December 26, 2008

Interview: SpaceTM's Joe meets Graham Rawle

One of the things we’re particularly interested in at SpaceTM is how environments shape our psyche. In fact, we often create them especially to manipulate this - whether they are the ones around us (such as our cosy living rooms), or the fantasy ones we enter when we engage with books, film or art.

Graham Rawle is a writer and collage artist whose visual work incorporates illustration, design, photography and installation. One of the reasons I like his stuff is because you can recognise it a mile off. It also has the ability to make you laugh, reflect, ponder and sometimes feel a little creeped out (in the best possible way) - and you can never have enough of that, really, can you?
Here is part one of my chat with Rawle in which he took some time out of his busy Christmas schedual to talk about his unique creations...

How would you describe the world of Graham Rawle to someone who didn't know your work?
My background is in visual art, but over the years writing has becoming an increasingly important part of what I do. I initiate projects that allow me to indulge myself in the kind of work I want to do and I generally have total control of the outcome (though that often means sacrificing the income). Everything tends to be deeply rooted in my childhood: my pictures and stories are generally set in the late 50s and early 60s. I live and work in the same place, which enables me to surround myself with all my stuff, so for me it’s perfect. There are a lot of books, magazines and toys, many of them related in some way to my past, which are often incorporated into my work. It’s like living in an old second-hand shop where everything in it has been chosen specially for me.
Is humour important to you?
It is, very. But there is a serious side to what I do, so I often have to resist the urge to go for the joke. It’s much more effective to keep that side under control and use it to counterpoint the darker side.
With regards to your own designs, when was the first time you thought, "I'm onto something here…”
I was a late developer. I didn’t ‘get it’ until I was nearly thirty. I was a graphic designer and an illustrator when I started doing what I called my ‘personal work’: pictures that illustrated incidents from my childhood, often concentrating on tiny memory fragments. It was very personal, and there were many pictures that I never showed to anybody. For the first time I was doing work that didn’t concern itself with an audience. It wasn’t for them; it was for me and I felt so much better about what I was doing. Ever since, the work I do and the stories I write are primarily to please myself. I’m not looking at the market or trying to appeal to a wider audience; that doesn’t interest me.
Your work features a lot of doll parts. What is it about them that attracts you?
I tend to go for dolls that are worn, broken, well loved, abused, or customized. I often swap body parts to get the characters I want. I suppose I always liked dolls as a child, though it wasn’t a sissy thing; I think I was more interested in undressing them than dressing them, and I was attracted to the pretty ones. I still am. I love the doll I used for the role of Dorothy in my version of The Wizard of Oz. She has such a lovely face. I’ve used her in several projects now and have a very special relationship with her. (And I think I’m making myself sound creepy and weird.)

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