Alexander Ardisson discusses the intricate world of his creative process, which he describes as akin to journalling. Ardisson discusses how switching between different forms of expression keeps his creativity flowing, and how his tactile jumpers serve both as a personal pursuit and as a nod to his Italian roots and English upbringing.
Kelly Foster – How would you explain your work?
Alexander Ardisson – Right now, I’d say it’s essentially journaling. I’m taking successful elements from unsuccessful paintings and collating them, almost as if I were designing on Photoshop. Other pursuits of mine like animation, embroidery and iPad drawings are also key to the process as they all bounce and feed off each other.
KF – On your website, you have a range of art, from figurative drawings to abstract works, and I’m intrigued by your work with fashion, particularly the jumpers. How do all these different mediums play together for you? Is one more important than the others?
AA – It’s very impulsive for me. I switch between mediums to keep myself stimulated. If I only had painting, I’d become frustrated. But when I can shift to animation, digital art or embroidery, it keeps the creative flow going. All are equally important, but I might favour the jumpers because they’re tactile and are items that I can utilise.
KF – How did you get into creating these jumpers?
AA – It started with my foundation in Canterbury and a year in graphic design at Central Saint Martins. During that time, I was fascinated by people making their own clothes. I slowly started experimenting by drawing and painting on jumpers. Then in lockdown, I decided I had to buy a sewing machine and I knew that something would happen. The idea of thread being embedded into a material is so much more exciting to me than ink or paint on top of it. It has organically progressed consistently since then.
KF – Your work seems to blend different elements like collage and graphic design. In your paintings, the approach appears more abstract. Is that intentional?
AA – The difference in abstraction between my paintings and jumpers comes down to the limitations of the sewing machine. Simple designs work better when sewn, whereas in painting, they would be too straightforward. Packaging and branding haven’t made their way into my paintings in the same manner yet.
KF – Are these jumpers intended for personal use, or are you considering them as a commercial product?
AA – It’s a mix. Initially, they were experimental and not something I would wear, they felt like uniforms for workers, I just wanted to sew and create. Then, I started thinking about my Italian roots. This led me to explore English casuals fashion, Football fans from England adopting Italian sportswear. Lotto, Kappa and Diadora are examples of brands I wanted to mimic and represent myself as an Italian who is actually English, just like this sportswear had become. I’ve thought about selling them and want people to wear them, but they are very much a personal pursuit.
KF – I find it fascinating how your jumpers, like your other artworks, seem to be an extension of your identity and heritage. Does this theme also translate into your paintings?
AA – There’s a bit of my Italian identity in my paintings, mainly through childhood memories of Sardinia. Being English with most of my relatives Italian or Austrian Is a fortunate and unique experience. A good portion of my self-belief is rooted in my family name, so I think exploring this is inevitable.
KF – What about the painting process frustrates you?
AA – Working on a single flat canvas seldom results in what I envision. This frustration fuels my need to cut and rearrange the paintings. Whenever I cut up paintings it is never premeditated, it is careless and impulsive. If I were to start a painting knowing I’d cut it up later, this would lead to even more frustration.
KF – Yet your collaged paintings seem cohesive and well-balanced.
AA – Sewing helps with that. The slow, meticulous labour of hand-sewing contrasts well with the impulsive frustration of painting.
KF – You work with various styles, from observational sketches to blocks of pure colour. What drives these stylistic choices?
AA – Different styles keep me engaged. Observational work serves as an autobiographical record and a collection of moments. When I want a break from that, more gestural work offers a different kind of freedom. If I get tired of one, I switch to another.
KF – So, when you say “collecting moments,” do you mean that you’re drawing as a way to remember specific moments?
AA – Exactly. I see it as if I have a film camera; being able to print those pictures out and keep them together feels much more special than a digital photo. Of course, it’s also about practising my skills. Each drawing I’ve done is a record; I remember the context in which it was created.
KF – It feels like there’s a unique, almost precious quality to it. With film photos or drawings, you’re limited in some way, unlike digital photos where you could technically have an infinite number.
AA – That’s true. With film, you don’t see the result immediately; you just have to accept what you get. And yes, the scarcity does make each piece important to me. On the other hand they’re inconsequential. I can dispose of them immediately and start a new one, unlike a painting that I’ve invested time and materials into. This disposability allows me to be more intuitive.
KF – I think your fragmented approach makes your work interesting. Of course, people have intuitive responses to art, but a painting should be more than just a decorative object. Considering the history of painting and what artists are trying to achieve, your diverse explorations—objects, clothing, identity—all seem to come together in your work.
AA – Absolutely. I think you hit the nail on the head. I do love to illustrate the passage of time in my work. The process, the investment of time, and the multiple layers and materials—all these contribute to that narrative.
KF – One aspect I particularly admire in your work is its potential for further exploration. Have you considered pushing the boundaries of what a painting can be—thinking of it not just as canvas or paper, but as something more tactile, like clothing?
AA – I plan to be quite ambitious this year. I’ve received the Cass Art Phoenix studio award in Brighton, and I’ll be taking my sewing machines there. I’m even considering getting a heavy-duty machine to handle the thicker materials. Winning a spot in this magazine has given me a confidence boost, allowing me to take more risks. I’ll definitely be incorporating fabrics into my future works.
KF – That sounds promising. Combining your design skills with your heritage and materials could lead to truly unique art. It’s an interesting path to follow, even if it diverges from traditional painting.
AA – I realise that my various interests do connect, although I haven’t fully figured out how just yet. But I’m not stressing about it—I know that by simply creating, things will come together and make sense.