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If you commonly frequent the Brunswick Street Art Gallery in Fitzroy, you may already be aware of the work of Melbourne-based digital artist and textile designer Richard McCoy. Richard's current art practice originated in the culmination of research for his fashion and textiles Masters degree - a study into 3D printing onto fabrics which at the time was the very first of it's kind. The resulting textile collection won him accolades from the Tate Museum in Britain, leading to images of these works being displayed as part of their 2014 exhibition 'Source: Pattern, Graphics and Print'. Richard's artworks are a continuation of his exploration into three dimensional digital techniques, and the drapes and folds of sheet-like, patterned forms are a clear nod to his background in textiles. His artworks explore the nature of reality, time, identity and belief through a digital lens, moulding and draping the fabric of his synthetic universe into symbols and portraits inspired by classical sculpture and religious iconography.
Having printed his work for over four years now we have a lot of respect and admiration for Richard's work at Image Science, so we thought it was high time we featured him. Read on for some fascinating insights into Richard's creative process, what inspires him to create and what's next on the horizon for his art practice.
Tell us a little bit about yourself. What led you to pursue a creative path in life, and why digital art in particular?
I’m a Kiwi digital artist with a background in fashion and textile design. While I’m not working on my art practice, I lecture an array of art and design classes here in Melbourne at both under and post-graduate level. I kind of stumbled into the art world with my Masters project from years back, which was exhibited at London’s Tate Britain. The project itself looked at combining 3D printing on top of fabric, and from there I continued exploring digital techniques.
Your recent exhibition Icons had a wildly successful run at the Brunswick Street Gallery in March and appears to be a culmination of your exploration into digital realities, identity, and religious iconography. Tell us more about this series and why you chose to pursue these ideas. How is Icons a progression of your previous bodies of work?
Icons was really just a continuation of what I always look at – color, 3D forms, belief and myth. I’m really interested in exploring how new technology can be used to look at really elemental and human things. I love the idea of taking things deep in our past and recasting them with technology from today. I’m interested in ideas around non-linear narratives, and how time is really just manufactured in our minds. Icons was in some ways a slightly more literal take on these ideas.
As a textile designer, it’s no surprise that draped forms and pattern repeats are interwoven into your digital compositions. What draws you to textiles and why?
I’m not entirely sure. I love clothes and am an incredibly tactile person, I have to touch everything. There is something so free and organic about fabric, the way it has a 3D reality, but is able to represent 2D imagery and color with such ease. Maybe it’s the combination of the two; how it can take on any 3D form but still be faithful to a 2D image.
How would you describe your art style?
It’s pop art really - done with 3D rendering - but working with the same ideas about taste and value.
For your Masters research you embarked on a study of 3D printing onto textiles, opening up a realm of exciting new possibilities for contemporary textile and fashion design. Do you believe 3D printing will play a key role in the future of fashion? Is 3D printing something you may return to for a future project?
I should return to it, the technology has developed so much since I first worked with it, but I find the aesthetic of it quite limiting. I think in some form fashion could be reshaped by 3D printing, there have been a number of start-ups working on creating complete 3D printed garments in traditional cloth-like 3D printed textiles. It makes me worry about the future of the garment production and the millions around the world who would lose their jobs if textiles/clothes could be produced in one motion.
Where have you found yourself drawing creative inspiration from recently?
Lately I’ve been looking at color theory. Josef Albers’ Interaction of Color has always been a touchstone, and I usually return to color theory at the start of a new project. I’m always drawn to classical sculpture, but lately I’ve been looking to more recent masterworks, lots of Brancusi and Barbara Hepworth, plus relooking at Rachel Whiteread…lots of stuff. Vintage 60s geometric patterns and that incredible development when they morphed into 70s psychedelics.
Your creative practice has always had a cutting edge, progressive element in your use of contemporary technologies such as digital design, 3D printing and laser cutting. What does this say about you as an artist? Are there any plans to explore new technologies for future projects?
I need to explore more! I’ve been sidetracked trying to use 3D rendering in classical or modern ways and neglected to really push the use of newer tech. I find getting that balance very difficult – the foundation of composition versus the use of new technology, uniting these is always a challenge for me.
In terms of your creative process, walk us through how you develop an artwork or collection from concept to its final form. How has your process evolved over the years?
The process is quite instinctual really. I usually start with color and pattern, and develop a few hundred print repeats which then get put to one side. I then start to experiment with different shapes and forms in 3D modeling programs, while doing visual research and reading. From there I find the connections between the ideas, the colors, the shapes and visual research; a concept usually comes from this, which gets refined. I usually get a show title early on, and that guides the rest of the process. Towards the end I start to dip back into older works and ideas I haven’t used in the past, I usually find a thread or aspects of the narrative from years back that I try and then use in the final selection for a show.
With the success of Icons now at your heels, what’s next? Do you have any exhibitions or projects in the works for the rest of 2021?
For the rest of the year, I’m working on a half a dozen commissions – lots of stuff with line that was too derivative to be included in this year’s show. But the main focus is the research, and initial drafting of work for next year’s show, plus a few side projects with textiles for a few fashion brands. But the focus really needs to be on evolving the ideas I’m always interested in, and finding new way of expressing them.
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