CW Landon looks to shared experiences, immersion in our environment and poetry to provide new ways of thinking about human behaviour in today’s society. Landon incorporates geometric abstractions to explore different architectural spaces and absorb the embedded attitudes of our collective trauma, inward energy and human psyche in his work.
Backyard temple - Roppongi, 2022, Oil and acrylic on canvas, 120 x 100 cm, © The Artist
CW Landon: The word spirituality is problematic, because it is such a broad term. We find ourselves in this wellness culture trying to find peace and calm in a chaotic space. I like to think of spirituality as trying to define meaning in life. Especially now when I consider the state of the world, it makes me wonder if what I’m doing is useful in the wider context of humanity.
One time, I was working on a painting for about four months, and by the end of four months, it just didn’t work. It was a complete failure. I poured every ounce of strength, dedication and resilience into this work, to only have it fail. That really broke me and really made me question the practice of being an artist. It made me question what use my art had for me, the people around me and the wider community. I realised that I couldn’t justify working in a studio on my own with paint without there being a solid social benefit. I find the process of working with paint very therapeutic, but I couldn’t completely justify it.
We become alive with shared experiences, so I needed to find a reason to do this work that was outside of myself. I came to the conclusion that the role of art is not to save or fix the world’s problems. It’s not the role of painting to feed the homeless, create new urban planning, fix the financial system or developments in healthcare and technology. It’s not the role of art to find solutions, but it is our role as artists to rethink and approach problems in a new and different way.
Bill shaun 2022, Oil and acrylic on canvas, 80 x 52 cm, © The Artist
Kelly Foster: I remember when I was trying to create art, there was always a sense of failure. I had so much internal guilt, and I put so much pressure on myself to be successful. Not only visually, but it had to be financially successful, make an impact politically or be very meaningful. There’s a certain level of detachment from the outcome that’s necessary. It’s really hard to accept and make art for its own sake without being dependent on how it will be received in the world or the meaning.
CL – Yeah, that’s such a good point, actually. It reminds me of a really amazing poem by Ezra Pound called The Rest. It talks about not being burdened by success. The last part of the poem, he writes “I have weathered the storm, I have beaten out my exile.” It makes me think about acceptance, and not being dominated by external forces of success.
I was thinking about the work I’ve been doing when I’m going into certain architectural spaces and building an image from the experience of being in there. I was reading In Walt Whitman’s Leaves of Grass, a line, “I am mad for it to be in contact with me.” It made me reconsider the word “contact”. I interpreted it as an immersion and integration with something.
B.study.2, 2022, Oil on canvas, 20 x 30 cm © The Artist
KF – You often quote poetry and literature. Does that inform your painting in any way?
CL – I studied poetry at university, and up until two to three years ago I really wanted to be a writer. I used to consume a lot of poetry, but I found over the last couple of years, especially during Covid that it was very difficult to write and read poetry. I started to become more drawn to painting. Maybe it had something to do with that lack of contact with the outside world. To me, poetry is definitely a type of fuel that gives me ideas and also feels like validation. We all have such unique ways of thinking, interpreting and interacting with the world. When I read certain poets like William Carlos Williams, I feel validated in my experience because it feels like I’m less alone, which is great. I also have an obsession with trees at the moment, which Carlos Williams writes so beautifully about.
KF – What is it about trees that you’re interested in?
CL – It has to do with resilience and stubbornness. I came across an artist recently that makes very similar work to mine, but from a completely different approach. I didn’t necessarily understand what was different about it until I started thinking about that idea of a tree. When I look at a tree, I see this really robust arm that can’t be bent. It finds a way to grow and it holds that shape for the rest of its life. It works on such a different timescale to us, we can’t watch it grow. We can only think about its growth retrospectively, which is interesting when you’re making images and it feels like you’re making the same image over and over again.
KF – When you visit an architectural location, how much does that inform the process? Do you have a specific method that you use continuously with all of the work?
CL – My work has often been associated with Constructivism. One idea from Constructivism that I agree with, is building an image or a piece of art purely from your mind. So in that respect, when I’m going into an architectural space, I’m not trying to deconstruct and then reconstruct the image of that architectural structure. It’s about finding the decision making process in that space. Those decisions and experiences give access to the effects that space has on your body, senses and thinking. This gives an insight into the larger trends in human behaviour.
I was inspired by Goethe’s The Italian Journey in which he writes about everyday life in Verona. It comments on how people busy themselves with their own individual lives, become distant and ignore each other. The people come together in an amphitheatre which completely strips away all of their problems and worries. They became a collective body which reacts to whatever show or discussion that was going on in the crowd.
I found it really fascinating that architecture has the capacity to shift and move our sense of self. It made me begin to question our individual identity. That really fascinated me because I wanted to rebel against identity signalling through the decisions I make in my paintings and the spaces that I go to. I see it as a broad, general way of identifying our individuality through capitalist vehicles, like clothing, food, or music.
We can learn so much about personal and cultural collective trauma through our reaction in that space, in that lucid, out of body, machine collective. The choice of the spaces themselves are emblematic of this capitalist identity. Arenas where the architecture doesn’t allow a lot of space for your individuality, you get funneled through these tight spaces. The seating is in a sea of people, and it’s generally quite brutalist architecture. There isn’t a lot of space for the individual. Another space that I’ve been to is St. Paul’s Cathedral, where it’s a completely different era of architecture, but it has a similar disembodied effect.