Dylan Wallace is a third-year Undergraduate at Brighton University, studying 3D Design and Craft. Wallace makes sculptures out of ceramics and metal and in his words ‘that is it in a nutshell.’ We met at the Longhouse Café, Brighton to speak about the relationship between art and science in his work, finding his feet as an art student in Brighton and the late Stephen Hawking.
Where do you find inspiration?
I didn’t study art until I was eighteen years old. A lot of my inspiration comes from the fact I studied Maths Physics, D.T., and Biology at A level. The more I have matured as an artist, I am finding that science and mathematical ideas inspire my art because I feel comfortable working with those concepts. That is my main source of inspiration. Not many people have that understanding and background as an artist. To me, both the arts and sciences are as important as each other. Art is just as important as science. Apart from that, I find inspiration at exhibitions.
Does your science and maths background influence the forms you are more attracted to in your works?
Yes, it definitely has an influence! When I think of the forms I create I refer back to theories and concepts from science. That may sound restricting, but I find it quite freeing. It almost like following an equation. In my most recent project, based on two stars orbiting each other, I can use an equation to work out how heavy these stars have to be. It takes out an element out of my mind that I don’t have to consider. Quite a lot of the time I find it easy to get overwhelmed with so many options and ideas. Then you get stifled. I do a process of elimination. I tick off things. It becomes formulaic. Why did I choose to make a Spherical vessel for my most recent project? Because a star or planet is spherical! But then I question why? I think, why is it actually Spherical? There is always an answer in Science. I did some research. Gravity acts uniformly in all directions and it makes a sphere. You cannot argue with that. That’s why I chose a sphere. I have that backing. I have the confidence in what I’m doing. I don’t feel that way. Maybe the form is most important. Once the form is justified I feel confident and feel free with the rest of the works. Like glazing, there is no forensic reasoning for why I chose those colours. I could probable tenuously link it to some kind of space thing but there it’s not true it’s just I like those colours. I feel happier to then be expressive in the second part. I need to have a balance.
What is your experience of the art scene in Brighton?
I think the scene in Brighton is really cool. It’s an encouraging community. People always want you to have a go when people find out you are an artist, or you are making there is never a negative reaction. It’s always enterprising. That part is really good. At the same time, it is quite saturated. There is a lot of people here in similar fields. Unless you are shocking, it is easy to get lost in the crowd. I haven’t found it yet myself, but I can see it. Especially if you get lost in the Brighton bubble, where people have the same way of thinking. It’s quite easy to get lost in Brighton. Because I am from Wales and born in Chile, I notice it. However, in Wales people don’t understand ceramics. Art isn’t encouraged in the rest of the UK. People question when I say I want to sell pots for a living. In Brighton, it’s accepted. The rest of the U.K don’t accept it. In Brighton, it’s celebrated and considered a valid way to make money. I think it really cool. It’s good to be around when you’re learning. It’s installed in you. You don’t have to defend your art degree. It becomes formulaic I’ll just get really good at it. At the end of the degree, I’ll be able to sell my pots.
I think there’s a misconception that there is magic behind being an artist. There is a lot of hard work. You’ve got to do it until you get bored. This leads me to learn something new. When I’m comfortable I need to move on to something else. That’s why I argue it’s not the most creative. Everyone does things differently. There are a million different way to throw on the wheel. Everyone’s individual.
In the age of technology, how do you include digital media in your work?
I think it is great how it has become so accessible to show your work to other people. You don’t even need to employ people to create a website. It’s all free and it’s all easy. There is no excuse to not show your work. It’s all out there. I think there is too much connotation about social media that people only do it for narcissistic reasons I think there is a genuine curiosity for what others are saying, drawing, making. The generation above assume we are all doing this to get likes. Since doing social media myself, it is interesting to see what people like and don’t like. Out of my own curiosity, it is invaluable to know what people honestly think of my work. It’s so cool to know what people think of my work from other sides of the world. I less so use it in my work. The reason I do what I do I value understanding what material will do tacitly with my hands. In design and technology, there’s a disconnect between design and the actual making. I want to do both not one or the other. On industrial boards, it’s less about making, it more about mass manufacturing. You lose intimacy with the material. There are so many things that happen by accident. All the small moments that happen by accident in my work. I was making a glaze and I put ten times as much of a colour agency into my colour mixing. I got my calculations wrong. But I kept it anyway, sued it something and it looked great. If I hand made that mistake, I wouldn’t have that result. You have a direct relationship with what you’re doing. It becomes more like you. When I first started my degree, I was running around like a headless chicken, just trying not to get in people’s way. In my second year, I started to feel more confident and you start to know what you’re doing. All these things start to happen and it’s exciting.
Does a project completely take over your life?
Yes, for sure at the end of the project. At the start, it’s fantasy land and then at the end, you actually have to do it. And in my course, there are so many different materials and so many processes to learn and chose and master. You never really think of all the stages you have to do. There are so many bits behind the scenes you can get sucked into. Any shortcut you take shows in the final project. That’s why you have to do everything well and that’s why it becomes obsessive. It’s worth it. It’s horribly stressful. It’s vitally important to have an outlet. You’ve got to go nuts outside otherwise you go crazy inside. That’s why I mountain bike and skate. Traditionally, art and culture is metropolitan which is cool but you need the balance of country otherwise you go mad.
Tell me about your most recent project Hawking.
It wasn’t always the plan [to dedicate the project to Hawking.] The project is in partnership with a shop. It is meant to be part of a range. I have the main piece, a hanging mobile, but I also have smaller bowls and samples and smaller pieces.
Was that site-specific?
Yes, the project was called ‘market.’ All of us on my course went on a research trip. I was designing products for a shop of my choice. We went to London for a day to visit three shops, SEP, in Shoreditch, Mint and the Conran Shop. We had to have a specific target market. I had originally chosen Mint, in Knightsbridge, because they are quite high-end furniture/ interior shop. All their products have an experimental nature. They are quite keen to get young people into their shop. As part of the project, one of the tutors got in touch with SEP and they came to look at our work, so I also had to bare that in mind. There is always the chance he might like your work and put in the shop. He didn’t but one of my course mates is in correspondence.
How did you choose the title?
After this research, I realised I had to name it. I’ve never named stuff before because I just don’t know what to call it. I used to be really fascinated by the minimalist art movement and everything was untitled. So, I would title work Untitled. It’s easier. There are no connotations. A few weeks before the submission of the project sadly Stephen Hawking passed away. I was upset and then I realised I’m doing a space project I can dedicate my project to him. He’s an important scientist that changed the world. I thought I could dedicate my largest hanging piece to Hawking as a tribute. It feels appropriate. I named the range the cosmic range. To start with it all sounded tacky… Cosmic, Interstellar. Then I thought, I’ll name each of the projects after my favourite scientists. I named an apple sculpture in the cradle Newton, another was Einstein. It was a last-minute piece that unfortunately came from the passing away of Hawking, but I am now more open to naming my works. But let it happens when it happens. Less formulaic for the naming and more elusive.
What are your plans for the future? I want to make my money off from being a ceramicist. My near future is to finish the degree. My aim to get a first. We will have a degree show and a design convention in London. That’s the near future. Anything that happens after that is dependent on people wanting me to make things for them. Looking for studio spaces and work placements with ceramicists. I want to work with multimedia artists and studios that have a cross-media approach. I want to have a really hard working third-year. I want to travel a bit. Go mountebanking, skiing, go to Chile and see my family. But I would never stop drawing and designing. You can’t really transport a kiln. I feel lazy if I don’t create anything. It feels good. It helps me remember stuff. When I draw or take a photograph I can remember everything from that moment. That’s a big reason for documenting things like that. It’s important to document both the good and the bad moments; you need to remind yourself of both.
Words: Louisa Hunt