Stour GALLERY
haggerston

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CURRENT exhibition

Poster 3.jpg

SAM'S GARAGE
By the dude zone

aka

sam MacInnes

Sam MacInnes is a London-based artist originally from Glasgow. Dealing with the topics of nostalgia, British drinking culture, cartoon characters and memories from childhood, MacInnes presents his experience of the contemporary world through ‘The Dude Zone’ - a satirical cartoon universe of animals playing the main characters in the world of a young artist in London.

In the exhibition SAM’S GARAGE, MacInnes showcases the paintings created in his parent's garage during the pandemics in 2021. Surrounded by his toys, cartoon characters and elements from his childhood that dictated everything about the fantasy worlds he had formed as a kid, Sam MacInnes created a series of paintings in which he combined both of the worlds that are present in his everyday conscious mind. His art is autobiographical - naïve and authentic – childish and serious.

In SAM’S GARAGE, MacInnes has created his own form of escapism. Implementing the cartoons and animal characters into his works and promoting them as the symbols of his childhood, he portrays them in their mutated form, corrupted by the cruel realities he struggles to face.

‘The naivety of childhood is a wonderful thing, every passing moment is one of amazement, and it is that amazement that I want to try and recapture in my new works.’

Sam  MacInnes, 2022
 

at

 

Stour Gallery at Haggerston Studios on 258 Kingsland Road, E8 4DG, London.

Hi Sam!

Who are you again?

Just a guy from Glasgow who tries to capture what he sees in the day to day.

 

What were the very first themes you explored in your art practice?

I have been doodling and sketching ever since I was a child, I had an obsession for all things animal and dinosaur, and like most children, a love for the fantastical. Stories of knights, Romans, castles and conquest left me constantly envisaging my young self in these ancient and exciting worlds.

Most of my early doodling centred around animals however, drawings of elephants and dinosaurs usually took centre stage. I would draw directly from my toys or TV programmes, ‘walking with dinosaurs’ being a particular favourite of mine.

It seems odd to refer to drawings of ancient people and creatures as capturing my lived reality, but that is what it was at the time, just a small boy who was fascinated beyond belief by a world completely out of his control. Maybe it was the inability of others to fully understand that drew me to it. I could create my own idealised fantasies with myself playing god, something I have carried over into my current practice.

 

What was your university practice about, and how was it constructed?

Right up until my twilight years at university, I was very much a lost soul, I felt incredibly insecure about myself and my work. I was constantly comparing myself to others and following what my tutors said to the tee, somewhere that was meant to spawn my creativity had in fact hindered it.

 

My only means of creative escape was through my camera, capturing day to day living throughout my travels across the world, and, as ridiculous as it sounds through ‘shit-posting’ memes online when I would be out drinking with my friends. I would drink and go to underground raves every single week, I loved the music and the sense of community these places brought, and most of my friends I made back in these days I will have for life. It was entirely a means of escapism for me.

 

However, it was ironically this form of escapism that led to my artistic shackles being removed at university, as I started to ignore what others thought and said and began to revolve my practice around the only thing I knew, myself. My life has been engrossed with cartoons since I was a child, particularly the likes of Garfield and Matt Furrie’s Boys Club at university.

 

The way these comics can make what seemed to be so boring and trivial about every day so interesting in my opinion was down to one thing, the anthropomorphised characters. These little crazy human animals were what drew me in, I wanted to know more and more about their lives and what would happen to them next, and it got me thinking, what if I was to take this world of raves and bad behaviour, I had found myself gripped within over the past few years, and turned it into my own fantasy world?

 

What we were left with then, was the beginnings of ‘The Dude Zone’, this satirical cartoon universe of animals that I had created out of my own lived reality, using photographs, videos and (all be it hazy) memories of drunken endeavours to dictate my practice. In other words, my life became my practice, just like it had been all those years ago as a child.

 

How has your art practice developed since your graduation?

My practice at university, and the year I spent upon leaving university, largely revolved around this binge drinking culture that I found myself emersed in, capturing very similar scenes of pubs, clubs and all the rest; a very visual representation of what was going on.

 

However, upon moving to London, the amount of drinking has cut down and the pressures of working a 9-5 have completely turned my weekly routine on its head. No more spontaneous pub trips on a Tuesday afternoon! What this really left me with was a deep sense of nostalgia, a constant harking back to the days of old, no responsibilities and living purely for the creation of my work and drinking with my mates. I am an incredibly nostalgic person, and I often struggle to live in the moment, constantly thinking about the past or the future. However, it was a particular element of the past that really was a eureka moment that helped to define my current practice.

 

In the times of Covid restrictions, myself and my mates from home would all sit around and drink in my garage, yes we were really that desperate to get the boys back together for a few beers! Not only was this the space in which I created all my work, but the more I hung out there, the more I was reminded of my childhood. The garage was almost like a graveyard for my childhood joys, surrounded by toys, books and dress-up clothing that dictated everything about the fantasy worlds I had created as a kid; however, the fantasy world I found myself living in now was more of a nightmare.

 

There was something quite chilling about it, surrounded by the joys of childhood whilst partaking in the bleakness of adulthood, yet still with the same dudes, I had grown up alongside playing with these toys. The way in which we had been totally corrupted by our environment was something that fascinated me, so, I decided to take these elements of childhood and centre my practice around them.

 

The naivety of childhood is a wonderful thing, every passing moment is one of amazement, and it is that amazement that I want to try and recapture in my new works. Taking these symbols that we all knew and loved as children, and portraying them in this mutated form, corrupted by the cruel realities that it struggles to face.

 

What does a gallery mean, what is the definition of a gallery from your point of view?

A gallery to me is a sense of community, as much as a pub, or a secret rave might be to the dudes. It is a safe place, a place to meet like-minded people and broaden your horizons and really question the limitations of your practice.

 

You can enter a gallery and within 10 minutes of being there through a couple of conversations, you can be opened to an entirely new way of thinking, which could in turn lead to your own work exploring new avenues.

 

To create work for no one to enjoy visually is ridiculous to me, if I was to know that I could paint for the rest of my life, but I could not share that joy with others, I would lose all desire to create. It is galleries that give us that joy, so to use the childlike language appropriate to my work, you could describe a gallery as a happy place.

What is the purpose of the writing/text that appears on your paintings?

The writing originally started off as a means of capturing ‘party chat’, that off your face nonsense that you can’t remember the next day that gets lost in translation. The random writing dotted all over the works aims to capture this, hence its lack of meaning and cohesion. It also seemed logical to look at graffiti for inspiration. So many times, these dudes find themselves down an alleyway on a night out, the pulse of thumping music meandering through the ground as one of them keeps lookout whilst another dude does a piss; marking their territory before they venture back to the club.

 

Does there need to be a breakthrough in the life of an artist? How do you think a professional artist is formed?

People often think of breakthroughs as being a financial breakthrough or gratification or recognition from others. We live in a society where success is expected immediately, and patience no longer seems to be a thing people have when it comes to pursuing what makes them happy.

 

I personally believe that if you can find your own personal vocabulary and style in which you love to work and that drives you to simply want to create more, then that is the biggest achievement you can find in yourself as an artist. Before refining ‘the dude zone’, art often came as a bit of a struggle to me, the negativity as the doubts around my practice that I had taken hold of it. However, after a lot of trial and error and inward searching, that voice was found and ever since I have been rushing home from work every day to make new pieces, this hunger for what is truly unique to you is what gives you the foundations to build an empire and to establish yourself as a professional artist.

 

What do you think about the role of social media in an artist’s career?

Social media, if used to your advantage, can take your career to new heights. It is all about creating an online persona that is true to who you are and what your work is. This is what I believe I have done on my own Instagram account, and without it, this exhibition would not have existed. crucial as real-life interaction with artworks, and more importantly artists, is we can use social media as a way to bring us together and to build real-life relationships that we previously would not have been able to have.

 

What was the most pivotal artistic moment in your life so far and what will it be?

The rejection of what others expected of me and the embracing of doing what I believed to be best for me. As soon as I created for the joy of creation, that’s when my work really began to come to life.

There is a quote by Danny Fox, and to this day it still holds a great deal of emphasis on my practice that ‘the moment he stopped caring about what his work looked like was when it really became its best’. I connected with this as soon as I heard it and have never looked back, so thanks, Danny!

 

What cartoons and toys were your favourite ones when you were a child? Have they influenced you and if

so, in what way?

I was obsessed with animals as a child, I used to watch the jungle book at least once a week. However, there was a particular cartoon that stands out in my head, ‘Extreme Dinosaurs’, I used to run around the house and scream the theme tune whenever it came on. The dinosaurs had bodybuilder-like human physiques, but with dinosaurs’ heads, something I believe had a direct influence on my earlier work. These characters were my first insight into anthropomorphising and attaching human emotions and traits to animals, so I do believe, subconsciously, that they had a huge role to play in my decision making when it came to creating the dudes.

Do people create an environment, or does the environment makes people? How do you explore this in your

practice?

The entire basis of ‘The Dude Zone’ was built around the idea that we are all the same, but it is our environment that corrupts us. I guess it all stems down to the old nature or nurture argument, well I think its safe to say that these dudes have been nurturing some bad habits that have really developed their nature.

 

What is your worst habit when painting?

I am far too self-critical when painting, there are times when I have literally destroyed a canvas because I don’t like that painting, even when others have said it's good. I need to stop overcomplicating things. As like I said before, the moment you stop caring what something looks like is when it really comes into its own.

 

Do you care about people’s opinions?

 

My life used to be completely dictated by other people’s opinions, but now it has gone the complete other way and is almost too influenced by a lack of care for other people’s opinions. Hopefully, I can find a nice happy medium soon!

 

What is 2022 going to look like for you? What are your plans?

To put it simply, I just hope to be able to keep creating, keep inspiring and keep being a dude. My practice brings me so much joy, so all I want to do is spread that joy and love for all things, dude.

 

These themes and these ideas for my practice were spawned by this exhibition and the pressures of having to create something new and exciting, so hopefully, my luck won’t run out and other galleries offer me the opportunity to do the same, and something completely new can come out of that. Financially, I struggle quite a lot with my artwork, so I work full-time in order to help keep the dream alive. If one day in the near future I no longer had to do this, due to gallery representation or an increase in demand for my work and I could pursue what I love full time, I would be over the moon.

 

I would love to exhibit abroad, maybe in a city that holds so many drunken memories of holidays with the dudes, somewhere like Amsterdam or Berlin…that would be fucking sick. Or there’s always the big old homecoming. I have never exhibited in Glasgow; I know it’s crazy. So hopefully an exhibition back home is on the cards this year, I would love that.

Interview
Sam MacInnes's studio, April 2022