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Inspired by magic, spirituality, and psychedelia, Altjmejd is known for juxtaposing the real with the absurd. Faces are carved out and filled with crystals or cantaloupe. Whitewall checked in with the artist about the new body of work on view through May 18, 2019.
WHITEWALLER: Included in the show at White Cube in Hong Kong are new “head” and “bust” sculptures. What’s usually the starting point for you for this series?
DAVID ALTMEJD: The starting point is usually a remnant of the last body of work I did. It can either be a specific idea that I didn’t get a chance to explore, or an individual piece that was left astray in the studio. For the White Cube show, it’s one individual “bust” sculpture that was the starting point for this new series. I identified two specific characteristics of that bust and let them become two thematic branches.
WW: The busts juxtapose hyper realism with the absurd—a face filled with a cantaloupe or a cavern of crystals. What kind of feeling are you hoping to evoke in the viewer by this?
DA: Some attraction, some repulsion, but mostly a feeling of wonder, of being mesmerized by something weird.
WW: What attracts you to recurring materials we see in your work like fur, crystals, and fruit?
DA: The unexpected use of certain materials makes the process more exciting. Having the feeling that some materials or references are awkward can be a good thing. But it’s mostly the contrast between materials that I find interesting. Fake vs. real, organic vs. mineral, seductive vs. repulsive. These contrasts produce tensions, and the tensions produce energy. When energy flows through a sculpture, it becomes alive, independent, and ready to be shown.
WW: Science, science fiction, and magic are named as references in your practice. Are there specific inspirations you could share for this new body of work?
DA: Magic, spirituality, psychedelia.
WW: This is your first solo show in Asia. Of what significance is that for you?
DA: Different contexts always bring out different aspects of the work. For example, in America, my work is very much about its energy and how it exists physically. In France, the same work will bring all its symbolism to the surface and connect with history. I’m not sure what the Asian context will wake up in my work but I’m really excited to figure it out. I have a feeling that there is a deeper spiritual aspect in my work that is about to awaken. Maybe this will be the moment.
WW: What are you looking forward to seeing and doing in Hong Kong this week?
DA: Enjoying getting lost.