Melbourne artist Taj (Deams) Alexander is the ultimate perfectionist. In his practice Alexander wrestles with both the particulars of the medium – layers of synthetic polymer and pigment applied on linen or aluminium panels – and the technique, be it precise broad brushwork and graphic interruptions as in earlier work, or unorthodox printing methods as in his latest body of work. There is a tension between analogue and digital, and tension arising from a practice that is both experimental and highly disciplined.
In the lead up to our upcoming Artist in Focus featuring Alexander’s latest body of work, Impressions, we caught up with Taj to learn more. The making of Impressions is also documented in this fantastic film by Raphael Recht.
Your works have a really unique quality, how did you come to develop your painting technique?
I am always trying to reach this particular quality within the work that sits somewhere between analogue, lo-fi processing and hyper, clean, finished and digital. I like the tension between these two opposing yet complimentary aesthetics. I think they speak to my relationship and history with analogue and digital media, printed processes and materiality in design.
These qualities have emerged through continued experimentation with new materials and mediums. I am interested in utilising unconventional tools and methods because they have so much more potential to produce something unexpected. This kind of investigation always leads me into effects and methods that have a unique look or finish, if it’s something I like I will push into that area further and try to refine it.
You’ve mentioned music as an influence on your work – was there a particular artist or genre of music that you found yourself drawn to while creating this new collection?
Music has always been very formative and influential in the making of my work. This can be seen in the way that I work. I build textures, set limits on tools and colours and then refine and recompose. There is a commonality in the desire to produce a piece that is spacious, expressive, considered, poetic and dynamic.
I’ve always felt like I’m producing or arranging the work in a musical sense. During the production of this work I listened to whole range of music from jazz to electronica and psych-rock. It’s really just a response to my mood on any given day and finding something that is conducive to what I am working on, sometimes this is just the ambient sounds of the environment.
You describe the pandemic as a ‘destabilising experience’ which has ‘affected the fabric of our culture’. How have the challenges of the past 18 months affected your practice, and what role do you think art can play in the recovery?
The past eighteen months have had a deep affect on my ability to produce work with any kind of consistency. There have been so many unforeseen obstacles that have made the whole operation both complicated and heavily coloured by the existential gravity of the pandemic. My expectations about the work have been forced to change and my feelings toward the practice of being an artist have been questioned extensively. Like so many other people I had a lot of plans for that period of time and I’ve had to re-think the whole management of professional practice. One of the hardest aspects of this is having to reduce expectations and deal with the limitation of both resources and focused energy. Despite these challenges I have found solace in the studio. I have moved my place of work twice over this period so there has been a further destabilisation that has contributed to the inconsistency of my producing work. I have really enjoyed working on the is collection over the past months, it has given me a clear sense of purpose and if nothing else a real sense of achievement.
If you could collaborate with any other artist or brand, who would it be and why?
Can’t name anyone specific but I’d like to collaborate with architects and explore the potential of my work intersecting with scale, form and new productions methods.