Profile: Alex Chinneck


Sculptor Alex Chinneck, he of the melting house and the upturned pylon fame, tells us that he is planning to take his talents on tour to India, China and the USA.


FX

Words by Emily Martin

It was my first time meeting Alex Chinneck, a comparatively recent newcomer to commercial success. A British sculptor, he is best known for producing work that often takes on unique architectural and structural elements within urban spaces, which are typically large scale. Take for example his recent, compelling, public artwork.

A Bullet from a Shooting Star, sited at the Greenwich Peninsula in London during the London Design Festival. Star sees a 35m-tall structure resembling an upside-down electricity pylon, taking on the appearance of being fired into the ground.

A Bullet from a Shooting Star, on land in the Greenwich Peninsula for London Design Week
A Bullet from a Shooting Star, on land in the Greenwich Peninsula for London Design Week

His work captures the public's applause, appealing somewhat comparably to a rebellious street artist, such as Banksy, seemingly popping up overnight to grab the attention and admiration of many. At his home in London's East End, on one sunny December morning, I talk to him about blurring the lines between the contrasting worlds of art and architecture, knowing this is a snapshot of a much bigger story. This young artist, in his early 30s, is still in the making.

Arriving at his home, which he shares with his partner, their daughter and dog, I am warmly greeted at the door and tea follows quickly.

'Please excuse the mess, but we had a flood here just after we moved in,' says Chinneck of the family's move to the Forest Gate area four months previously, from neighbouring Hackney.

Telling the Truth through False Teeth, a building with identically broken windows
Telling the Truth through False Teeth, a building with identically broken windows

Chinneck's home office overlooks the garden and planned (new) workshop space. 'I'm going back to using a laptop,' he says while showing me some project photos on his iMac. 'I'm also workshop-less at the moment, which actually is great. It's nice to be as free as you possibly can be. I think if you have too much of a base, or workshop, or studio, it creates perimeters around the possibilities -- and your creative freedom.'

Currently, Chinneck has no timescale for setting up his new workshop (it was previously at his old house) and is, instead, branching out. Scheduling a trip to India for two months, he intends to develop 'relationships and projects', during his time there. Later in the year, he plans to travel to the USA and China, to do the same. Until now, he has been predominantly London-focused with the majority of his work located around the city, as he calls it 'earning' his craft close to home with his increasingly complex and challenging projects. Nevertheless, he says his move to uproot himself and work outside of the UK is part of an 'expansion of artillery of influences'.

Telling the Truth through False Teeth, a building with identically broken windows
Telling the Truth through False Teeth, a building with identically broken windows

'I guess [it is] to broaden my realm of experiences, whether architectural of sculptural,' he says. 'It's a business plan as well, but it's not about making money; it's about making work. But one facilitates the other, especially when I'm dealing with the size and complexity of what I do.'

While about to turn to a new chapter, it's not the first time the sculptor has pushed down the boundaries to enable creative freedom. Chinneck, once a student at the Chelsea College of Art, says that he was suffocated by the pressure of conforming to the label 'an artist' during his university days. It wasn't until he left and worked on the concept for 'Telling the Truth through False Teeth', (a building fitted with identically cut glass panes to mimic repeated smashed windows) some years later that he started to find his unique creative place, somewhere between form and function.

Alex Chinneck stands in front of his work From the knees of my nose to the belly of my toes, a slipped-down facade of a house in Margate
Alex Chinneck stands in front of his work From the knees of my nose to the belly of my toes, a slipped-down facade of a house in Margate

Chinneck says: 'Art, particularly sculpture, is the re-imagination of the physical world around us and the materials in it. So, for me, it feels very natural and logical to experiment with structure that surrounds us, especially in an urban environment...I feel I have more creative mileage to offer, something unique and engaging through this art.'

And passionate about it he is too. Chinneck works in site-specific locations to 'sculpturally explore, distort and elevate' the surrounding environment. With his projects so well engineered and technically challenging, how does he resist moving into architecture, keeping them separate?

'All environments have an architectural language. I kind of stumbled into the area, a hybrid of art and architecture,' Chinneck says. 'There is a temptation to start creating buildings, but I think the architecture community would take so badly to it. There is a fine line between humour and theatricality, warmth and silliness. I think I walk very closely to that line.'





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