Christopher Paul Dean Interview – Learning about the Georgia Tech Artwork and the Mighty Line Floor Tape used to create it.


 

Can you tell us about yourself and some of the work that you have
done?

I was born an hour north of London in Milton Keynes, England. I have an Undergraduate Degree in Contemporary Applied Arts from the University of Hertfordshire (England), and a Masters’s Degree in Sculpture from The Savannah College of Art and Design in Atlanta. Since 2010 I have traveled to work as an Artist Assistant in Denmark (Folk Art School, Holbæk), Detroit (Cranbrook Academy of Art), Atlanta, and Mexico (U.S Consulate, Monterrey). As well as managing my own studio in Dallas, TX, I am also lead assistant to multimedia Artist Gabriel Dawe.

I have exhibited in numerous locations including London, NYC, Dallas, multiple locations in GA, and in 2017 showed work at UNTITLED as part of Art Basel Miami Beach. In 2020, I was awarded a commission for a large-scale installation to be on permanent display at Georgia Tech Campus Safety Building. It was this installation where I was able to utilize the Safety Tape from Mighty Line.

What intrigues you about the diagonals and safety items that you use?

My practice is focused on employing manual and theoretical labor as a means to investigate relationships developed between humans and objects. Through this focus, I use a range of processes and materials to construct work, including sculpture, painting, textiles, language, and digital media, that explores and disrupts historical rules, bodily interactions, and preconceived frameworks.

For several years I have gravitated towards universally utilized signs associated with standardized accident prevention. With a focus on appropriating the visual lexicon of readymade safety markers, including caution stripes and barricade patterns, I use reconfiguration as a device to create work that is intended to expand our experiences with these familiar patterns, colors, and materials. Within the landscape of my practice, the formal qualities of these readymades are able to exist simultaneously as both a symbol of safety and also as a work of art.

I am interested in using these familiar signs of safety because they remind us we exist. These readymade patterns are intended to alert human beings of their proximity to a particular hazard and to safely navigate us from one place to another. I rather enjoy the idea that these colorful, repeated, and simplistic patterns resonate with people in this way. Both prior to my study and during, I have worked in numerous warehouses in England and I distinctly remember these patterns not only assisting with safety but also elevating my mood. They add a pop of color to any environment, I enjoy the frankness of their presence.

Recently you have incorporated Mighty Line floor tape and your art for
the Georgia Tech Campus Safety Building, can you discuss this project more? How did it get it started? How long did it take to get it fully installed?

This project was brought to my attention by an Art Consultant in Atlanta. I lived in ATL for 4 years whilst I was taking my MFA, so the consultant was aware of my work and was interested in one day have a piece of mine on display there. I was immediately excited because (a) a context in which Safety was the primary function is a really excellent location for my work to function. And (B), I had been experimenting with the Mighty Line safety tape in my studio on smaller works, and I knew that a large-scale piece with this material would be very interesting.

Following my conversation with the Art Consultant, I was aware of the budget and had an idea of what the client was looking for. They had seen my work and really enjoy the vibrancy of the materials and colors that I am interested in. From there I began the process of putting together proposals and then I presented 3 options to the Georgia Tech Arts Committee and various other members of staff in the Campus Safety Building. Following being awarded the commission the pandemic struck and all was on hold. I wasn’t able to have a site visit due to travel restrictions, so my wife (an Architect) helped me make a scale model of the building from technical drawings and videos + images I had been sent.

Given my artistic interests, my initial attraction to this project was the function of the building itself. The Georgia Tech Police Campus Safety Building is – as the name states – a place of safety, but it is also a place of integration, protection, caution, order, disorder and because of these details is a great context for my work to function. The potential of this project increased dramatically for me when I received some images and a short video highlighting the specific location of the building. The architectural details such as variations in height, angular walls, an abundance of natural light, and stairs connecting the upper and lower levels are qualities that I found to be both interesting and challenging. With all this in mind, it was my objective to create a piece of artwork that integrated with both the form and function of the space. To achieve this, I started by developing a pattern that was of absolute order but then allowed for the architectural details to disrupt this order. The result of which is the space dictating the pacing and size of the panels, the placement, and combination of safety tape color-ways and the staggering height of the composition across four walls. It is through this site-specificity that I not only relinquished complete control of the composition, I was also able to create a piece of work in which multiple experiences are made possible. So whether you enter from the upper or lower level of the lobby, walk up or down the stairs, or even if you’re outside the building looking in, each of the sections that make up the artwork will shift as you navigate in and around the space.

My motivation for selecting this particular material is two-fold. First is my appreciation for the formal qualities of the safety tape. The initial attraction here was to the bold colors and diagonal pattern, but through studio explorations, I discovered that the pre-applied adhesive creates a subtle ripple on the surface of the tape. This isn’t consistent on all of the color ways, and can also vary throughout a single roll of tape, but when light is introduced this ripple provides unique moments in a mass-produced readymade. Given the scale and natural light in the GTPD lobby, I knew the surface qualities of this material would increase optical interest when applied to multiple panels. Second to my decision-making was the purpose of the material in relation to the purpose of the building. My past explorations in this series have seen me create compositions using thread on canvas, paint, digital interventions, and unfired clay, but given the context and site-specific nature of this project, I wanted to utilize a material that would directly reference the function of the building. This heavy-duty safety tape is commonly utilized as a device to demarcate zones, create order, assist in navigation, alert us to potential hazards and ultimately maintain safety. But now, through my artistic intervention and in the context of The Georgia Tech Police Campus Safety building, there is a duality of existence in which the bold colors and diagonal pattern not only function as a sign of safety but also as a work of art.

Time frame – from developing the proposal to presenting the accepted iteration was about 2 months. It took me approx 3 weeks to fabricate the panels – at one point I had all of the panels in my 900 sqft apartment! I then transported the work from Dallas, TX to the Georgia Tech Campus Safety building and began the installation. The installation took 7 days. I spent a lot of hours 25ft in the air on a single-man scissor lift. My core strength has improved, haha!

You can see images of the completed work on my website under the ‘Installations’ header.

How has the feedback been since the install?

The responses to the piece have been very positive! And given this is my first large-scale piece of artwork, for a prominent and well-respected school, I was extremely happy with how the piece turned out.

Mighty line hired you to perform the work for their corporate office
because they enjoyed it so much.

Alec has been my primary point of contact at Mighty Line. In fact, when I reached out to let them know that I was using one of their products to create a large-scale piece of work Alec was immediately excited about this project. Since then he and his brother commissioned me to make 6 pieces for the HQ in Ohio and even dedicated one of the works (a 3-panel triptych) to their late friend and supporter of their business vision. Alec also purchased 2 smaller works that utilize the Mighty Line Safety Tape. I am very thankful for all of the support those folks have shown me!

What other safety colors draw your interest as an artist?

I am always looking for readymade objects associated with accident prevention, so whatever materials and colors these functional objects are made in I will utilize. I am not an artist who uses color for color’s sake, there has to be an initial intention for that color because from there I am able to explore the potential of the color, materials, and intended purpose.

Ultimately my art practice is all about exploring the potential of the familiar and utilizing my interests and skill set as an artist to create an alternate existence for each material, color, etc that I use.

Any other installs on the Horizon?

Unfortunately not at this time. I do have work in a group exhibition in North Carolina at the Bascom Centre for Visual Arts. I have 2 pieces in this show, one is made up of 110 cubes with Black/Yellow anti-slip tape, and the other is made up of 9 cubes that are to be precariously stacked on a shelf. This particular piece utilizes the Mighty Line Safety Tape.

My focus of late has been on updating my website so that people can purchase artwork directly from my studio. I would like for people to also enjoy these signs and materials outside of galleries or public spaces, so anyway I am able to reach potential collectors is my primary focus at this time. I have multiple works exploring the colors and materials associated with safety.

All of my work can be seen on my websitewww.cpdeanart.com – or on my Instagram Account@cpdean

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