THE SIX FOOT GALLERY INTERVIEW: Ralph Overill (Print Unleashed)

Dr Ralph Overill is an artist, researcher and educator based between Glasgow and Essex, UK. His art seeks to construct and explore an alternative sci-fi reality that exists in parallel to contemporary society, critiquing the governing systems and powers that appear, in his eyes, unjust and incompetent. Drawing on the concept of hauntology, Ralph creates fragments of lost futures, gesturing times, places and events that might have been. Through adventuring down these untrodden paths, a psychogeography emerges; a web of childhood memories and cultural influences that weave into his home county of Essex – the land of monsters and margins.

See Ralph’s work as part of Print Unleashed, which runs at Six Foot Gallery until July 18th 2024.

Hi Ralph! How did you arrive at the theme of your work?
Growing up in Essex, on the edge of London, I became frustrated and disillusioned – unable to find employment that reflected my skills, unable to hope at owning a home, and feeling an overwhelming sense of unfulfillment with 21st century life. My work began to critique the way the UK has been governed over the last 50 years or so – I could see this pattern of over-evolving capitalism: the divide between rich and poor becoming increasingly large, politics, population centres, education, and services being homogenised and managed by business ontologies. The odd, quirky parts of life, such as the creative arts were being squeezed into the margins, leaving a banal and barren landscape consumerism. I remembered my childhood pastime of watching Doctor Who episodes on VHS, and connected those science fiction memories to this broken world I found myself in: a ruling class of Cybermen.

How has your practice changed over time?
I used to just make prints – etchings, screenprints, woodcuts etc. – printmaking was my sole output, but the process of studying for a Doctorate in Fine Art pushed me to explore ideas and ambitions that couldn’t be realised in a single medium. Before I knew it, I was making installations, graffitiing and projecting onto abandoned concrete, messing about in the darkroom with old charity shop cameras and creating costumes to wear as part of impromptu performances. Through understanding my research practice, I went from turning ideas into images to making my dreams and imaginations physically manifest in reality.

What emotions or reactions do you hope viewers experience when they see your artwork?
I don’t really hope for any particular reaction or emotion from viewers. I’d like people to reflect upon what is in front of them and how it may impact or relate to their own lives, in whatever form that may take.  I have been accused of making people extremely anxious when presenting my work, but I have also had far more positive encounters where people have connected to it on an aesthetic level or a more profound existential one.

Are there intentional connections or contrasts between each artist’s work in this group show?
Printmaking! – a love and curiosity in the processes of transferring an image or text from one surface to another connects all the work in this show. Print workshops are special places, they are communal and collaborative, where ideas are explored, shared and discussed. A lot of the work in this show came out of the pressroom at Glasgow School of Art, a space that students, technicians and lecturers all share to realise their creativity.

What do you do to keep motivated and interested in your work?
I try not to get stuck doing the same thing again and again (ironic for a printmaker, I know). Each new piece or project has to involve fresh challenges or approaches, and with that comes the excitement of the unknown, and a nervous energy to create and find out what happens.

Are there specific advantages or challenges associated with working in your chosen mediums?
If I stick to etching for this answer, as I’m showing an etching in the exhibition. Etching is a very equipment-heavy process, requiring specialist tools, hazardous chemicals, purpose-built machinery and a dedicated space to use it all. Luckily, I look after one such facility, so it seems right to make the most of the access I have, alongside trying to make the medium as accessible for others as possible. There’s always a danger in etching, not only of damaging or losing the artwork but of damaging yourself too – I think I enjoy the sense of risk, it makes me feel alive …and grateful to be alive!

What advice would you give to artists who are just starting out?
Start with what you find interesting and fun – I believe an artistic practice is made up of a set of core themes and interests that orbit around each individual artist – the adventure is discovering these and how you like to work with them. Be prepared to work hard, like with anything, you only get out as much as you put in.

You can find out more about Ralph Overill’s work at his website or his Instagram @between_the_images

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