Interview #21: Forties (2021)
Forties is a macro photographer specialising in abstract oil and water photography. Although an introvert at heart, he has recently started to embrace his more playful side by experimenting with colour. Also a musician, the structures and juxtaposition of textures in his images produces a rhythm and melody that the eye can dance to. As with instrumental music, his pictures are incredibly evocative and stimulating to the viewer’s imagination.
Here’s our interview with him.
PR／Please tell us about yourself and your background.
F／I’m based in the UK, and I’ve played around with photography for the last 15 years, landscapes etc. (very rarely photos of people though), but it was only during lockdown that I’ve focussed on creating abstract images regularly. I’m very much an introvert, so this situation has actually suited me quite well. I’ve tried to use the last year in productive ways by concentrating on art and music.
For various reasons, I think I’ve spent a lot of my adult life not expressing myself using “colour” — whether that’s wearing dark clothes, or listening to music that has sombre overtones. Recently I’ve felt freer to embrace a more playful side, so my pictures are a continuation of that process.
PR／What is your attraction to abstract photography?
F／For me abstract art just grabs me — it’s immediate. Either I like it or I don’t, in that initial instant. I love the juxtaposition of textures that hints at the reality and grime of real life — the rough against the smooth. In a similar way to instrumental music, abstract art has that universal quality to it.
I also love that once this art is done, it’s done. It’s not a performance that is repeated, it’s the creation of something that then stands alone. Especially in pieces such as flaking paint, bubbles, or frost patterns that may not exist in the next moment. Capturing that feels “important” in a way I can’t quite explain.
PR／Who and what are your influences and inspirations?
F／I’m interested in ideas, so like playing around with a number of variables to see what emerges — something that leads me in a direction I’ve not considered before. Different types of oil produce different effects in water, for example.
I’m so inspired by the community on Instagram around abstract artwork — I love how pieces just take my breath away when I see them. It makes me want to create more.
PR／What is your creation process and what role does editing play in your work?
F／All my pictures start life as a series of photos of a clear bowl of water, oils, washing up liquid, and various light sources. I love the variety of ideas that come from the same starting position. I will take a series of pictures, then spend the next few days manipulating them. Editing plays a large part in the finished results — duplicating and layering images, adding effects — I view it very much as art, not pure photography, so that frees me to experiment as I see fit.
I don’t tend to give my pictures titles — (they do have working titles so I can save them) but I don’t tend to label them when I post to Instagram. I find it fascinating what other people see in them, so wouldn’t want to influence that.
PR／Your images are very evocative. Do you create with a specific idea in mind?
F／Not really. At times, a picture can be made up of a single raw photo only, then at other times, it bears no resemblance to the original image(s) used in the process.
I will start by layering and rotating a couple of images together, and if I feel myself being drawn to a particular texture that has been produced, or a series of shapes, then I’ll try and enhance those elements, or bring in others to try and complement them. Sometimes these trails go cold and the whole piece ends up being scrapped, but those original photos may be used as part of another image later on.
PR／How did you choose the images for this feature?
F／I seem to be attracted to a great deal of colour now, so a lot of my pictures feel like a celebration of that. Whether that’s a single bold colour, or all the colours I can possibly find!
I try to upload two images a day (3 on a Sunday), so I get through a lot, but these particular images still grab me when I see them now.
I don’t know what it is, it could be the sharpness of the outlines, or the vibrancy of the colours, or a combination I’ve not seen before in my work?
PR／What is the relationship between your art and your music?
F／Originally I created artwork purely as cover art for my music, but I started getting a better reaction to the artwork than I did to the music! So I’ve concentrated more on creating images recently to explore that direction.
In both though, I do like to see where an initial decision will take me, to explore different structures, colours and textures — to varying degrees of success, and don’t want to just produce a single type of image or tune — I like having the freedom to explore.
I sometimes listen to my music whilst I create pictures — it feels like it’s using a separate, but complementary part of my brain, and so doesn’t get in the way of the visual creative process.
PR／How do you want to develop your art in the future?
F／I’m not sure. I’m very much enjoying this process now, being inspired by others’ creations, looking for new ways to interpret the basic building blocks. As this is purely a hobby at the moment, there’s no pressure (financial, contractual, etc) on myself to do more, other than the pressure I put on myself — so for now I’m content on exploring where this will lead.
Forties is a macro photographer specialising in abstract oil and water photography.
Although an introvert at heart, he has recently started to embrace his more playful side by experimenting with colour. Also a musician, the structures and juxtaposition of textures in his images produces a rhythm and melody that the eye can dance to. As with instrumental music, his pictures are incredibly evocative and stimulating to the viewer’s imagination.
Interview by Paul Rowland.