Belfast based sculptor Patrick Colhoun discusses his work and what drives him to create his dark art. Originally trained as a ceramicist Colhoun now incorporates black clay, hosiery, piercings, latex and metal spikes in his sculptures and installations. Contemporary and provocative Colhoun has a talent that is sure to create conversation…
Can you pinpoint the motivation to create sculptures?
My motivation to make sculpture came when I was unable to play rugby because of injury. I wanted to find something that gave me the same satisfaction that competitive sport gave me and it turned out surprisingly to be ceramics. I had always loved art as a child and I had done some lathe work with my father when I was a young boy so for some reason I was drawn initially to the potter’s wheel. After that I started hand-building sculptures. I have no formal art education. The wonderful thing is that it can go wherever I want it to, so I want to see how far I can take it.
Where do you draw your inspiration from?
My motivation is many and varied. My first exhibition coincided with redundancy after a twenty year career and I found it very therapeutic to make work around this very negative experience. I liked the reaction that I got to the darker work and started using ever darker subject matter. After that early work was influenced by subjects such as death, decay, containment and sexual deviancy. This became the total antithesis to my previous career and the subject matter gave me the opportunity to develop almost an alter ego. Later on, when my father passed away I tried to use my work in a therapeutic way to help me through this and inspiration came from this in several ways, mainly in the fact that I was determined to succeed but on my own terms, traits that he would relate to and approve of. Also much of my work is in the form of truncated heads and torsos. These started almost as a partial self portrait in terms of a downward looking, brooding, grieving head but developed to a degree to relate to the inability of men to express themselves properly and to find their voice. The introduction of materials such as latex, hosiery and piercings really started to add an edge to my work, to the point where the pierced heads won an award, the Signature Art Awards in London in 2011.
What are the main difficulties you experience while you are working and how do you cope with them?
I juggle constantly with the work in terms of trying to keep a signature to my work but without it getting too boring or repetitive. It is important that people recognize your work but there has to be a constant development to it also. The introduction of other materials such as red hosiery on the Pigskin piece keeps the work fresh and also introduces an element not generally associated with ceramics.
You work with a variety of materials in a multi-disciplinary fashion how do you manage working on sculptures, installations and commissions simultaneously?
The making process allows different pieces to be worked on simultaneously as the work is built as it goes through a drying process. Also a lot of the work is related in terms of content, so an installation may pull in several pieces of previously made work.
Other than ceramic what is you favored material?
I worked in wood a lot when I was younger as it was what my father did but nothing for me beats clay. It was my way of standing apart from him to a degree. I love the challenge of doing what I do in what is a very conservative, craft based ceramics market and doing it differently, to the point where it may actually cause slight offense in terms of subject matter and content. For me the edgier the better, but yet at the heart of it all for me there needs to be a level of skill and a quality in what I am doing.
Where can your work be viewed?
What advice would give to those with a creative passion who would like to promote their work?
In my opinion you cannot beat the satisfaction of making something with your hands and someone then likes that piece. I think if someone is that way inclined, just to keep making and to find their audience. It may take a bit of time, but if the quality is there, it will happen.
What can we expect to see from you in the future?
I have reached a point where I am evaluating where my work should go from here. I have had a lot of positives in the last year and I would like to build on those. I am looking to do more international exhibitions in the future and I will continue to strive to make unique work, to keep dividing opinion and to keep loving what I am doing.