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We first met Bartholomew Westlake aka BART early spring this year, when he was planning his first exhibition in London, and we are now delighted that Chrom.gallery will be hosting this show in August. Chrom.Art have been committed to promoting emerging undiscovered talent for years, and we have seen everything under the sun and more, but we felt under the spell of the backward written messages in Bart’s artworks and the way he casts them through a rough mix of graffiti and rich abstract backgrounds. In a world where social media algorithms are running our lives, even more so in the pandemic, his ‘Contraceptive Art’ show aims to stir our thoughts on contemporary art and how it should be created and showcased.
We start with a double question: How and when did you start producing art and when did you decide to become an artist? and, Could you tell us what are your main stylistic and artistic influences?
To answer both those questions… BASQUIAT. I started painting seriously at 18 after I discovered Jean-Michel Basquiat.
The way he painted and the contents of his work has influenced me massively. Stylistically, I draw from him constantly and I think you can see it in my work. He also shared a similar distaste to the pretentious side of the art world as I do.
Our readers will be interested in how did you manage to become an accomplished self-taught artist from learning on the internet, what were the main challenges and advantages you found by learning in this way?
Well everything’s online… This interviews online. The person reading this right now is online. And that’s the advantage. As a young artist all you want to do is see more art. And for the first time that’s totally possible. Every painting you could ever want to see is in the palm of your hands.
But that’s the issue with the internet isn’t it? You can see any painting. Even the s*** ones. And as a result I’ve seen a lot of art that I don’t like. And I think you have to wade through a lot of artistic sludge just to get to the good stuff these days. And that’s what inspired this exhibition, and it’s where ‘CONTRACEPTIVE ART’ has come from.
Even at such young age we see you have already evolved from figurative and cubist to more conceptual art. How did you arrive to your current style?
This style was born out of frustration. I learnt early on that in today’s art world it’s not enough making art that speaks to people, you have to make art that screams at people. And that’s what ‘CONTRACEPTIVE ART’ does. The art is literally screaming at you, I’m pointing out things, some more obvious than others.
What is the meaning behind ‘contraceptive art’?
I think the term is more of a feeling to be honest. I mean the words contraceptive and art are not words that make sense together. For me it’s about what those words feel like in my head.
I find the majority of artists these days fit a common pretentious template. And that’s what ‘CONTRACEPTIVE ART’ brings to light and pokes fun at. It’s also a slight gag aimed at conceptual art, just because the words sound similar. I’m just poking fun. A humorous take on the art world, which takes itself too seriously in my opinion.
What prompted you to create this series of paintings for the contraceptive art exhibition?
Each painting is a reaction I suppose, I was seeing a lot of bad art that I didn’t agree with and a lot of pretentious artists. These paintings are ‘bad art’ but a necessary ‘bad art’.
Your work is very thought provoking, what is the type of reaction you expect or you would want to create through your works?
I want to open eyes. Art today is nothing compared to the art that was being created in the 80s. Feel like we are in an artistic depression right now. And I suppose I’d like this exhibition to show that.
As we all probably know, now more than ever. In order to cure a virus (boring art saturating the art market) often it’s effective to inject the person with a small amount of said virus to develop an immunity and heal. I want ‘CONTRACEPTIVE ART’ to be the necessary injection into the art world. In order to hopefully wake it up.
But then what do I know? I just write things backwards LOL.
How does your creative process work and where do you take inspiration from?
I see something that sparks a reaction or I think of something and play with those words and concepts in my head until I feel it could create something cool. As I’ve mentioned, I tend to paint out of frustration at the moment. When I’ve got something I like in my head I’ll write it down in my notes on my phone or draw it in my sketchbook.
But I like painting with just an idea and no real plan. I think my best paintings are made when I’m painting without a plan.
But the whole point of these paintings are to not think too much or put too much effort into the technicality of each piece. Because otherwise the irony doesn’t work.
Can you tell us about the difficulties and or opportunities you have found as an emerging artist in the current art market?
Well no one cares unless you make noise. And as an unknown artist it’s very hard to make noise. You’ve got to be loud or you won’t be heard.
What projects are you working on at the moment?
I’ve got a plan for another exhibition so I’m just working on that really. There’s as lot of stuff restricting my ideas at the moment. I’ve got big ideas that I want to get out. And I want people to see.