Christine Simpson is an award winning British fine art photographer. Her work attempts to define the world we live in by contrasting aspects of a disintegrating planet with the beauty of all living things. In this interview Simpson elaborates on the drive behind her art practice and how she views the current state of the fine art photography world.
Your art practice is focused on social causes, particularly climate change, what are the main motifs you use to communicate the message of the state of our planet through your works?
I have always loved the idea of using art to advance social causes, to make us reflect and rethink what it means to be human in the 21st century.
As human beings, we are dependent on Nature for our survival and it is my love of Nature and living in Rural Ireland that has drawn my attention to the influence that human activity is having on the climate and the environment.
Water, especially the sea, provides a dominant voice in much of my work. I use water in my images as a way of communicating the devastating effects of rising sea levels, pollution, melting ice caps etc. In my series ‘Split Worlds’ water divides the images, creating two separate worlds; one above, one below, each with their own message to the viewer.
An object can quite often trigger inspiration for an artwork. Many of my images are strewn with found objects, some a testament to the throw-away society we live in, others gifts from nature. They serve as symbols of hope, negligence, reverence, destruction, ignorance, awe, and desolation. All reference mortality, impermanence, and the widespread and consequential harm that is being done to plants and animals that are trying to adapt to new conditions.
The informed artist is an observer. The artist can ask questions, help shape our understanding of the world, open up hearts and minds to new ways of thinking, and present visual interpretations of various global issues.. Through my own personal practice, I express my concerns, by adopting a balance between realism and surrealism. It is important when attempting to open up people’s perspective that art be presented in a language that is accessible. Ultimately, I hope I can communicate the idea that if we manifest a positive outlook, protect, nurture, and realize what we have, we have a can make a difference chance.
As a teacher and adviser for young artists, what are the recurring challenges you see young artists going through, and how do you see these challenges transform post-graduation when they start their art careers?
I think we all need to slow down. We live in a time of the ‘Quick fix’ and technology has enabled this. This ‘quick fix’ can be detrimental to Art Education. The essence of an image lies in it’s content and if this is coupled with good technique, both traditional and digital, then the image will ‘speak’. The process of creating an image is of the utmost importance.
The bombardment of device saving apps is a challenge to young artists, as an important aspect of education can be lost, a certain craftsmanship and a loss of manual technique. In regard to Photography, the “fix it in Photoshop” can be detrimental to “seeing”. How light affects colour, texture, shape, form, contrast can all be remedied (to a degree). The digital artist needs to be adept technically and this means mastering many techniques, which can be totally overwhelming. Artists can become absorbed in the enormous technological capabilities resulting in artwork devoid of creative substance.
The art market is saturated and continually offers new challenges to the Artist, to create something new. There is no question that contemporary artists are facing many complicated challenges to presenting distinctive artwork in the face of the many recent technological advances. Artists today find it more challenging than ever to present original and innovative ideas, and they need to exert themselves and stretch their imagination to succeed.
How do you feel about the change in the photography industry, when in the age of Instagram photography is much more embedded in peoples lives. Do you think it ads or takes away from the art form as you see it?
I do not use Instagram and have to admit I know very little about it. I am however wary of artworks being continually posted online and the constant need for gratification, that can sometimes lead to a false sense of ‘brilliance’. Art and technology have become intertwined, whether it’s through providing new ways to mix different types of media, allowing more human interaction or simply making the process of creating it easier. As in most cases there are pros and cons to this new form of expression and the way in which it is viewed. I do love the idea of the accessibility of Art, being able to share images, performances, words, and thoughts on a global level.
Of course, no one can take away from first hand experience of seeing an artwork in a gallery or museum but the exposure to art via the internet can inspire, educate and inform us of past and present movements. It can compel us to create and explore different avenues of expression and to seek out the work of Artists we would never have known about.
You are based in Ireland, can you share a bit about the local art scene and what it can offer for international artists considering spending time there and developing their practice?
Over the last few years the biggest outlet for Artists in Ireland has been Street Art. Many towns and cities have provided projects as an outlet for Artists locally and beyond, to help brighten up urban environments. In addition Art festivals are held every year in most major towns and cities, these include the Galway Arts festival, Kilkenny Arts Festival, Imagine Arts festival, Waterford. The list is endless but all provide fringe events for lesser known artists. Pop up galleries host many temporary exhibitions in empty shops.
The best source of information for Artists opportunities in Ireland is https://visualartists.ie. Visual Artists Ireland provide information about exhibition opportunities, subsidized studio spaces, incubation spaces, workshops, talks, residencies and exchanges.
Are you currently working on a project or have one coming up in the near future?
I am currently working on a project called Plastic. This work is part of an exploration of the unresolved environmental issue of Plastic Pollution that is currently affecting many of our beaches here in Ireland.
I am using Art to question our perception and relationship to Plastic.
Areas of investigation through the Artwork include:
The harm being caused to sea creatures: Plastic Pollution is affecting our oceans on an unprecedented scale. It adversely affects wildlife, habitat and humans. Plastic has been found in vast numbers of seabirds, sea mammals, fish and turtles.
Micro Plastics: Every day, millions of tons of plastic waste end up in our oceans. Micro particles are by far the largest pollutant. These masses of microbeads and broken-down particles of plastic are easily ingested by sea creatures, often resulting in their death. In addition these particles can transfer into the tissue of aquatic creatures, such as fish, which are then eaten by humans.
Plastic produced for the Food Industry: The fast food industry is a huge generator of waste. Quick food alternatives are a part of many people’s busy lifestyles. The industry generates many non-essential items (straws, lids, stirrers) that have accumulated in vast quantities in our oceans as Plastic Pollution.
Urban lifestyle: The Earth is a living breathing eco system and it is our HOME! Everything we need as human beings in order to survive, has been provided for us by our Natural World. One of the consequences of an urban lifestyle, is that we have lost our connection to the natural world. When we use plastic we don’t see ourselves as contributors to the growing rubbish patch in our oceans. We have become distanced from our greatest provider, the Earth.