Q & A: Chris Cornish

Above: Chris Cornish, Infinity Cove, 2008
What’s your background - how did you get where you are?

I am 28, born and grew up in the UK. I studied painting at art school and then went onto to complete an MFA, specialising in media. During the last year of my painting course I started to use computer game modifications to either design or create artworks. Buying a game for £30 seemed like a very efficient way to learn 3D.

Alongside my art career I worked for 5 years at a leading 3D and VR company based in the UK where I specialised in 3D scanning and 3D printing. I am now a full time artist and have an honorary research position at the Slade School of Fine Art ‘RP Project’ - essentially looking at the relationship of art and 3D technology as the latter becomes more pertinent.

What would you say are the themes of your work?

The questions every artist dreads! I guess on a basic level death, war and art (it sounds oh so grand), but these themes are wrapped up in layers of reference, questions and illusion. As my practise develops I am building up a visual vocabulary which is very dependant on computer generated imagery - computer games, 3D software, digital worlds. I am also openly exploring the medium and tools with which I work - I am very interested in what happens when an illusionary process that is supposed to be hidden is exposed.

Can you tell me a bit more about how you came to create the Infinity photographs?

The Infinity series of photographs depict empty photographic or film studios. I wanted to create images that are architectural, painterly, abstract but realistic. And of course they also pay homage to the medium and the tool, the act of photography and film. I like the fact that the subject can be nothing and everything at the same time.

Where do you get your inspiration from?

I try to draw on a wide source of inspiration - architecture, novels, music, film. If I had to name an artist it would probably be Francis Bacon. Or maybe Andy Warhol; his work is far more conceptually complex than the surface would suggest.

Which of your works has had the best reception/most interest?

The film 'Tate Modern’. It was the second film I made and was the first to fully utilise CG elements - it was the result of a lot of personal research and development in 3D software and techniques. I think the subject matter is both romantic and poignant with a little bit of sci-fi thrown in for good measure and is therefore something that a lot of people can relate to.

You work with 3d printing and modelling - is using these tools an important part of your artistic practice - put simply, do you enjoy using them or are they just a means to an end?

Process is very important to me - I enjoy making art work, learning new techniques and using new technologies (whether this is cutting edge 3D stuff or traditional techniques which are new to me). When I stop enjoying the process, or I stop learning, I will stop making art.

I still find the works which utilise 3D Print technology (the 'stage’ and 'crater’ series) conceptually problematic. By this I mean that I am unsure whether they are a strange fusion of sculpture and manufacture that produce what could be thought of as a 3D photograph and therefore successful; or alternatively they could just be little 3D models, not very far away from model railways etc. and therefore a failure. I think this is something I need to re visit in the future.

More recently I have been using CNC machines to help create larger scale objects from 3D models in which I think process and concept sit more comfortably with each other.

From an insider’s perspective, is the CG industry a creative industry to work in?

I spend most of my time trying very hard not to be 'bound by the tool’. In other words although I love it, I sometimes wish I did not know the ins and outs of the software. When I work with people from other disciplines it can be very refreshing to hear their ideas / demands - they do not know what can and can’t be done and so their ideas are not formulated to compensate for this and can often lead to more creative work. It took me a long time to learn not to do something just because I can. In fact I think I am still learning that.
Even so I think the tools available to the CG industry are second to none and when used in the right way can be creative, clever and awe-inspiring.

Do you feel part of a community or movement within art?

Not really. I would even go so far as to say I purposely try not be too aware of what other people are doing and concentrate on my own practise. I guess the old cliché of the computer nerd locked up in his bedroom still plays out, even in the trendy art world…