Artist of the Month: December 2013, Sam Spreckley
This month we feature Sam Spreckley who tells us about Aberdeen's art scene, synaesthesia and the difficulties that film makers face.
Ruth Wilbur: Tell us about Aberdeen’s art scene
Sam Spreckley: There are some really great artists collectives in Aberdeen such as 26 and Project Slogan. Aberdeen Art Gallery, Peacock Visual Arts and the Smart Gallery all put on exciting and varied shows and there is also a number of really good independent spaces such as Junction Arts and Offset 57 which support local artists. All are worth checking out!
RW: You've been making work around the neurological condition 'synaesthesia', where the stimulation of one sense leads to an involuntary experience of another sense. Can you tell us more about the condition and why you decided to make work about it?
SS: Syneathesia is where human senses overlap and become distorted. In the most extreme instances colours become tastes, letters become colours and so on.
Through working with video/film and sonic art, I consider how we experience and interpret moving image at a very basic sensory level. I refer to synaesthesia in my practice because I feel there is a natural connection between the way I work with video/film and sound, playing with the relationship between what we see and hear, and the condition. You can take something very ordinary and give it a whole new meaning simply by creating an abstract connection between what's seen and heard. I love the sense of freedom and play you get working with film and sound.
RW: You've shown work in traditional galleries as well as film festivals. Is it difficult creating work for potentially very different settings?
SS: My work sits in a very unusual place, somewhere between the traditional gallery space and the cinema, so it's impossible to think where it might end up. Working on commercial projects has made me very aware of the way things look and how they should be experienced no matter where that is.
Before I studied Fine Art I was interested in graphic design and this concern over how things look has always stayed with me. My projects have to be strong conceptually but also look really good cinematically. This helps my work appeal to a much wider audience wherever it's shown.
RW: What challenges and opportunities do film and video artists face?
SS: The challenges can be immense; I’ve had so many troubles working with video. People have stolen my work and used it for commercial projects, I have worked freelance and not been paid (spending weeks chasing clients to no avail). And to be honest, I find that sometimes people think film making is easy and I have to remind people that it is an elaborate and time-consuming process!
Despite these challenges, there are so many positives. My work can travel much further than I can, and I’m often astonished where it ends up. There are lots of calls for video works, film festivals and digital arts events and one of the biggest plus points has been to work on commercial projects - enabling me to make a living from what I do.
RW: What role does choreography, rhythm and chance play in your work?
SS: I like to think that there is a natural choreography going on in my work, which relates closely to chance. I have an on-going project called 'Chance Encounters' that tries to convey this idea. 'Bus Stop' (2006) is a work from this series and features two people waiting at a bus stop in Dundee, they move instinctively together despite not really being aware of each other (or at least trying their hardest to ignore each other), and their movements seem to be almost choreographed, in perfect time. I found this fascinating to witness.
Chance plays a very important role in my work. I would say that 90% of my video work comes from chance encounters. This reliance on chance can be really quite counter-creative at times, especially when there's the expectation that I can create work similar to a past project. Rhythm is also very important in my practice, although I’m not sure if this comes from my interests in music and timing, or from editing in general.
RW: Is silence as important as sound when editing?
SS: I have a bit of a problem with silence. After creating such intense and complex soundscapes, it can be really hard for me to step back and accept that sometimes silence is a good thing.
RW: You've had loads of success on Vimeo with your work 'Celluloid Warfare ii', (2013) being selected as a staff pick. Any tips for getting your work noticed online?
SS: I've been using Vimeo since 2006, not too long after it was first launched. At the time I think it was easier to be found, especially if you were producing and publishing more creative video works, so I began to get a small audience that has grown over time.
I'd recommend actively sharing your work with people. Never think that it will be discovered without doing anything. “If you don’t ask, you don’t get” - it can be as simple as that.
RW: What have you learned?
SS: When it comes to sound design, it feels as if I could continue to work on a project's soundtrack infinitely. I'm still learning when to stop.
Interview by Ruth Wilbur, December 2013
About Sam Spreckley
Sam Spreckley is a visual artist based in Scotland. He was a former art student at the Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art in Dundee where he studied Time Based Art and later a Masters degree in Science (Electronic Imaging).
During 2013 Sam has exhibited work at a number of festivals including the London Analogue Festival, Dundee WestFest, and Electronik Festival, France. In 2012 he had a solo show at KinoKino centre for art and film, Sandnes, Norway and in November 2013 was nominated for a Leo award at the International Braunschweig Film Festival in Germany.