Anthony Gerace lives and works in London. Collage, photographs, and typography are the three main elements in his work. He recently completed his thesis in graphic design, with a focus in studio and outdoor portraiture at OCADU in Toronto, Canada. I have had the privilege of interviewing Anthony. Below are a few questions images from two of his series; “There Must Be More to Life Than This” and “Fig. 1-99”. Each chromatic collages are pieced together from a one page of a vintage magazine from a time in his life.
“There Must Be More to Life Than This”
There Must Be More to Life Than This was begun in the summer of 2011, though it’s origins can be traced back to 2009 and a series of posters and album packages that were done during that time. What started as a sidestep from what was then an entirely figurative practice has become central to the abstraction which has governed my work during the last two years, and is an attempt to marry that abstraction with objective imagery and pre-defined moods. How much do you need to see of a person to understand them? And in the act of removal, does a melancholy emerge? Hands, faces, eyes, smiles, gestures, colour, grids and rigour. These elements form the core of this work.
Your work combines three elements; collage, photographs and typography. When did you first begin using these elements in process and by whom where you first inspired?
I began using them at different times and didn’t really figure out how to combine them until very, very recently. The way I began my practice was with collage, which led to poster design, which led to graphic design (I thought posters were the only thing that graphic design encompassed back then). That led to typography and later, photography. So that’s the short way of describing how I use everything, but I don’t know. It’s a hard question to answer: I find myself approaching most things as if I were making a collage, seeing it as composite pieces that combine to make a bigger whole, that will then reveal something to me. I think they’re all encoded in one another, for me.
I was lucky, throughout my time in Toronto, to have met a lot of people who were so committed to what they were doing that they strengthened my own commitment to my work, and made me realize that I could stand by it successfully. I was originally very inspired by the work of my friends, and that’s what made me start taking art seriously: there was a summer where I spent every single day at my friends’ studio, and seeing how they lived, and how their work was in everything they did, was really inspiring. I was always a big reader, and I made collages in high school, and before moving to Toronto I loved photography. But there was this long gestation period, where I didn’t read, didn’t make work, didn’t take photographs, just sat in my room getting fat and smoking, that I started coming out of when I started hanging out with Team Macho. Them (there were five of them at the time), plus my friends Andrew Wilson and Nicholas Di Genova, showed me that you could live to your ideals successfully. So those were the people who first inspired me. But I didn’t start using all of the things I knew, and began to work with again, relationally until I went back to school.
Tell me about your time at OCADU, why you chose to attend university there, your experiences, etc?
OCAD was amazing. I was just very, very lucky to have enrolled when I did, and interviewed by the people I was interviewed by: had everything not happened in a really specific way it would have been a terrible experience. But I was lucky enough to have my portfolio reviewed by two of the best teachers I’ve ever had—Lewis Nicholson and Jayson Zaleski—and they put in a request to have me skip the foundation year. This was really lucky because the people in my year were so inspiring and essential to my creative development. For whatever reason, the year I enrolled was the year that a larger-than-normal number of mature students also enrolled, so I was studying with people my own age (I was 25 when I began), all of whom, like me, had other degrees or who’d worked in different fields. So we were all very aware of how shitty it was not to be in school, and tried to make the most of our time. This manifested in spending almost every waking hour in the studio, and every hour outside of it with one another. I met some of my best friends through studying there, people who astounded me both with their kindness and with their intellect. I don’t think I’d be where I am now had it not been for that school or those people. I could describe my entire creative career through the people who inspired me, and I’m not ashamed to admit that. The friends who I came up with in Toronto, and those I met at OCAD, made my life better.
I chose to attend OCAD because I’d been friends with several graduates of both the art and design programs, people I’d known since getting my first job in Toronto in 2002, who were either living off their art or living for it, and inspiring me constantly. I also knew that I wanted to go back to school but that I didn’t want to move away from what I’d cultivated in Toronto, and my options were either York, Ryerson or OCAD. I’d done a degree at York originally, and the school and it’s politics and the people who went there really messed me up and made me hate what I was studying (English Literature). I’d attempted to get into the journalism program at Ryerson but I’d heard that it was an incredibly competitive school, and at the time that wasn’t something that appealed to me at all. So OCAD was it. I’m really glad of it, though, for the reasons mentioned above but also because going to OCAD was the first time I’d ever been forced to really think about what I was doing, and why. There were five or six teachers, including the ones mentioned above, that really made me question, day to day, what I really wanted and why I was doing certain things. It was because of going there that I got back into photography, and because I had someone as brutally hard to please as my thesis advisor that I discovered my love of portraiture. I feel like I’m still charged from the entire three-year experience. It changed me, made me care more and be more careful, it turned me into a workaholic and someone who can’t be satisfied by anything, especially if it’s something I produce. I can’t imagine ever having gone somewhere else.
Each piece in the Fig. 1-99 series has been made using the counterforms from a picture of a person. Or rather, from their portrait. Portraits shot on coloured backgrounds and used for magazine covers become abstract formal experiments intending to hint slightly at what’s missing in the image: the loss of the person, carefully taken out of context, as that context folds in on itself. In some it’s more obvious: as many times as the counterforms are all straight lines and edges, there’s sometimes be a trace of hair, the outline of a hand, the curve of a back. The importance of people living in the work made obvious through their absence.
Where are you currently working in London?
Right now I’m freelancing. I actually just got offered a semi-permanent freelance position at a studio in Fitzrovia yesterday, so I’ll be starting there in January. Up until the last week or so I’d been feeling as though coming to London was (financially) a mistake. I haven’t had consistent work since I got here, and I’ve been struggling to find the energy to produce stuff. But I can feel that things are starting to change. Knock on wood, but I’m very hopeful.
Where will the future take you?
Who knows! At the beginning of November myself and four other people got a studio in Dalston, so I’m almost back to shooting portraits regularly, which is a relief. I’ve been working on a series of collages that are attempting to bridge the gap between the more figure-based stuff of the last few months with the abstraction I’d been working with before that. I’m trying to find a way to shoehorn my art practice into something more commercial, but still mine. I’m looking for someone to publish Fig. 1-99. I’m planning on doing a collage a day in 2013, and photographing as many people and places as I can. If I can find someone to give me money to do those things, my day’ll be made. I don’t know, for me the future always seems bright: I love making work, I love meeting people… whatever tomorrow brings is sure to be exciting.
You can view more of Anthony’s work on his website.