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I Don't Know: The Magda Archer interview

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I Don't Know: The Magda Archer interview

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  • Bringing an infectious mix of wry humour and vibrant British nostalgia contemporary artist Magda Archer has gained a reputation for unique, uplifting and thought-provoking works that perfectly capture the perpetual anxiety of the modern age. 

    Trained at Ravensbourne College of Art, Chelsea School of Art and the Royal College of Art, Magda has worked on collaborations with Comme des garçons, Marc Jacobs and this year produced a collaborative lyric book with Bristolian punk band 'IDLES' to great reception. 

    Always one to defy convention, Magda's work is more relevant than ever – strikingly provocative and immediately hilarious, her following continues to grow as her work becomes more and more recognisable, her paintings and collage work helping define the feelings of a generation. 


    We caught up with Magda to discuss her inspirations, her shift in style and her creative process...

    W: How did you get started as an artist? Was it always something that you wanted to do?

    MA: I drifted into it & I’m still drifting, there’s a lot to be said for it.

    W: Can you tell us a bit more about your creative process? Where do the phrases and imagery that appear in your work stem from?

    MA: The creative process is messy.It includes writing down on scraps of paper or on my phone if I’m not near paper.Maybe some scrappy sketches, maybe a colour or a group of colours as reference.A lot of ideas come to me in the night.. out of nowhere ,so I’m scrabbling around for some paper & a pen in the dark.

    W: You've recently released a book with the band IDLES, how did that come about? MA: I’m pretty certain that IDLES released the book & I went along for the ride.

    I chatted with Joe & he said ‘do what you like, I love it’ or something like that.I didn’t believe him & kept getting our Editor ,Evie Tarr, to send him stuff to check if it was alright. We soon realised he really meant what he’d said & I could have creative freedom.

    It was the Evie T. Who had the idea for this series of books. Evie sat down with the IDLES lyrics for BRUTALISM & all the images she had of my work & ‘matched’ them all up…though I’d call it a parallel narrative , sometimes they collide, other times they talk to each other & sometimes they talk independently. Then Leo Field swooped in with his beautiful typography & made us all think WOW.

    W: You've done some incredible collaborations over the years. Is there anyone you'd love to work with in the future?

    MA: I’ve been asked this before & my answers haven’t aged well so I’ll pass on this one out of embarrassment.

    W: Which contemporary artists do you look up to the most? Is there anyone currently whose work inspires you?

    I like Mel Bochner, Jeff Koons,Rose Wylie & John-Michel Basquiat, Andy Warhol, Phyllida Barlow, Sean Scully, Grayson Perry, Humphrey Ocean…Carl Andre,Maya Hayuk, Maria Lundstrom, Shuby, Jess Wilson, the collages of K.YOUNG ,Russell Marshall ,Richard Woods & Joe Webb. These are my favourites & some of them are my favourite people too.

    W: You've previously described the internet as 'The modern-day funfair', do you think this still rings true? How do you feel the modern digital landscape has informed your work?

    MA: 'I’m not sure ‘& I think that’s a perfectly valid response!

    The internet; I kind of despise it in some ways & I think we need to remember to be the Master of it not the servant. Get back to the Old School ways & reconnect with nature, proper conversations & true emotion.

    I never really liked Fun Fairs so maybe the internet is the modern day Fun Fair. I DO like how funfairs LOOK though.

    I’m not a slave to the internet & have always felt happier in myself & making my work when I keep my distance.

    W: You've mentioned before your obsession with lyrics. Who are your favourite lyricists of all time?

    MA: Is it an obsession still ? Not sure…maybe it’s a coming of -middle- age thing? It’s probably just part of my love of words, phrases, titles…language.

    I’m influenced by the rhythm of the words of ‘The Great American songbook’ & then Soul & Disco lyrics of the 1970s.

    W: There's been more of a shift towards optimism in your recent work, did anything spark this change or do you feel like this was a natural progression for you?

    MA: I could deny this but probably think you’re on to something….

    My best friend died in 2017.I was in a tunnel I felt I couldn’t really get out of.

    I described it, at the time; I felt like an animal that had been run over & all the cars were driving around this whimpering thing, no one was stopping to help it with it’s injuries.

    Then, just as I was allowing myself to accept that my friend was no longer here & what she’d been through…

    I had a life-threatening illness which I didn’t see coming & was slow to even acknowledge.

    Coming through those two events, well,you’d think I’d have a colder heart but I think my heart is warmer .

    These things  brought everything into rather dramatic focus & made me appreciate all the little things..you think you’re chasing after all the big things but most people are not. Some of us don’t necessarily want to win the race.

    W: Final question. If you had to be trapped on a desert island with one other artist, who would it be and why?

    MA: I wouldn’t necessarily want to be trapped on a desert Island with an artist;I’d prefer to be trapped on an Island with someone who can turn their hand to making a boat so we could get the hell off the Island.Yes,I’d like to look at the animals, birds & sea life but I wouldn’t kill anything…therefore what could I eat? Also, I’d miss my husband,my daughters, my friends & my dogs. I’d miss my studio too.

    Get me off it!

     

    To attend our upcoming event: Magda Archer in conversation with Jo Brooks - click here.

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