Interview with Miles Aldridge

We caught up with Miles Aldridge at his studio ahead of his preview of a new set of prints New Utopias 2018 at The London Original Print Art Fair ahead of their presentation at Art Basel in June.

Portrait Miles Aldridge photo by Megan Jordan
Portrait Miles Aldridge photo by Megan Jordan

Who are you showing with and what?
I’m showing with Spanish publisher and print maker Polígrafa Obra Gràfica. I met Polígrafa’s Director Joan de Muga about this time last year and he had seen and loved my work and said to me “Let’s do a series together”.

We did this project together in collaboration with Harland Miller. It’s a series of prints, five screen prints in all, which we took to Miami Basel 2017

I typically work in photography, or at least I did. I’ll shoot on colour negative, scan the images, then we work on them in Photoshop and then we print onto a conventional C-Type print. We use the same kind of technique/process as Gursky; we basically start in analogue and end in analogue, with digital in the middle.

But when I was offered the opportunity to do a project with Polígrafa I was really curious and excited about what we could do. I was interested in doing a bigger project and I wanted to do a project with screen prints, and this is what I proposed to Polígrafa.

I’d already worked with Lindsey Ingram on some paper projects working with different forms of print and I felt ready to now work on a more challenging, interesting, bigger project with screen printing, and we chose to create these screen prints which where extraordinarily difficult to produce.

They were inspired by a Rauschenburg print that I’d seen at the British Musrum last summer. Rauschenberg had printed the face of JFK, but he had printed with a very intense dot screen printed from CMYK. Basically, he had taken the CYMK process (which is used to print nearly all magazines) and had used it within the hand process of screen printing.

So I thought there was some millage in that, and I spoke with Mark at K2 screen printers and we started to do some tests to see how true, very bold CYMK dots could be made to look like human flesh. Like the blending of these dots, how do you actually do it?

Circling The Small Ads (after Miller) 2017
Circling The Small Ads (after Miller) 2017 (Harland Miller series)

In the end, the project was so successful because when you look at the print from a short distance it looks like a traditional photo print but when you come up close it all breaks down into dots, and to emphasise this feeling you get I printed one area in each print with a flat colour. So in this print, I printed the carpet with that flat colour; it has a very different kind of effect and it really lends itself to this project because it was very much about high art and low art.

I wanted the prints to look like pin ups. I wanted them to seem like they have been printed like postcards, magazines; mass produced. But of course, rather like the Rauschenberg, they were very, very slow to produce to a very high quality.

What I found very exciting, what was very exciting to me, was to be looking at an image, one of my images, that didn’t have a photographic surface for a change. That was really exciting.

So instead of looking at a photograph and thinking you are part of the history of Avedon and Newton, you are now looking at a screen print and you are part of the history of Warhol, Lichtenstein and these great guys. There’s a whole different world because of the difference of paper texture – or the dot, and that was really liberating. So I decided to do it again with Polígrafa when they invited me to do it again.

This project, the Harland Millar project, was presented at Art Basel Miami 2017 and they said let’s do another project for Art Basel 2018 in June, and that’s what we have done. We are previewing this project at the London Original Print Fair at the Royal Academy now. Then we are going to do it again one more time for Art Basel Miami 2018 in December. Three hits of Art Basel.

The Harland Miller presentation at Basel Miami was extraordinarily successful. We sold out of everything in two days, and it was great for me to have these images up there in this great art fair.

How did you come to collaborate with Harland Millar on the original screen print series?
Harland had a show at the White Cube. His work is typically paintings of giant paperback books and I went to the exhibition and I asked myself the question “What can I do with these giant paintings as a form of homage, appropriation, conversation”? And also what can I do to interact with them, because I love them, and the idea kind of hit me; turn these giant paintings of books back into books, and then get one of your protagonists to work with them.

I asked Harland’s permission to do it, and he said,

“Yeah man, just do it”

So, what happened is I made each of his paintings into a physical 3D book. I commissioned someone to do a spine and a back, with Harland’s picture on the front. So now we had an actual book we could actually work with, and from Harland’s original painting of the book cover I was able to create a palate for the image. Then I shot the image, and we turned that image into a screen print and we did this with five of Harland’s book cover paintings.

And what you are previewing at The London Original Print Fair and showing at Art Basel is a continuation of this body of work?

Miles Aldridge New Utopias #1 2018
New Utopias #1 2018

Yes, it’s a continuation; very much a development from the Harland series. They are in every way I think bigger, better, bolder. I am very excited about the set. They are again created using that CYMK process I mentioned, but then we use three more screens, special, black and silver. In each print there is an appliance that is printed in silver ink.

When you look at these prints you know there is something weird about them but you can’t figure out what. Straight away you have to look.

I produced a picture for Anna Wintour. It was of a baby with its mother, and the mother was feeding the baby French fries with ketchup and Anna said, “There’s something weird about this picture what is it?”, and she printed it and it created this huge issue, with people writing in to the magazine complaining about this image

I like that as a guiding principle. I want to create images that are subversive, but you don’t know why.

See the art prints at London Original Print Fair until — 7th May 2017 and at Art Basel, Basel in June both with Polígrafa Obra Gràfic www.artbasel.com

About
Miles Aldridge was born in London in 1964. His first experience of photography was at the age of five sitting for Lord Snowden for a portrait with his father Alan Aldridge. At seventeen he played in the band The X-Men, signed to the cult record label Creation. In 1987, he received a B.A. from Central Saint Martins, where he studied graphic design and illustration. After graduating Miles worked briefly as an illustrator and a video director before finding his way to photography. His photographs have appeared in gallery and museum exhibitions worldwide as well as many international publications such as The New York Times, Vogue Italia, TIME and Numéro. There are several books devoted to his work such as I Only Want You to Love Me (2013) and Please return Polaroid (2016). In 2013 Somerset House presented a major retrospective featuring over 100 works including large scale prints, polaroids and drawings. He is best known for vividly coloured yet unsettling images that combine glamour, cinematic narrative, Hollywood lighting and meticulous attention to detail. In 2014 he was invited by Tate Britain to create a photographic installation as a response to Mark Gertler’s 1916 painting, Merrygo-Round. He has recently created a new series of work titled (after Cattelan) which was the result of an invitation by the artist Maurizio Cattelan to respond photographically to six of his most famous sculptures. This series was launched at Photo London this year. His work is in the permanent collections of the V&A Museum, London, The National Portrait Gallery, London and The International Centre of Photography, New York City. www.milesaldridge.com

About Mark Westall

Mark Westall is the Founder and Editor of FAD magazine, ' A curation of the world’s most interesting culture' [PLUS] Art of Conversation: A tri-annual 'no news paper' AofC - Issue 1 Autumn 2018