Robert Battersby interviewed artists Henry Northcroft Brown and Joseph Whitmore about their recent exhibition Grotte at Crown Building Studios.
Robert Battersby: How and when did this exhibition first start to come together?
Henry Northcroft Brown: It started about a year a go. We started having conversations about making work which were running a long certain themes that we were interested in. We were interested in prehistoric art and artefacts.
Joseph Whitmore: It has all developed from there. We’d both been, by accident, reading the same books, making similar stuff, but it’s all been different processes because we work in completely different ways.
HNB: We were looking at the same images as well which has had quite important outcome. I think that we were both interested because we were looking at the same material visually and literacy wise. It was interesting to see two different outcomes when dealing with the same information. So having the same information but a different outcome from two different ways of working, it became interesting to see how that could develop.
JW: We were both looking at the way the human mind developed into what it is now. It’s not gotten any bigger it’s technology that has advanced, but the way that the human mind works has stayed pretty much exactly the same. It’s about that collective consciousness that we all have as humans, and then to be working collaboratively like that, I think it’s pretty interesting.
RB: Have you exhibited together before?
JW: We’ve been part of exhibitions together but they’ve never been our exhibitions or our chosen topics. It’s been university exhibitions, where everyone’s showing what they’ve been up to and they don’t necessarily all relate to one another. So this exhibition has been a chance for us to work together on what we want to do moving forward. It’s been a year or so now since we’ve started having conversations about the work.
HNB: We’ve also started to get in touch with museums, having conversations with people in those areas of speciality as we’ve looked to move the work forward.
RB: What are you’re trying to explore through the work?
JW: It’s hard to sum up in one. The relationships between making and the history of humans, and a sense of place in time. So we have these ancient rocks that are ancient artefacts that were formed in ancient human times and then we’ve replicated that through Henry making rocks in the same way that rocks are made. Using the same processes of layering minerals, circulated around each other and carved.
The flint tools that you see frames were used to make other works that you see in the exhibition. There’s so much work that we’ve made that we haven’t put in the show. We’re starting to build our own museum archive of work and picking and choosing which bits to present.
HNB: It’s also about regurgitating processes, that is part of our interest. We’re trying to redefine processes that have been lost throughout time and trying to bring them up to a contemporary art standard and explore that as a concept. We used the flint tools to carve the casts of other rocks for example.
RB: Is that bringing the process into a contemporary space or contemporising the process itself?
HNB: I think it’s contemporising the process itself. It’s almost like when you look at post-modernist art a lot of the shapes and the forms that they’re using within post-modern art is actually very, very similar to what was prehistoric art, the sort of shapes and mark making.
JW: The Venus models and a lot of the sculptures and the jewellery that was made in prehistory are quite similar to abstract sensory work.
HNB: It happens in all different fields of creation, like neo-classical architecture; is just an amalgamation of Ancient Greek architecture. So it becomes this swinging motion of things being regurgitated again and again. I think that prehistoric work is an area that is still shrouded in mystery, which has captured both of our imaginations. Because it’s before the written word it’s interesting to see the legacy that they’ve left us and what you can get from it; at the end of the day it’s all theory and speculation.
RB: How do you see this body of work developing?
JW: The big idea for us is to get funding and start working at archaeological sites, with archaeologists and document how they would document excavated finds. Going to an archaeological site and getting a real sense of what’s going on there; you can’t even begin to imagine how it feels when something gets uncovered. You can only get so much from looking at things before you have to immerse yourself in the field.
HNB: I see myself now, having left university, having the ability to choose materials which have a relevance and a conversation in themselves to work towards whatever I am interested in. Because this is a project that we’ve both been doing ourselves, in the future I can see myself delving into different areas of creativity. I’d like to look at creating spaces using similar materials to which i’ve been using in this exhibition.
RB: What has exhibiting at Crown Building Studios offered you as a space?
JW: We hadn’t actually been in the space together until the other day. We’d ended up visiting independently a few times and then discussing what we’d do, how things would be placed in the space. Especially with the help from Theo, Joe and Liam. Those guys have had a really good input and have pushed us in the right direction.
HNB: We found that the space itself is architecturally very interesting; it’s just nice to work with something that resembles a white cube space but gives so much more throughout. It’s different from our normal space that we would expect to exhibit in. We’ve tried to use the structure of the gallery space to direct the eye through the exhibition. The space itself though is a really calming space to work. There’s definitely a feeling of a lot of proactivity going there, it seems that the dedication of everyone there rubs off on anyone who becomes involved in that community or wants to bring something to them.
Robert Battersby is a photographer and writer based in Liverpool.
Crown Building Studios
57-59 Victoria Street