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Artist of the Week – Nick Gentry

July 19, 2010 by · 110 comments

Interview with Nick Gentry by Galya Mladenova


Nick Gentry is a London artist. For his pieces he re-uses obsolete media formats of the past, like floppy disks and VHS tapes. He has participated in several exhibitions with other artists and a solo show called “Auto emotion”.

Nick’s art raises questions like “Can a human still be considered to be an entirely organic being? ”and “Will humans be forever compatible with our own technology?” Here you can see more of his art.

When did you start using floppy disks, VHS tapes and so on as canvas? What inspired you to create these unusual pieces of art?

The first time I used obsolete media for art was for a painting of a fingerprint. I was thinking about identity at the time and how it could be represented both visually and conceptually. I could see that we had masses of these once treasured objects that were now considered obsolete or useless, but I still had a connection with them and felt that they could be used to make something interesting and new.


Why do you prefer these materials and not the “ordinary” ones that other painters use?

I use these materials because they are artifacts of our time. The past history of the objects goes some way to informing and enriching the work. It also seems like a better idea to re-use things that would have otherwise ended up in a landfill.

What’s the usual process of creating one of your paintings? Does the old media material makes it harder to create the image?

I usually sketch or find images to reference. I like fashion photography a lot as the light and poses are very expressive. The fashion world is very trend-based, where things move quickly from season to season, linking with the obsolete, which changes how the art is created.


Where do you get the materials, are there a lot of people willing to donate their old floppy disks and VHS tapes?

Some people are very happy to donate their used disks to me, but some have scribbled out the writing on the labels to hide the content of each disk.

Do you check what’s on the floppy disk or the VHS tape before using it? Is the content of the media somehow related to the image you paint?

I never check the content of the media but it is related to the faces in an imaginary sense. With each painting I am looking to give a human face to the collected information on the disks.


Your first painting is a fingerprint. Does it have a symbollic meaning, is there a special story behind it?

It is about identity. The disks contain a mixture of data that has been assembled like a collection of memories in the mind. These are private memories that are locked away forever. This combination creates a unique identity. The fingerprint is a physical, human representation of this notion.

A page from Nick Gentry’s sketchbook

Most of your paintings are people’s portraits. Are these the typical characters today? What makes them different from people that lived 50 years ago?

They are people of today, in the present moment. Today life is completely different to previous generations, mainly due to the technology that we have surrounded ourselves with.

Do you use real prototypes for your paintings?

I often do preparatory sketches, but mainly I go straight into the work and keep the whole feeling of the painting fresh. I am more likely to create prototypes in the concept stage, but in a way I consider all my works to be experiments.


You always use the circular metal hub for representation of the human eye. Why is that?

I am interested in sci-fi and technology. It might be my imagination but I see humans merging with technology. Lots of people now seem to be sensorially shut off from reality, engrossed in the media of mobile devices. I have always thought it strange that we could become cyborgs, but now it seems like a not-so-distant possiblity.

You usually leave the handwritten labels on the disks. Are they random or somehow connected to the image?

The disks are selected mainly for the colours and tone. After that I will place some of the interesting labels in prominent areas. The names of the paintings usually come from the writing on the labels too.


You never paint more than 2 persons together. Is that an allusion that people now are more often alone and therefore lonlier?

It seems like a valid interpretation and it’s good when people see unexpected or new things in the work. I agree that there is a sense of sadness or loneliness and it could be the machine-like nature of the eyes that give that feeling.

Could you tell us more about your upcoming show on the 24.06?

The show was great fun and I have another one coming up in the US later this month, at the Adam Lister Gallery in Fairfax, VA.


What could we expect from you in the future – new projects, experiments?

I want to continue working with floppy disks on a much larger scale in public places. Floppy disks were produced in such massive quantities and I want to do something that represents that. I am always experimenting with concepts and techniques so there will be some different looking pieces coming soon.

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