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Interview with David Breuer-Weil exhibiting ‘Project 4’ at The Vaults

9 January 2013 Anita Mistry

"The earliest paintings in the series were about my looking into the heart of darkness of contemporary history. As the series has progressed, I am looking up towards the light and the sky at new horizons." - David Breuer-Weil

Project 4 is the latest in a series of epic solo projects by London based artist David Breuer-Weil. The series that began in 2001, has seen the artist carefully choosing the venues for each part, stepping away from the generic white spaces of contemporary galleries. His latest exhibition will be at The Vaults on Waterloo from 7 February.

 

London Calling: Tell us about the Project series that you first exhibited in 2001.

David Breuer-Weil: The first instalment was exhibited at the Roundhouse in Camden in 2001, Project 2 was at the Oxo Tower and Project 3 in Mercer Street in 2007 in conjunction with a museum. Project 1 was held underground in the raw brick space of an undercroft and the paintings were extremely intense with earth and fire colours, reflecting strong emotions with a lot of painterly texture. I was rebelling against the commercial, slick look of much contemporary art at the time that tended to be more manufactured. I wanted to express the most uncomfortable aspects of humanity and history through the hands-on use of paint.


LC: How has the series progressed?

DBW: With time I have maintained this great interest with the hands-on aspects and cathartic possibilities of painting today. For me, the physical act of painting is even more valid now than in the past, as a possible alternative to the technology that sometimes distances us from ourselves. A lot of the paintings allow me to confront my deepest fears and desires, as a form of automatic thinking. I have let my imagination run riot as the series has progressed. The earliest paintings in the series were about my looking into the heart of darkness of contemporary history. As the series has progressed, I am looking up towards the light and the sky at new horizons.
 
The most recent paintings in Project 4 explore the magic of the night sky from a philosophical point of view. I have this idea that it is absolutely inevitable that our planet is one of millions brimming with life. Rather than being at the end of history and the end of art history, we are at the beginning. I see the Project as a personal voyage through the depths and heights of modernity, from genocide to the exploration of space. There is both tragedy and humour in this journey. I like the idea of an artistic career as a journey of discovery, not merely a process of creating goods. My motivation is not at all commercial. I often create unreasonably large or unreasonably small works.


LC: You were awarded a bursary from Sotheby’s in 1990, which is quite an honour! Can you tell us about the work you did there/ about your time there?

DBW: I was part of the bursary scheme, which involved spending months working in different departments. I worked in Old Master Paintings, British Paintings, Medieval Manuscripts and Impressionist and Modern Art. It is the greatest art school in the world where I was able to handle great works by many of the masters, and I learned a tremendous amount about the spiritual and technical possibilities of visual art. But, I also learned that an artist must be wary of producing art specifically for a market.

LC: You have done some incredible installations in both Hanover Square and Golders Hill Park. Where did this series of sculptures originate from and are the locations significant to them?

DBW: According to Genesis, Adam, the first man, was made of clay. The word Adam means earth. My sculptures are very inspired by this concept. I want to create primordial sculptures, images of mankind born from the ground. Outdoor spaces all over London act as vast canvases for installations of sculpture. For example, the lake in Golders Hill was perfect for Visitor, which is a literal island of humanity. I love the idea that a sculpture with a timeless or thought-provoking theme may create a moment of meditation in a public space during a busy day for passers-by in London. You don't have to go to a gallery or museum to see it.


LC: Project 4 will be exhibiting a large amount of canvases in a really great space and you have chosen the venues for the Project series quite carefully. What was it about The Vaults that made you choose them for the site of Project 4?

DBW: Every space I have chosen for the Project series seems to get developed or gentrified after the exhibition. The Vaults, which are in the very heart of London, a few dozen metres from the London Eye, are still wonderfully raw and cavernous for the time being. Such spaces are becoming rarer. The Vaults are also one of few places large enough to house the show. Even the museums’ exhibition spaces are smaller and don't have the rawness or atmosphere. I also like the idea that when you enter this space it is like entering the mind of another person. I also like the fact that the Vaults are through a door off the Leake Street Tunnel made famous by Banksy. It is a vast hidden space you would never guess is there.

LC: Your output of work on canvas has been immense and of the 70 or so pieces on display at this exhibition, can you tell us about one or two of your favourites?


DBW: The Secret - this shows a row of suburban houses floating into the sky.
 
All of our secrets spill out - everyone has hidden ideas and desires, secrets that are hidden. It can be the job of the artist to look for these.

LC: 2012 was a big year for you with the large installations in the London spaces – what are your plans for 2013?

DBW: The ultimate aim of the Project series is to find a permanent venue for them in or near London, as I think the public would be interested in engaging with these paintings, all of which ask questions; it's an ambitious plan. I am also working on a new sculptural project, a three-dimensional version of the Project series of paintings.

 

David Breuer-Weil's Project 4 will be on display at The Vaults from 7 February - 1 March 2013. More details here.

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