ART AND ARTIST: An Interview With Nick Waplington

Here is an insightful interveiw with Nick Waplington about his supplement booklet that came with issue #2 of Let’s Panic Mag. The interview was originally published at DiaStandard. A special thanks to Miwa at Dashwood books and DiaStandard

Miwa Susuda:Congratulation on your collaboration with Let’s Panic.  Please tell us how you started making this zine for their issue.


Nick Waplington:They approached me and asked if I had anything I would like them to consider for the second edition of the magazine, so rather had just give them work for the issue I thought I would push them so I proposed a supplement or zine if you want to call it that. I am always looking for new ways of working and this gave me something to sink my teeth into.


Susuda:What does this title “Burn Bright Out Of My Darkness Sunshine” mean to you?


Nick:The title is very personnel it doesn’t refer to the period when the pictures were taken 89-93 but to my state of mind in the summer of 2014 when the sketchbooks that are collected in the zine were made and juxtaposed with the photos and paintings. It is a message to someone, one person in particular. But of course what it means to me it not really that important, it is what it says to the viewer that really matters, it is a statement that is open to interpretation. It can be whatever you want it to be, I want it to be about your darkness, your sunshine and ultimately your salvation and if it doesn’t happen there is no darkness or sunshine for the viewer then that is the story to. It is an ambiguous title to enable the viewer to dream and consider their own world within the constructed context of my work. There are no facts only interpretations.


Susuda:Do you enjoy putting your painting and photography together for this issue? You have worked graphic novel, “Terry Painter” with Miguel Calderon back in 2003.  Do you enjoy making graphic novel/painting as much as photography?


Nick:What I do is create, I am an artist and on a basic level this is just about making things, this can be anything, photography, painting, sculpture music or food even. This is my life, a calling, a necessity for me to survive. It brings me nothing but joy and happiness but also a lot of pain sometimes. Without the ability to create I would be nothing, it keeps my mind active and takes me out of the dark spaces my subconscious travels to when I am not working. On a simple level it is a device to keep me alive. Without art I might already be dead, I am very lucky I have art without it I am nothing. I enjoy working in different media, I enjoy the process of artistic endeavor. Making the graphic novel with Miguel was an amazing experience, we are very similar in our mindsets. The only real difference between us is he is very handsome and I am ugly, he is perhaps the beginning of Terry Painter and I am the end! We also have an amazing set of photos we made together which I would like to publish one day if I can find a publisher.


Suzuda:Did you first take a photo and do painting later? Who is your favorite painter?


Nick:We all paint first don’t we, in nursery, then in school, photography comes later in everyone’s lives. As a teenager I was really into ornithology, with the study of birds comes a quiet freedom away from the realities of life. I had a book ‘The Birds of Britain and Europe’ I still have my original copy I will send you a picture. This was a cheap book in color showing all the birds of the region beautifully illustrated and it was small enough to carry around. I would obsessively copy the drawings in my sketchbooks as a child, out of these drawings came my art. I took my copy to Israel while I was there in recent years, it is the book of my life in many ways. Then when I was about 13 I became interested in photography and using the school darkroom. I got a camera and started to take the pictures that were published in ‘Made Glorious Summer’ last year by Powershovel. But I never stopped painting, I always paint, there are paintings of mine in my 1998 book ‘The Indecisive Memento’ This is the point I started to mix photography and painting. It’s not the greatest book, but as an experiment it is quite interesting. I like many painters but for me Hieronymus Bosch the absolute master genius.


Susuda:Your work is always very candid and raw.  How do you find today’s most popular photography that is very conceptual and less intrusive.  Do you like it?


Nick:Yes I like everything to a point, I know how difficult it is to make art, I want to be supportive to other artists, I’m not very good at being competitive! Each generation has their own way of working, I must look boring and old fashioned to younger artists myself, I am under no illusion here. They must be saying “that Waplington is so boring so yesterday!” The one thing I’m not sure about is the way photo books have gone, there seems to be a style now of modernist photo book and people seem to want to make the best book within that genre not anything that is innovative or new. This is the same trap that documentary photography has fallen into. The best book charts at the end of the year I see on social media like Face Book reflect this, they do not list the best books of the year but the best books within the photo book genre. I am bored with the same old juxtapositions, it is going in ever decreasing circles.  Your association with fashion industry seems very close.  For example, you just had an exhibition, Alexander McQueens’s Working Process at Tate Britain this spring.  (a big congratulations!)


Susuda:Do you think you will work more in fashion industry in the future.


Nick:Fashion likes art, what can I say I am not involved in fashion but sometimes fashion seeks me out and if they are genuine then there are possibilities.


Susuda:You have an early success as a photographer through your publication, Living Room in 1991.  Were you only 26 years old, right?  It must be a big sensational in the photography world in UK.  How did you respond to them?


Nick:Well you need to remember I started the work in 1983 when I was 17 years old, the book was published in 1991, I actually made the work until 1997, there is a lot of unpublished work from this project. I am finally going to publish more soon, first a limited edition 300 copies book of work print edit outs with Little Big Man in September for the New York book fair and in a couple of years a mega book of 300 images and probably another mega book of another 3000 images in about 5 years, maybe, hopefully. It is a long time ago now so I am happy to embrace the work again now finally.


Susuda:What do you enjoy most by taking a photo?  What is the biggest challenge for taking a photo?


Nick:Taking photographs is pretty easy for me, I take pictures everyday and I just have fun doing it, it is the subject matter that excites me not the actions. If I have good subject matter then I am happy.


Susuda:Do you like things in Japan?  Have you been there?  Who is your favorite Japanese photographer?


Nick:Yes I love Japan I have been many times, I love Kagoshima I don’t know why maybe it is the volcano. I have some good friends there I have know for many years but I haven’t been there recently. My father works in the nuclear industry and I am afraid of the effects of the Fukushima disaster but I will be back if someone invites me one day. My favorite Japanese photography is a series of books called ‘Cho Egg’ and ‘Out of Photographers’ I collected in Tokyo in the 1990’s I know the publisher he is a friend. He used to pick up girls on the street and take them to his studio to shoot POV porn movies, he would attached a video camera to his head to shoot them, he was years ahead of internet pornography. ( I have attached photos of a couple of the books).


Susuda:Would you have any advice to young photographers in Japan who want to be successful like you?


Nick:Yes send me money and I will reply with good advice, the more you send me the better the instructions. I can personally tailor my tips to suit your needs, everyone will be taken care of, I am an equal opportunities employer!


Susuda:How would you usually react to any tough criticism or other people opinion?  Do you care about it too much or not at all?  Is it important not to care?  Are you or have you felt scared of how your work is perceived by the others?


Nick:Well if I cared I would have just made more work like “Living Room’ it is what people wanted and expected I think, I have chosen a difficult path for myself but one that is ultimately more rewarding and I’m having more fun along the way. I was told it is this attitude that helped me get the big show at the Tate this year, so in some ways it must be paying off. But I am still broke and I don’t have a gallery so it’s not all good.


Susuda:What is your belief in life as an artist?  What makes you keep going very focused and constant?


Nick:I enjoy myself making work and as I have said it earlier it is my weapon against my darkness, my depression. I don’t actually have anything else in life. I would be dead or in prison without art. The prisons of the world are full of left-handed dyslexic people like me it is a fact. So in many ways I am very lucky and to stay focused is easy and I am always focused it is my obsessive nature that keeps me going. My problems are more about getting the work out ‘there’ I’m not a good networker, I am shy and introverted and to do well in art you need to be a self-promoter. I have some success but not as much as all the ‘career art professionals’ I see working today. But I am grateful my life is good and I am able to continue to make work that is all I really care about at the end of the day.


My work is it easy work, I’m not very interested in the beauty aesthetic which is the driving force in most art production, my work can be hard on the eyes and deals with difficult subject matter, because of this I understand that the possibilities for success are limited for me, I except that is where I operate and it is a good place for me to be.


Original article posted at Dia Standard