Bruce and Naomi Elfred-Ross talk ArtBruce Wang Citizen Wang Studio
Article By Bruce Wang @ citizenwangstudio.com
Bruce Okay we're off. One thing I wanted to ask you is you once said if you die all your artwork would end up in the skip Naomi if I die. Bruce Yeah. Naomi Yeah, I think it probably would, except for some people who have bought my artwork so maybe they'll keep it. Bruce Right. Naomi but I feel tempted to put it in the skip already! Bruce Oh. Naomi ah I don't mind that though. That kind of the nature of art sometimes. Kind of has its expiry date, some lives on and some don't. Bruce I think you need some ambition and a little bit of pride in your work. Naomi yes, yeah, well Bruce Ambition, Blonde Ambition. Naomi My ambition with Art is more around, I mean, I like when I produce something that I'm pleased with and they say they like every 1 in a 100 of artwork that you produce, you're pleased with, and the rest not. I can relate to that and I think a lot of artists feel that way. I like the idea of having an exhibition somewhere where people actually go specifically to see my work, you know somewhere in town or something like that. I do have ambition. But I'm more interested in it as a therapeutic tool which I suppose it still can be after you die because it communicates to people doesn't it? And that's helpful. What about you, what how do you envisage? Bruce Well, I have great plans for my work even including reincarnation just in case I get famous after my passing. I feel every picture is a masterpiece. I just need someone to curate my work with a view to fame and fortune or at least notoriety. Bruce Yes, yeah. Which means to sell. Naomi Yeah. I guess that's the difference in the kinds of artwork we make you're producing so much more, but it can be stored digitally. Whereas my cards and artwork could end up in the skip. Naomi You like the idea that after you die, someone will curate your work, this is what you have been planning for right? Me and Debbie? Bruce Alex might be in the loop. Naomi Yeah, I know Alex. I feel like I know him. So, he's interested. Bruce He wants me to give him my Leica when I die. Naomi None of us know Do we? I mean you've had a fright before you became very close to death. I didn't know what happened to you. I just knew you were in hospital because I got a message saying, but it was a bit of a job. You weren't thinking clearly because of your blood sugar. Yeah, it's gone through the floor or through the roof, which way, through the roof. Yeah, yeah. Bruce I told you my resolution of Buddhism and Christianity. Naomi You mentioned it once, or Buddhism and Christianity are one. Bruce And Christianity has multiple reincarnations and as such is complementary to Buddhism. Naomi I think lots of religions are complimentary. I guess the difference with Christianity is, is the belief about the resurrection, which Buddhism wouldn't. I mean I don't know that much about Buddhism. I've not read about Buddhism. Bruce Debbie told me. His four-year-old girl suddenly comes up to her parents in India and asks where is my husband. I want to see my husband, the parents and child walk miles and miles to another village. She recognizes him immediately. She's four years old. And he said his wife had died 10 years ago. She was a child bride. She was also spoke the dialect of the husband's village. Naomi Yeah. That's quite an anecdote. Bruce It is a fact, it was in the news. I hope to have Citizen Wang Studio as a website on going on for at least 10 years after my demise. I'll pay the subscription ten years ahead and I can reclaim my title when I come back. Naomi Well, but plenty of artists have done that and well beyond 10 years. The Van Gogh family, they've kept it going! And other artists even longer, I'm sure. People have private collections, don't they? So, if you were to donate your work, or you would bequeath it, wouldn't you? Naomi But you wouldn't be exactly the same. You might come back as a girl. You might come back as a cat. And they don't have opposable thumbs, so you know it will be difficult taking pictures. Bruce Yeah. I really want to get more detailed shots of you, in depth portraits of you, Alex, maybe Debbie. I can foresee meeting on a regular basis. Naomi So has your experience your near-death experience resulted in you feeling your approach to work being changed/ modified; you said about wanting to work with friends more. Bruce Yes, less of a production line. Bruce I'm not posting every day. A serious series living every day with cancer. The precedent being made by the late, great Jo Spence, she also died cancer. What I will do is certainly more editorial pictures. Okay, more editorial captions. Bruce changing my state of mind and being during the next few years. I will try attracting a different crowd of people to my pictures people I never knew was there. Naomi This is more serious people. Bruce What I'm trying to say is I want ordinary extroverted people to pose for me or even introverted people to pose for me I'm more concerned with identity and the challenges the people face in their everyday lives. The range can go from a Postman to Actor to an Academic. They don't have to be facing breast surgery to look more like a man. Naomi But maybe this is part of the work for you. That you're having those kinds of conversations with people and discovering things about people's insecurities, the way they want to be seen by the world. You're negotiating with them and finding a compromise and potentially that is helping them opening up a new way of looking. Puts me in mind of Jo Spences work. Bruce phototherapy? Yes, yes. Naomi How photography can be used. You worked with her didn't you Bruce Yes, I saw her Political Art side at her exhibitions and the real practical side of her when I built her a platform bed and dark room in her home. Naomi Oh right. Because I feel she was somebody who was very influential in doing my degree. My dissertation was partly about her. Bruce What was your dissertation? Naomi It was the title was Identity in Crisis. Bruce That's exactly what I'm trying to do! Naomi Right! If I could dig it out somewhere I show it to you. Bruce Yeah. How long was your dissertation? Naomi 10,000 words. Bruce I could read that. In fact. I could make "Identity in Crisis" the title of my next series of photos. It's funny that only now in my 60s I'm getting decent pictures of myself. Naomi I imagine there's an awful lot of people that would never get to that point in their life. I'd say an awful lot. You've done a lot of, sort of, self-exploration, you've had to haven't you? And so that journey has brought you to a place of feeling what's the word integrated? Or self-actualization? Bruce Yeah. see other people's pictures. I have models of people. I see. That's not really them. It's just the front. That is the mask they pose for the camera. I really want to get deep inside somehow getting a more in-depth philosophy. That's also why I choose friends I've known for at least a few years Naomi You had the idea of taking pictures while people were talking. Yeah. To the sitter about something, I don't know, something personal. Yeah, and just snapping. Bruce I see lots of pictures so a series and maybe a book contrast in caption underneath. I'm doing a lot of pictures of myself at the moment to capture my moods? Naomi Yeah, I imagine that's quite hard. Bruce I'll take about 15 shots at a time but only at the end of a day of working. These photographs are me thinking about myself. it's a very 70s thing yeah Naomi It's interesting, I get we're all different and you're probably very used to being in front of a camera. But when the cameras pointed at me, I'm extremely aware of it and it's very hard to be myself unless I was distracted into a conversation or if I was being snapped while I was doing something. What would it be like to take pictures of people in their own environments, rather than in your environment... difficult. Bruce Maybe using the whole environment might give more insight. But I'd still want them in front of a white screen. Okay. or black screen Naomi Which they wouldn't have. If you weren't in my home, you wouldn't find it there's no there's no space for a screen Bruce tiny two up two down. Naomi It's really tiny. You can hardly swing your cat. But, in addition to that sort of so you'd invite the person to come to you for portraits, but you could also take or maybe invite them to bring some objects with them, rather than you having to go to them, which I'm feeling a little worried about and thinking maybe it's not a good idea to be traveling too much. Bruce Yeah. Naomi But if you invited people to, say, bring five objects with you as props. Bruce I did that with Claire that one with the cigarette. Yeah, yeah, I did that with another guy. They brought their soft toys collection. Naomi That's a good idea. Bruce Soft toys for posing. Naomi Yeah. To get them to bring their first Teddy or something. I've still got my first teddy. Bruce I didn't have a teddy, I had toy soldiers.