Ferris McGuinty, Artist
If you go looking on the internet for information about a Cornwall-based maker named Ferris McGuinty, chances are you won’t find much. Yes, McGuinty is on the younger side (I was born in the same year, so at least that’s what I’m telling myself) but even more than that: Ferris McGuinty didn’t, in fact, exist until 2009. The name was merely a pseudonym the artist took on to allow himself the freedom to make work that was unlike anything he’d done before. Having graduated from art school in the early 2000s, McGuinty previously made work that was smaller in scale, tiny, almost architectural-like models. As a respite from that, he began gathering found objects — “I’m quite a prolific hoarder,” he says proudly — and marrying them with elements of his own creation to make the kind of assemblage objects you see at the top of this post. “Ferris came about because because the work really had that day-off vibe. McGuinty somehow naturally followed suit. But it allowed me a sense of detachment from my own work. I could be much more playful and not worried about what direction it went in.”
Since then, the presentation of the work has changed — he’s begun incorporating frames that ground the pieces and make them easier to digest — but the elements have remained quite similar: patinated natural materials mixed with pops of color and artificiality. “When it comes time for making, I’ll surround myself and let the objects speak to me in terms of how they want to be. It’s a very organic process. I wouldn’t be walking along the street and see a bit of plywood and say oh wow, I’ve got to use that in my next piece. It will find its way to my workshop and it might not reappear for another year or so before it pops its head up and calls out to be used.” Intrigued? We were. Read on to find out more about this mysterious artist who was manufactured out of thin air.
Describe your most recent project and how it was made.
My most recent project was a solo show last summer titled “Can the Mirror Hear Me.” It was a series of framed assemblages that explored the relationships between material, form, and balance. Because most of my work is process-led, it was a bit of a voyage into the unknown. Quite often, when I embark on a new body of work, I’m never entirely sure where the journey may take me. For this series, I worked a lot with found objects that I had collected over the years, often things that in themselves can tell a story or are in some way imbued with a physical history.
Once I start with the works, the process can often be quite quick. I kind of consider it a form of drawing. I work on a flat surface, arranging and re-arranging, adding and subtracting. Some of the elements I try and leave as I found them, and others undergo forms of manipulation. There is very rarely a specific reference point, but I always work with the principles of color, material, and form in mind, and it is the balancing act of these ideas that informs the work.
Describe your next project and how you’re currently making it.
My working practice tends to be an ongoing inquiry and I have a lot of unanswered questions and loose ends that I want to tie up from my previous series of work. It’s a natural process that my work follows from where I left off. At this point, it is quite exciting! Things could literally go anywhere! The beauty of the work is that the materials I use provide the clues as to what they want to become. I could end up with large sculptures in the round, or small tableaus upon pieces of furniture.
At the moment, I’m spending some time in the studio playing around with some natural pigments that I’ve picked up and applying them in multiple layers to surfaces of objects. I’m not sure quite where this is going yet.
Tell us one thing that has been inspiring you lately and why.
A good friend gave me this book titled Home-Made Europe by Vladimir Arkhipova a while back. The book catalogs a selection of contemporary folk artifacts from across Europe and is such a raw wealth of imagination and alchemy. What I find most inspiring about flicking through its content is that it reminds me how human that need to create is. Even with the crudest of materials and the most basic methods of construction, people can create objects that elevate. I would recommend this to anyone who is making or aspiring to make. A must-have in my opinion.
What’s your favorite piece of design from the last 10 years and why?
I have always been fascinated with the dichotomy that exists between art and design. Like two arguing siblings who never see eye to eye. What I find most interesting is when these boundaries become blurred. I recently read a brilliant essay on the artist Richard Tuttle, that captured beautifully the intricacies of that relationship. If I could quote an extract:
“A great designer has to know everything (ethnography; anthropology; psychology; biology; anatomy etc.) while an artist doesn’t have to know anything. This polarity… is the starting point. But ironically, to really appreciate design, it is not about knowledge, but about the experience of living with work, you don’t have to know anything, and you get its ‘information’ almost through osmosis. Whereas to appreciate a good artwork, you have to bring and apply absolutely everything you know. Why is that?”
The work of Fein Muller and Hannes Van Severen has definitely been a highlight for me most recently. I love their playful exploration between art and design; the sculptural and the functional. It has this magical ability where it doesn’t need to distinguish itself between one or the other.