FAULT Focus: with artist Alex Hall


Young artist Alexander Hall launched his first public collection last week and his modern, playful and darkly paradoxical pieces are refreshing additions to the avante-guarde art scene. Haute de Gamme, Hall’s alias, is inspired by post-war American artists, but the paintings have an important contemporary focus: the persistent materialism of society in the context of socio-economic turbulence. FAULT visited his studio, a spacious converted barn in the Surrey countryside, and talked to the charming 22-year-old about his debut works.



How did you start out as an artist?

I always painted at school but I only decided it was really what I wanted to pursue further in life after I left and started travelling. I experienced, let’s just say, a dramatic turning point, after which I went on a very meaningful trip to New York where I learned a lot about myself and others. The only way for me to deal with the feeling you get after shit happens to you was to paint, so I came back and painted.

Where does your inspiration come from?

My art is heavily influenced by my interpretation of what’s going on in a young person’s life in a very materialist world. We live in a very materialistic society even though our economy is fucked which I think is quite a disturbing reality.

This series is also inspired by relationships between mates and their girlfriends. In my everyday life when I speak to friends and colleagues something always comes up about relationships – about feelings and emotions, whether they are good or bad.

I take it, from the images around your studio, that you also take inspiration from cars.

I  love cars. One of my greatest passions is motor racing. I’m massively inspired by the way car manufacturers use design and products to meet the changing influences and demands of the public from different classes.

What do you think sets your artwork apart?

Simple – its better. It’s cooler.

I try hard to encapsulate what is real and raw. I don’t want to play mind games with an artist to realise what he’s getting at so I try and avoid being that kind of artist.

Other art does influence me. I like to see what they’re all thinking about. As an artist I do get self-conscious that maybe I think too much about detail.

You’ve incorporated many iconic images into your work like the British and American flags – tell us a bit about what they mean to you.

Two things. First, the plain artistic vision. Whether it’s a pair of shoes or a flag, I want it to be something that everyone recognises. To then put it into a painting is me making a generalisation about something, but using a format which people recognise easily to get to that point. For example, when you think of anything that a stereotype can be applied to like particular type of person, everyone has a certain set of ides and opinions that come to mind and the best way to represent those feelings is through a universally known image – cartoons :)

Where did the idea to use cartoon characters come from – especially within the context of quite a sombre message?

The cartoons are the storytellers.

They speak to people across generations. The fact that you can draw cartoons doing very adult things while they still retain their youthful appeal interests and amuses me. It’s the appearance of an innocent child but with the consciousness of an adult behind the playful exterior.


Where did all the old newspapers that you incorporate come from?

I left Wellington College, my school, and went and worked as labourer on a building site to learn some hard skills. I was removing some lino and presented underneath were these classic 1970s perfectly preserved newspapers. They were copies of The Sound. I instantly packed them up and immediately began to think about how I could use them artistically.

I think the 70s was the best music era this country has ever experienced – FACT. It was the start of this kind of artificial world where you had bankers and businessmen living like rock stars – unregulated fun, sex, drugs and rock and roll.

Which artists do you most admire?

Robert Rauschenberg and Jasper Johns. They shone at me! I made a point of going to see their work wherever it was exhibited. I also love Kandinsky’s musically inspired art.

How would you describe your work?

It’s playful yet dark. With most innocent and lovely looking things, there’s always something more sinister lurking beneath the surface. Art has to incorporate what is good in this world as well as the problems.

I love layering. Each layer represents different human emotions: what we feel when we get up in the morning, when we have a cigarette, when we make love… I’ve also got a devil’s eye and it can be frustrating because it means I’m always looking for some sort of perfection, even in chaos.

* You can view and purchase the works on http://www.hautdegamme.com/ and Haut de Gamme’s next event will take place at Dukebox on November 22.

Interviewer: Rebecca Unger
Photographs: Anna Dick & Rebecca Unger