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Amir Chasson is a berlin-based artist who employs a photomontage style in his practice, reappropriating homoerotic imagery into intricate, visually deceptive, collages. Within Chasson's work, there is an element of the uncanny, leaving viewers uncertain about the true nature of what they are witnessing. He speaks with curator Will Ferreira Dyke to discuss all things, queer, cut outs and Mapplethorpe.
Hi Amir, thank you for taking my call, how has your day been so far?
It’s good, it’s been very focused actually. I have a few shows coming up, so I am a little bit stressed. I have an exhibition in Paris and another in Norwich, alongside Black White Gallery’s Edged.
London, Paris, Norwich! Have you shown in London before?
Of course, I studied in London. I did my MA in Fine Art at Goldsmiths where I primarily worked on videos and paintings. These paintings were half figurative, half abstract and got me some attention … and a few sales which is always nice. However, I have veered away from that now. When you observe the progression of my work, it might seem like it takes on different forms, but it consistently relies on the same methods. I have and will continue to utilise the logics of appropriation and found imagery in my practice.
How do you approach a new body of work?
Usually, I work in series and have a restricted medium or theme that I wish to explore. Currently, I’m doing a lot of the homoerotic cut outs. The fun part of a project lies within the creative expansion and exploration. The not so fun part is in between stages, coming up with a new idea. Often, that is a real struggle. But my work is always introspectively connected. You’ll notice I always confront themes of masculinity and men. In all fairness, it is gay men hold a significant position as the primary focal point in my practice. I just can’t get away from them, despite trying many times! My work is very queer, very sexual and very visceral.
Were you taught about queer theory when you were studying?
Yes, Goldsmiths is very queer! At first, I almost rejected it as English is my second language and reading the theory was difficult. I can remember my thesis was about psychoanalysis, as I was exploring the visceral effect of making art. Perhaps nowadays psychoanalysis is a clique, questions of sublimation and existentialism are overdone. Though at the time I was graduating, just after the financial crisis, things were looking bad - real shitty – for us artists emerging from art school.
Our exhibition features your collages, such as Pickup (2023) and Young Elvis (2023), which primarily use vintage pornographic iconography. Where do you find these images?
I have collected these images online for years; I have a huge collection of references. I was a graphic designer for years, in the booming era of print, so I hold a lot of importance to celluloid imagery and its aesthetics. I draw inspiration from the seventies, a time that is distant enough for me not to have experienced it first-hand, yet close enough for me to retain memories of it. I was a child in the seventies, so my aspiration is to emulate the art from that world. But of course, it is just a matter of taste. I can remember younger peers at Goldsmith who would look to the eighties for inspiration. But I thought the eighties was shit because that’s when I was a teenager. Besides maybe the Smiths, it was so naff.
What is your process like creating your collages?
These collages start digitally, on photoshop, where I come up with an idea that will be possible to create physically with a sharp knife. In the end, the work is produced by hand, as I print out these images and manually cut and paste them. Beyond gallery exhibitions, I have used these images in printed poetry publications so sometimes they can appear digitally. Every now and then I write silly poetry just so that my images can have accompanying text. However, do not read the poetry too closely. I write it in English and then run it through translation into German—neither of which are my native languages.
Your work reminds me of Mapplethorpe’s Gay Power cover (1970) and his early collages. Do you often draw inspiration from him?
Being a gay person, being a gay artist, of course Mapplethorpe is in the deepest layers of your psyche. I must say, I didn’t look at him for a long time. With these collages there was no conscious reference of Mapplethorpe … but I’m sure he’s in there somewhere. The idea of these collages is actually very old, I started this a long time ago but never really developed it. But you know, one day you have the right image and the right frame of mind and then something happens and you start a whole new thing. And here I am.
Here you are indeed, and we are very grateful for your inclusion in our show.
Thank you, the pleasure is all mine. See you in London for the opening!
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