29 Jun Seven – with artist Frank To
Glasgow based contemporary artist Frank To and I first met at an awards dinner several years ago. Since then Frank’s name and work continually appear on my digital radar as media coverage raises the profile of his art, with fans and private collectors including Sir Patrick Stewart. He’s come a long way since his first solo exhibition in 2003.
Seven is created from seven sentences which I invited Frank to complete.
Growing up in Glasgow as a child out of wedlock, I was not entitled to a lot of things in my traditional Chinese family. Being illegitimate had a big influence on me as from a very young age I felt I had to prove my right to exist as a person.
I enjoy working in the arts because it enables exploration of my deepest curiosity within my creativity. For example in 2011 I decided to do a dark, quirky and modern exhibition on Plague Doctors in a very traditional Scottish art gallery. Thankfully it was a massive success because I put my neck on the line and found the courage to step onto my own platform in the art scene. I’m always up for challenging myself in art and push for new innovations.
At school I had difficult time fitting in as I was very independently minded and did not like to conform. I had varied taste in music and whilst classmates were listening to Oasis, I was very much into Matchbox Twenty and Pearl Jam; bands that kids in mid-90s Scotland would have never heard of. Even at lunch times instead of hanging with the kids at the local shops, I would spend my time in the music department trying to master the guitar.
The biggest challenge I’ve overcome in life was realising the power of self-belief.
I’m currently working on a new body of art work using ignited gunpowder and signal flare granules for colour which has attracted attention from some of the art establishments such as the Royal Scottish Academy and the Society of Scottish Artists.
I really can’t reveal too much about the new gunpowder work as they are visual portrayals on my personal life but you can decide for yourself at The Glasgow Art Club where my exhibition runs until the 5th of August.
I think this is the first time in a while that I decided to put ‘myself’ into the work and share it. The challenge of getting the inspiration for the work was to actually sit down and spend time alone trying to figure out what I wanted to say emotionally in my work. In the end I hired out a bothy in the Scottish wilderness to draw out what I was feeling without any distractions.
In business you need to risk failure. Great artists like Bob Dylan and Pablo Picasso risked everything to succeed. I learned so much from my art school lecturers, they took the time to teach me what to expect in the art world as an artist. I’m an artist in a forever changing world. My generation are the first to be exposed to the likes of digital photography, the Web, Social Media etc. I am constantly needing to stay up to date with the change of technology. It is, however, exciting times!
The smartest career advice I can give is never stop innovating with new possibilities. Don’t be part of a flock. Have confidence to be your own platform.
Find out more about Frank To’s work by connecting with him on Facebook or visit his exhibition at The Glasgow Art Club, 185 Bath Street, Glasgow up to the 5th of August.