Sam Porritt is a an interdisciplinary artist whose work in drawing, sculpture, text and the moving image is largely concerned with human agency and its associated ethical implications. Porritt is a British artist based in Zurich, Switzerland.
VITRINE interviewed the artist in February 2022 about recent developments in his practice.
VITRINE: What are your sources of inspiration when creating a new work or body of work?
Sam Porritt: Sometimes it’s a glimpse of something in the corner of one’s mind’s eye that provides the impetus for a work, a feeling that poking around in a particular corner might turn up something unfamiliar. I allow myself freedom to wander and to make things on a whim but then try as far as possible to level a cold and critical eye on what results. It can be useful to set off in an entirely new direction, though inevitably the limits of my skill and intellect provide the role of the invisible sculptor shaping the work.
Being an artist affords me the time to think about lots of things and it is through art that I engage with the world, it is both my pretext and postscript. The questions I ask through art are the same as those questions that most people ask of our time here. What the work is really about only comes into view in hindsight, when it is arranged together. The spaces between works are just as revealing of my obsessions as the works themselves.
V: Your practice includes making works on paper as well as sculptures. How do the two mediums overlap and inform each other, or do you view them as separate?
SP: As a rule no material or medium is off the table, working in two or three dimensions is all part of navigating a path through the present. Often it’s the case that making works on a similar subject using different mediums helps me to understand what’s important.
That said, drawing and sculpture do obey different logics, there’s a continuity to drawing. The fact of one drawing following on from another means that over the course of many drawings you find yourself in completely unforeseen territory. In comparison, the deliberate decision-making process of sculpture provides for a reorientation of outlook with each new work, which I find exciting.
V: When viewed in person, one recognises the rich layers of colour and form in many of your works in crayon and ink on paper. How do you conceive these in comparison to your black and white ink drawings?
SP: I'll add things to a work until the additions start to detract from the thing being added to. Common to most of my work is that I try to do the least necessary, as the intention is to make something that gives back more than I have put in. There’s an economy to the ink drawings that I’m always trying to sharpen. I do this by asking what the simplest way of indicating a protagonist is, a direction or an intent? For some other drawings, it‘s the spacial and emotive possibilities of colour that I’m trying to harness. Here the question is whether it’s possible to trap a viewer in an image - to make an image that is in some way addictive to look at.
V: Your more recent works have touched on themes of protection and vulnerability, attack and retreat. Can you tell us more about this body of work?
SP: This is evident in the group of works that is currently on show at Saint–Martin Bookshop in Brussels and some other works that I was making here in Switzerland during the lockdown. Some years ago, I made a drawing (Over the Undergrowth) that had a repeated horn/thorn motif running through it. This drawing helped me think about how notions, such as protection and vulnerability, can be understood as two sides of the same coin. The lockdown drawings are reminiscent of interlocking plates of armour, the eye seeking entry to what’s behind through the fissures where the plates meet only for it to be denied. The process of looking is here turned into one of searching for vulnerabilities.
There is a sculpture in the exhibition that I repeated in different scales and materials. It depicts two blocky shark fins chasing each other on a revolving blocky disc, no attempt has been made to conceal the motor driving the works movement. The work is called ‘Circling Sharks’ and they do so endlessly. It’s a simple work, almost a glyph, but what interested me is how by making the fins unreasonably thick, the same thickness as the base on which they sit, they become unfamiliar, leaden, dulled – it argues against what we know of circling sharks but much more besides.
V: When creating solo exhibitions, you often select earlier works to sit in dialogue with new work. How do you see these elements overlap and these juxtapositions evolve with your practice?
SP: I find it interesting to bring all the work with me. Many of the things, I make are quite open and so may be viewed differently in different contexts and at different times.
V: You have just completed your second artist book. Can you tell us about this project?
SP: The book is called 'Trespassing Under the Surface of Things' and It’s a reader for the exhibition in Brussels. It contains some newly commissioned poems and texts as well as images of the works in the exhibition. I had wanted to produce a publication alongside the exhibition partly because of the show being in an antiquarian art bookshop. The kind of books they specialise in are all small acts of care and hope and collectively form a history of the subject I love, I suppose I had wanted to pay tribute to this. It is small edition of 200 and was designed by a friend of mine, Philippe Desarzens to be a pocket book reminiscent of something like a Penguin Classic. I am happy with how it came out, it was really nice to be able to to ruminate on and memorialise this body of work.
Trespassing, Under the surface of things
Self published on the occasion of Know Your Wake, an exhibition of recent works by Sam Porritt at Saint-Martin Bookshop, Brussels, BE
66 pages, Black & white and colour.
Designed by Philippe Desarzens.
Drawings and introduction by Sam Porritt.
Two commissioned texts by Adam Jasper and Alexandre Cottier.
New poetry by Betsy Porritt and Sam Weselowski.
€19 + P&P
To purchase the book, for sales inquiries and more information about this artist, please email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Lead image: The artist installing work at Saint-Martin Bookshop, February 2022.
The works above are on display at Saint-Martin Bookshop until March 5, 2022.