Bradley Hart

Bradley Hart Interview - By Steven Cox

As part of HUNTED PROJECTS | In Dialogue New York, it is a pleasure to present this interview with Brooklyn based artist Bradley Hart.

HUNTED PROJECTS traveled to New York earlier this year to meet a selection of exciting and innovative artists based in Brooklyn. Whilst visiting SCOPE art fair, the work of Bradley Hart was discovered at the booth of Gallery Nine5. Hart's works explore the manipulation of bubblewrap, a material that is more so associated with the protection of artwork as opposed to being the base material for artworks. 

Hart's process based works are created in a series of varying processes, from injections to impressions, created waste to wasted paint and also assemblages. Throughout these processes, Hart ensures that there is no such thing as waste, everything is recycled, from the syringes, dried paints from old pots, to the discovered paint drippings from the studio floor.  All of the paints, whatever the colour, find their way back into Hart's work in some shape or form. 

A video of HUNTED PROJECTS visit to Bradley Hart's studio can be viewed here.

Can you tell HUNTED PROJECTS about yourself and creative background?

BH: I grew up always fascinated by taking things apart and rarely putting them back together in the same way, that’s if they ever were put back to together at all. While the objects exterior usually looked the same when reassembled, the missing parts I didn’t realize were necessary rendered the object unusable, at least for its intended purpose.  All those little parts fascinated much more than the molded patterns and structure inside of the injection molds.

My family’s’ business was designing and building restaurants, so I would regularly be at the family business where I would get to see and learn about designing and building in both the wood and metal shops. I remember I always had questions as a child, lots of questions. Eventually at age 11, my insatiable appetite for answers landed me in a private arts school where I was exposed to art in very traditional fashion.  It was there at Thornton Hall that I was forced to learn and replicate renaissance masters works in pencil and color for 4 hours a day, 5 days a week.  It was rigorous training and was definitely instrumental in shaping the work, and also the artist that I am today.

I am aware that prior to yourself investing over a year of research and development into your bubble wrap works you had a whole series of career paths.  Can you discuss how your past career experiences led you to eventually choosing to become a full time artist?

BH:  It’s true I dabbled in a few different businesses. Prior to recommitting myself fulltime to my art making practice back in late 2008, I had worked for a real estate marketing and leasing company I started shortly after completing my undergrad. I wouldn’t say I was on a series of different career paths but rather I was working to make the money or a system to make money so to be able to make my art fulltime. I have always considered myself a fulltime artist. I say this because I don’t believe if a person is truly an artist they can never stop being one.  They may stop making art, but will forever be an artist. At least that’s what I believe.

Lets discuss the challenges you faced whilst initially exploring bubble wrap as a material, for you had to face up to many materialistic issues early on in order to perfect your use of what is essentially quite a delicate plastic…

BH: There were quite a few challenges some of which I can discuss and others that I hold close to my chest as the answers are what enable me to be able to utilize the material in the way I do. The first and biggest challenge was obtaining a roll of bubble wrap big enough to accommodate the size of the injection pieces I wanted to create. A Standard roll of 1/16” bubble wrap comes in 12”, 24” and 48” rolls. I needed 8 feet and while I did find a solution for using 4-foot rolls, it was the 8-foot rolls that I eventually had custom made that worked much better and has also allowed me to make works as big as I want. The second challenge was stretching the bubble without destroying the bubbles native hexagonal grid yet still obtaining a perfect tautness. This becomes more difficult the bigger the sheet of bubble wrap.

What was it about bubble wrap that caught your attention?  And do you remember when exactly you began to manipulate this material within a studio context?

BH: The idea of utilizing bubble wrap came to me after a few experiences with overzealous security guards in a museum, and a leftover roll of bubble from my first solo show in new york in 2009. Originally I was looking at the roll of bubble wrap as the perfect material to discuss once again the cultural trope of whether someone should touch art or not.  Shortly after conceiving the idea I started researching the material and found its original function as wall covering. This newly found data incubated in my mind and my entire current studio systems structure was born. This is not to say that through the development and testing phases the system did not change but rather it got more and more refined.

You have referred to bubble wrap as the “quintessential dumb material”, for it is a material most commonly used for the protective wrapping of artwork, rather than being the inspirational basis and material of an artwork per se.  I am interested to hear more about the symbolic and metaphorical grounds that you aim to explore…

BH: During and since University I have been in search for what I call the quintessential dumb material. A material that echo’s our times and is common, simple, inexpensive, abundant and ubiquitous.  Something that on a material level is naturally imbued with lots of codification but can bear the weight of other codes on its back. Bubble Wrap is just that.  There are so many points of entry to discuss when viewing my work that range from the literal, symbolic and metaphorical and are not exclusive to the material but also the process itself. Often there are layers of tensions that exist in the work amongst these codes.  Not to spoil what is to come in the near future I will say from an exploration perspective that the world and the world and history of art are my oyster, a rich treasure chest of ideas and creations. For me the codes are like DNA in my work, although they exist in every work some are in the forefront in specific works and in others they recede in the background but are ever present and supply weight to the potential interpretation of the work.

There have been one or two past artists who explored bubble wrap in a similar manner, though can you tell me where exactly you succeeded in relation to where they failed?

BH: When I conceived of the idea of injecting bubble wrap I had no idea that anyone had ever tired to. It wasn’t until I had already done a few paintings that I came across one artist who did an injected bubble work.  While the work was admirable it wasn’t what I was doing.  I wouldn’t say that I succeeded and another person failed. I think that there is a universal consciousness, and ideas come into being for whoever can sense it.  These ideas can find their way into many different minds, all of who are interested in exploring the idea differently. When I learned of this persons work I quickly realized that it was not done for the same reasons I was doing it and they had done only one to date. It was not a new movement in their work or an entire conversation they were tying to begin so I felt okay about my work standing on its own as being original.  My work only begins with an injection, there is much more to the system that just that!

Your studio runs a bit like a factory, for you have assistants that assist you prepare every stage of the process.  Lets discuss the length of time it would realistically take you to do all the work alone, in comparison to how you have structured your studio today?

BH: When the injection series began it was only me. There were no assistants helping at all so this is an easy question to answer. The time it takes to complete a work does not change just the rate at which I can produce a work. When I started, I was alone loading, popping and injecting the bubbles. Now with an assistant that time gets cut almost in half.

To become an assistant of yours, it must involve a lot of training and individual tuition in order for him/her to gain the required and essential skills in order to fully function within your studio?

BH: Interestingly I find that my current processes and techniques tend to follow a similar learning/development path much like my own formal training that I rejected. Every person does undergo a training period where they learn the individual terms specific to my process, material and techniques. They are instructed on each nuance about the process and learn and understand at each step why they are doing what they are doing and how it will affect what they do in the next stage in the creation process.

Your works consist of bubble wrap injections, impressions and assemblages, all of which are generated around the use of bubble wrap and hundreds of syringes.  Can you expand on the differences between these processes?

BH: The entire process began with an injection. The Injection series is made from the constant and repetitive action of injecting paint into individual bubbles on a sheet of stretched bubble wrap. These injections produced an expected drip on the back of the bubble, that when peeled off is wasted paint. This Wasted Paint series is the second phase of the system and with the waste I assemble the pieces to create derivative works. Knowing the limited amount of waste (volumetrically at least) that an injection work would produce, and armed with the knowledge and desire to work on lager works, the Created Waste series was born.  Created Waste is the creation of waste in the absence of the injection process. The next phase in the system is natural progression of the created waste series and is called the Impression series. The impressions are the systematic build up of dripping paint from the injection process that is surgically removed from the back of the bubble wrap producing an impression of the injection work as well as the process it took to make it, all the while still procuring wasted paint to be utilized in a further wasted paint assemblage.

So you purposefully and consciously inject an additional amount of paint into the back of the bubbles in order to create the drips that build up to become the Wasted Paint series?  So I assume the total volume of required paint is strategically planned in advance?

BH: Without giving away any secrets the only thing I can say is yes I am aware of the volume of paint that is required to create each injection and injection painting and that there is a waste factor involved but in no way does this have anything to do with creation of waste; it’s something that is a completely natural occurrence of the injection and impression processes.

You recycle as much of your paint as possible, where drips are saved and even small droplets are removed from surfaces in order to be re-used within your wasted paint series.  The process reminds me of Bernard Frize’s Suite Segond works from 1980, where he recycled the base of paint pots to create ready-made assemblages.  When did you realize that your wasted paint could be reused to generate new works?

BH: I have been reusing what I have termed wasted paint for over a decade. The wasted paint series is a rebirth of an older series by the same name whereby I used to scrape the leftover acrylic paint off my pallet with a knife at the end of a painting session and place it on another canvas. The build up of all this waste was the birth of the series I called wasted paint. Upon imagining the process of sealing the injections points, I realized I would once again be producing wasted paint. It wasn’t until I peeled off the first dripping and seeing and feeling the perfect piece of refuse in my hand that I truly realized what I could do with this waste insofar as I could imagine what to do with it before.

The wasted paint series also gives you a more hands on approach to making work, for you can use your own intuition to apply areas of collected paint in a collage like manner.  Does this process give you as much satisfaction as the injection series, for the injection series results in the completion of an image? 

BH: Both series provide completely different types of satisfaction. I wouldn’t say one more than the other. The created waste and wasted paint series are created through an emotional response to what I see much like an action painter but for me it is more sculptural than painterly. It’s like going into a junkyard and creating from the found materials (one of my favorite things to do as a sculptor). In my case the junkyard is my collected waste. The injections cause an entirely different sense of satisfaction. Yes it is repetitive but the injection process itself its kind of addictive. With each bubble the image comes to life and it’s this anticipation that drives you. When the area you are working on comes into being the satisfaction grows and compounds as more and more of the image comes together.

You state that you are not a painter, primarily because you do not use conventional tools like brushes to apply wet paint. Though, paint is essential in order to generate your works.  Why do you think you are more of a sculptor than a painter?  Is this because of the collaging or applying of dried paint to a surface, as opposed to the handling of wet paint? 

BH: I think of myself as a visual artist, and yes more a sculptor than a painter although my earliest formal training was in 2d figurative work.  My injection portraits are me returning to my formal training but on my own terms. Typically approach my works from a conceptual POV and then work from there. The injection series begun by creating a bubble wrap sculpture as a conversation about the cultural trope whether one should touch art or not. The Assemblages that are created from Wasted Paint and Created Waste, both  bi-products of other processes, have more of a sculptural than painterly feeling to them when being viewed. That being said I am 100% conscious of utilizing formal elements normally attributed to a painting movement as well as sculptural and materialist codes. I hope that the viewer not only sees the work in one way or the other but rather as a tension between them, possible of providing multiple points of entry to discuss or enjoy the work.

Your recent solo exhibition at GalleryNine5 was titled What? Where? When? Why? How? What exactly are you referring to through this title?

BH: What? Where? When? Why? How? Refers to the story....and that is what I hope the works in the show do….tell the story of a process on a whole,  from the way the injections, impressions, created waste and wasted paint tell a story between themselves and about the processes that they underwent.   This combined with this small sampling of the questions everyone asks me about my work.  What inspired you to use bubble wrap? Where were you when you had the original idea to inject it? When did you do your first injection? Why did you choose this material or image? How do you do it?     

Bradley Hart

All images courtesy of Bradley Hart