Connor Addison - Artist, About

Connor Addison
          Painter and photographer based in Barcelona, Spain and London, UK

Co-founder of Last Universal Creative Ancestor 

Available for contact, commission or curatorial work  —
On Instagram @connoraddisonart

After studying painting at Central St Martins I went on to study Politics Philosophy and Economics at the University of Manchester. Both my academic and artistic practice has come to motivate my creative investigation into the sublime, aesthetics, emotion and pattern. I have exhibitied work in places like Leighton House in London and Salon d’Automne in Paris. 

Portrait of Connor Addison
photo © Charlotte Gilks

by @orinink

1. What inspired you to become a painter?

One of my favourite books as a child was this massive two part volume of Picasso’s life work, there was a close up of an agonised horse on the cover (from his work Guernica) that I used to copy again and again. This inspired me to pursue art, but my awareness of art was primarily about the image itself and not the medium. Acrylic painting was something I had always done but I eventually noticed it couldn’t do what the oil paintings in galleries could do; there was so much more depth and texture in Oil.
So I tried it out and it blew the whole thing open, it was a medium unlike any other, the longer drying time allowed a slower process, more thought, the colours mixed better, it had more ritual somehow. So perhaps rather than being inspired to paint, it was more the phenomena of painting, it’s feeling, that got me into it. Still, as a little thank you to Picasso for getting me in front of a canvas, I do have a tattoo of his work ‘Reduction of a Bull’ on my back.

2. Who is your Audience?

I think one of the fundamental pillars of art is that it is universal, I dislike work that is elitist by being so conceptually complex that its meaning cannot be accessed. Art is a public good so the public should be the primary audience.

Creating something that is universal however is very hard to do, I see an artwork of Marilyn Monroe, a universal icon, almost every day but I don’t think that enriches artistic discourse.

To find this universal audience I explore existentialism, and our experiences of the sublime, I think we look at art to find things that we lack, be it a confrontation with death, love or an understanding of our place in the universe. The sublime is good at expressing this, it makes us feel small and that we are all confronted by this impossible, strange miracle called existence, not only of you but of the natural world and the underlying patterns/physics/mechanics that define it.

3. In your opinion how instrumental is modern art to social engineering?

As an ex-politics and economics student I think first and foremost social engineering is a reaction to material change. The era of Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher for example was brought about not by Ideology but by the physical destruction of centralised institutions of social welfare, the rise of banking and neoliberal trade. Material gain or loss, I think, is the driving force of social engineering as it effects us everyday in every way; health, education, income, welfare, infrastructure are all material and are all central to our ability to flourish in society.

Modern Art therefore is a social reaction to the material world, it is an internalisation of how we have been socially engineered. Modernist art, especially architecture, succeeded because new materials like plastic, mass production and utilitarian design were bought about by technology emergent from World War Two. The same goes for Pop Art as reaction to American consumer culture.

Modern art, then, is not instrumental to social engineering as the origin of change but rather as something that reacts to it. This is a good thing, it gives feedback to material society, It tells society what it is and how it can be refined. A painting won’t give women equal pay, immigrants fair legal treatment or feed the poor but it does expose and bring awareness to these issues.

Art reacts to and encourages the socio-political sphere of life to reform, which is the key to progressive social engineering. It opens dialogue, which in a liberal society reminds the powers of social engineering to improve our material institutions, our wealth and respond to how we define life in todays world.
4. Can you tell us a bit about Michael Wolf and Edward Burtynsky?

I think this is a great extension to the last question because both these artist are very responsive to powers of social engineering and aim almost exclusively to bring light to an industrialised, consumptive and overcrowded planet.

Micheal wolf came to my attention after living in Hong Kong for four months. His photographic series, the ‘Architecture of Density,’ captures the insane megastructures that house citizens of the worlds densest metropolis, Hong Kong. There is something terrifying about the idea that, because of overcrowding, we are moving towards the human equivalent of an insect hive. As he captures the size of these housing estates his perspective moves further from the human subject, somehow it enforces a sublime sense of ones own insignificance (not in a good way) and inspires a fear for the unstoppable car crash of human growth.

Edward Burtynsky is also someone who tackles similar issues by documenting the scars that humanity has left upon the planet. His film Manufactured Landscapes is particularly awe inspiring. Here he captures the recent Asian industrial revolution which, in china, is social engineering at its most epic. Something quite worrying emerges from his images of slaughter houses, valleys of unused car tires and mega containership graveyards. It is a reminder of our power and how consumer goods are mindlessly regurgitated back into the natural environment. To what end?

I enjoy artists like Michael Wolf and Edward Burtynsky’s focus on industry, mass society and globalisation. It means so much more to experience these things than to simply read statistics about our changing planet, I find it a more poignant call to action.

5. Tell us a bit about your present reading habit..what are you reading now?

I try to read as much as possible, especially Philosophy. Currently I am reading ‘Ways of Curating’ by Hans-Ulrich Obrist (the head curator of London’s Serpentine Gallery). Recently I have gotten into the process of curation as an art-form, and this book has made me realise that. I love collecting aesthetics, so I have built up a huge image archive of artworks. I find instagram is a great vehicle to present this collection. I run two accounts: connoraddisonart and Both are great fun.

Books like ‘Ways of Curating’ are a personal preference because they have real world application. I feel that Visual Art best speaks to the soul through its fiction and that reading is best for non-fiction practical knowledge. The world is so rich and strange, has so many areas of expertise and avenues of the unknown that it needs to read about. That said, the last book I read was Steppenwolf, which was a great story.   
6.How would you describe planet earth from your own experience to an alien life form who inquired?

I think my next painting project ‘as above, so below’ attempts to do exactly this, it is how I would describe Earth or how I think alien life might see the planet. I probably wouldn’t be able to communicate linguistically with aliens so this series works as my visual description. 

I think the planet is unbelievably strange. If you look at it in the right way it can become intensely abstract, which is what I want to capture, the point where earth becomes magical, alien and sublime. If I can paint the planet realistically and someone says “what am I looking at?” with someone else responding “Earth! your home!” then I have succeeded.

In the last four years I have been collecting images from Google Earth of landscapes that look like paintings and travelling the world photographing textures and patterns that, without context, look imaginary. I have even put the world (and my own paintings) under the microscope to find its similarity to things on a grand scale. All will be painted in the coming years. I guess it’s sort of a curation of the planets surface, big and small. If I was going to send post cards to aliens it would be this series.