing as a mature student doing the degree, I had like two or two jobs, part time jobs as well to keep me going. So there’s always that thing about not being a legitimate artists, because, you know, I simply can’t afford a studio, I’m not making a living out of art. So yes, it’s still a bit of a journey.
Laura: I think some of the most interesting art is made by people that also exist in the normal world at the same time.
It certainly sounds like, if even if you don’t necessarily call yourself an artist, you’re definitely compelled to create things that seem something that’s definitely inbuilt with you.
Brian: Yeah, and I do, I mean, there’s different layers of being a modern artist, isn’t there?
I suppose based on income.
Laura: Very much so. And that is the way that the art is, you do it because you love it not because it’s gonna make you rich more often than not.
So, in terms of the things that you create then, would you say you have a particular style or a particular area that you’d like to work in?
Brian: No, I think I think one of the things about being creative is it’s given me the freedom to, to move in whatever direction I want to go in.
So I think that that’s not a problem for me. I think it may be a problem for other people sometimes if I kind of keep switching from one thing to another.
So I’m not kind of I’ve noticed that a few times I haven’t stuck to one particular medium or one particular theme or whatever, so kind of tended to I mean, it’s just great being able to go like oh, I fancy doing oil paintings now are doing photography and things like that.
So I know that those overlap and things like that over time and things like that.
Laura: So what’s the motivation for Then are you creating for yourself? Do you think of an audience? What drives that?
Brian: Um, I don’t think I think about an audience a lot.
I think what what drives it is a kind of, it’s a safe place, it’s a kind of space where I can be me, I can kind of explore myself and the world in a lot of ways.
It’s a way of navigating through life. It’s a tool too, in a way, the process is more important than the actual finished work. It’s the process that gets me through difficult moments, or whatever, you know, the kind of things that I get preoccupied with. So it’s a way of parking things, navigating, getting through, you know, I’m still here, which is yeah… which is a bonus. Definitely.
Laura: I think that it’s nice to enjoy the process. And then kind of by the time you’re finished, you are finished, you’re on to the next thing mentally as well.
Brian: Yeah. And I love I love that thing about when you make of a piece of work, and it works.
And it’s, you know, it’s kind of there in the world.
It’s kind of like creating something which has never been there before and never existed.
I’m not interested in preserving it forever.
But that there’s something you’ve created that is kind of quite fantastic.
Laura: It seems like your next project is very much kind of inspired by exploring and process with looking at technology and the role it plays in art.
Brian: Yeah, I’ve managed to get a hot desk space for for six months to do some research on the relationship between art and technology.
I did a couple of workshops over the lockdown period and one of the things that came out of it was that the pandemic and technology like zoom sessions has really opened things up for people.
So that, you know, why did it take a pandemic with for everything to become a level playing field?
So like, people could watch opera, bands playing or whatever, are get involved in workshops, which weren’t kind of just marginal activities for a small group of people – anybody could! Like there was like a free series of Laurie Anderson lectures that you could watch and, you know, you didn’t have to be part of Harvard University – and I think that was great.
Then there’s, there’s the kind of thing about, people are talking about getting back to normal – and I think for a lot of people, there never was a normal.
You know people’s lives are kind of like an erratic CV, you know, they get interrupted by stuff, there’s gaps and things like that.
And I think with technology, there’s this one digital acceleration, it’s like just continuous, fast speed kind of progressive thing you know, we do one thing, and then we go to the next next and the next.
And whereas art is just about, slower art or whatever, it’s about looking at something, you know, you have like a painting or a picture and you’ve had a 20 years and then you see something new in it.
All of a sudden it kind of regenerates itself and technology doesn’t do that.
So I’m interested in that. And but I’m also interested in the way that say, big technology and AI kind of nudge people in different directions.
And you know, I’ve been involved in Outside In for a while, and that’s hard thing about people facing barriers in the art world, I mean, the technology world, you know, I’m completely out of the loop in terms of technology.
Laura: So it’s hard with technology, isn’t it? Because obviously, as an organization, we found the last year, we’ve been able to have a lot more access to things and offer artists a lot more access to things. But you’re constantly aware that with every door that opens for someone else, it might be another barrier to go over, in terms of missing out if they’re not online. So it is a constant kind of juggle.
Brian: Yeah, I mean, if you don’t understand when your harddrive is full of data how to remove it, what do you do? You know, things like that, you get like technology people, but there’s not a shop in town where you can go to and say, I’ve got this with a computer. There’s not that kind of help, you know, you have to go online to speak to a bot first to get through to the next thing. And then you know, it takes three days before something happens.
And with all the issues around isolation and addiction to technology. It’s kind of seen as the great, wonderful thing that kind of enlightens people, but it also, it’s got other costs.
Laura: It is rare that you get your hands dirty with technology unless it goes really wrong.
Brian: Yeah. But it’s, it’s, you know, people talk about web sites being clean, and everything has to be kind of clean, and I don’t live in a clean world.
Laura: So what are your hopes, because that sounds a lot to unpack in six months.
Brian: I’m not an academic. So I think, for me, it’s kind of just a way of maybe connecting with one or two other people who are kind of thinking along the same lines and kind of saying that, well, hang on. Yeah, and then kind of like, join the dots up. So I think with the lockdowns, and the whole last year, or whatever the sense of isolation is quite big. So I’m really interested in other people’s opinions and what people have got to say about technology and art. And also it’s about, who controls who makes the technology
Laura: Sounds like you’re kind of putting the human back into it, if anything?
Brian: Well, I hope so. I hope it’s just, you know, for things to become ordinary, and, you know, have a bit of input. And then I think there’s a lot of people designing things for people, but maybe you know, it’s the people on the ground or whatever you want to call it, what do they want from technology?
Laura: Like you say, I think connection is a very key word, isn’t it? When it’s people’s usage of it, people’s connections with other people, and then the connection between the technology and the users as well. So yeah, I think you had to be busy.
Brian: Yeah. It will be interesting being in a kind of academic environment where I’m not really an academic person. So I’m not. Again, that’s another language or whatever is that?
Laura: Yeah, definitely. Kind of like a code of its own, which seems quite fitting.
Brian: Yeah. I mean, one of the things I struggled with when I was doing my degree was the whole art talk thing. And the way alienate people and the way you have to kind of write rubbish, biographies about yourself about your work and things like that, and you have to explain it in ridiculous kind of language, you know, ridiculous language and things like that.
Laura: Yeah, I think that is the hard thing about studying art. I had a lot of friends who did the most amazing artworks but couldn’t do the sketchbook research side of it to back it up, so they never got the grades that their amazing art deserved. Yeah, you kind of had to do both in order to tick the boxes.
Brian: That’s right. Yeah. Well, what got me into therapy was that I started making stuff and the first crit, I couldn’t speak about it. Partly because I knew what it was about. And partly because I didn’t have a clue what it was about.
And I’ve kind of just thought, I really don’t know what this is about. And I couldn’t talk publicly in front of a bunch of people like, other students, I just couldn’t, I didn’t want to talk about it for a start. And then there’s that sort of compulsion to kind of put yourself out there. You know, and I love that kind of thing about being able to make stuff without necessarily divulging my stuff. Yeah, but putting my stuff out there.
Laura: I think part of it is hearing what other stuff it brings to the surface for other people that are looking at your work, if you think, you know, this is definitely a, you know, a fork. And they go, Well, actually, it reminds me of this spoon or this memory or, you know, it’s not about making it black and white sometimes, is it?
Brian: No, no, no. And that’s it, you know, everybody can kind of get something from looking at art. I think people who look at art, it affects them in different ways, doesn’t it? Everybody gets affected by different pieces of artwork. And sometimes you can kind of like, not notice a piece of artwork, and then all of a sudden, sometime later, it kind of just, you think that was amazing that? Yeah. And I do like that kind of things.
Laura: I think that’s what a lot of people have missed having is that exposure to art that staring in you know, sitting in front of a sculpture or a painting for half an hour, and you might not see anything else in the gallery. But that’s the one that’s kind of Yeah, got your soul and you can connect with it. I think we’re all hungry for that again, definitely.
Brian: Well I don’t know if he got because I haven’t gone into an art gallery yet. I’m really reluctant to it’s I taken that first step to go into an art gallery and things like that. I went to a couple of gigs a couple of weeks ago, a week or two ago, I went to three gigs in four nights. Wow. And it was like just a very strange atmosphere by people who were like there but like not then reluctant and things like that, but haven’t stepped into an art gallery or anything yet
Laura: Biding your time got to find out what the one that was worth it. Yeah, yeah. But I think you’ve been involved with some of our online events, haven’t you as well?
Brian: Yeah, I was part of the hosting the art extraordinary workshops, I have been with Glasgow Museums doing that remotely down here. And that was amazing. That was absolutely brilliant. It was just so good. Looking at the artwork there and the work of the artists and the whole kind of just debating the concept about Jocelyn sort of taking these these pieces of art whose collection it was taken her art, taking the artwork, finding the artwork, taking the artwork, why the people were making the artwork, which directions it would take the people who are participating in the course, how that artwork affected them and things like that. So so one of the things which was really exciting was was looking at the work of somebody who was wandering around Scotland, and they’ve been put into to psychiatric hospital, but they’ve been doing embroidery, which was kind of like, like random sort of lines and things like that. But somebody else on the course was making, like a random walker technology with code. So they were very similar in terms of process in a way Yeah. And what was interesting is what that person wanted to then go back into doing some embroidery using a random walk Just like the random walker was the kind of template and then kind of they would use the. So So that’s another reason why I’m interested in technology about it working backwards.
Laura: Yeah. And it’s been so fascinating with their patient artwork projects, because obviously, it’s about collections and objects and things. And then the first courses have had to run exclusively online. So there’s that kind of technology, enabling a connection with the collections, but at the same time, kind of being a bit of a wall between so you can’t touch and feel the amazing objects. And I think that’s been something to navigate as well, for the artists that have taken part, hasn’t it?
Brian: Yeah, I mean hopefully, that that will be changing soon that people can actually see the objects and things like that. I was amazing how, I think because that was over 10 weeks, exploring the collections. There wasn’t like an exam or anything like that. It was amazing how you could kind of connect with certain artists, and certain art works and the way they affected you, you know, I think everybody who partook in the course found an artist or more that that resonated with them. That was really powerful, that
Laura: It’s been amazing to hear back from artists saying, you know, these people I would never have met in normal life, these artists, whose paths I wouldn’t cross with and I might not have been able to get to the museum every day in terms of, you know, the logistics and people’s own access requirements. So, I mean, that’s been really special to knock all those things aside and just be able to get on with it, I think.
Brian: Yeah. And then there was somebody who met somebody from the collection, who made their art work in indoors and in the house, and kind of putting photographs inside coffee jars, and that. And it was amazing body of work. And yet kind of today, you know, if it was Marcel Durchamp, it would be kind of like, hailed his great art. But you know, it’s kind of just gonna get sidelined. This kind of, Oh, well, it’s a marginal activity of somebody who is kind of, you know, living in a flat in Scotland, you know, so Glasgow, I think, you know, it’s very different really isn’t it? Seems to be, you know, you kind of look at something like Marcel Durchamp, with great reverence, and then you kind of go like, Oh, that’s just some somebody who’s quite cranky doing, you know, sort of sticking photographs into coffee jars.
Laura: It makes you kind of want to work out the difference between the two equations, doesn’t it? You know, which way was the wind blowing for Durchamp? What type of day was it? What are we looking at to put here a one here and one here.
It’s gonna be fascinating to see what the six months brings you to see you. I hope you’ll keep us posted with the journey
Brian: Yeah, definitely. I mean, I’ve got my website. So I’m, hopefully I what I want to do is I create some kind of forum on the website where people can kind of work and update people with what’s going on in the blog. And then people can contribute to that. So I’d be very interested in other people’s views about how they technology has impacted on them and that positive and negative aspects for them.
Laura: Yeah, definitely something we can help with. And we can share the links and everything. So yeah, thank you for introducing us to it and kind of excited to see where the adventure takes you really, Brian.
Brian: Yeah, it’s gonna be fun. It’s gonna be fun and work.