Interview: Lee Mc Donald

Art, Article, Artist, Arts, Bristol, Inspirational, Installation, Interview, Performance art, sculpture, Video

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Lee Mc Donald is a Plymouth based artist who uses sound and movement to make kinetic, sonic and often public sculptures out of recycled or reclaimed objects. Describing his work as quasi scientific Lee’s practice is based in experimentation and testing. I first met Lee when he turned the courtyard of Baggator Community Centre in Easton into an art installation for the 2014 Bristol Biennial.

Tell us about your background, how did you get into art? 

When I was young art seemed to be the only thing that keptme out of trouble. There are some real moments from my childhood which really stick out for me, like seeing a man on a beach in St. Ives making a sea horse out of sand (it was so fascinating to me!) So my brother and I ended up carrying buckets of water in from the sea for him so he could keep making the sculpture. At school I enjoyed art and even had to sneak into school to continue a painting I was doing for my GCSE art exam after I’d been suspended, and some school friends hid me in the cupboard when the head master got wind that I’d snuck back. After that I visited Robert Lenkiewicz’s painting studio which ended in me having painting lessons by the artist, I can remember being surrounded by hundreds paintings and talking to this eccentric character about painting, it was awesome.

Most recently I got some help from Carl Slater, the director of Plymouth based art centre KARST, who gave me the opportunity to build and develop a number of my ideas.

If you could give your younger self one piece of advice what would it be? 

Take every opportunity that comes your way and use it to its full potential.

And what was the best piece of advice you were given and who was it by? 

I have been given lots of good advice and here are three of the best: “Keep doing what your doing” Andy Knights, “It’s only problem solving” Carl Slater and “Do what you want boy” my Dad.

Tell us about your favourite art space where you live. 

We there’s a toss up between the Plymouth Art Centre and KARST. Plymouth art centre is a place I have been going to for a long time and has been extremely important throughout my art career. There I have seen interesting films, attended life drawing classes, had food there and since being joining as a PAC Home Member I have been to many artist talks, met other artist – loads of very interesting things. And I’ve picked KARST because it was the first place in Plymouth to offer studios to interesting artists and has an interesting arts program of exhibitions and talks.

Can you tell us about any projects you’re working on at the moment? 

I am tying to get some of my concepts and sculptures like the Sonic Room, which I exhibited at the Bristol Biennial, a place to exist in and to use them for more events. I’m currently doing a two month residency at Maker in Cornwall through the Plymouth Collage of Art alumni programme were I hope to do lots of concept drawing and build a new sculpture.

Talk us through an ordinary ‘day in the office’ for you. 

Office? Everyday is very different and the work starts at different times of the day. Some days I am constantly building a project and this tends to include a lot of social networking, keeping people up to date with what I’m doing. Other days I’ll be doing applications for festivals or residences, doing lots of research, keeping my research blog updated and replying to emails.

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What’s your ‘go to’ piece of equipment when you’re making a sonic or kinetic sculpture?

I don’t really have a favourite piece of equipment for my work as I use a number of tools, but I do like my pocket multi-tool as this has most of the tools I need on it and is very handy.

Some young artists find it difficult to talk about their work. Have you ever had a similar experience? 

Talking about work can be extremely difficult in a formal situation and preparation is key, mention artist who have influenced your work or at least be aware of them and don’t worry if some one says something you don’t understand or an artist you don’t recognise, just tell them you don’t understand them and ask if they can explain a bit more – we’re all here to learn from each other. But if you are in more a social environment like I was with the Sonic Room, in a way it seems easier because you can demonstrate the work and explain it, so having your work to hand can help.

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Tell us about your relationship with social media – is it good, bad or ugly?

Social media seems to work OK when networking and sourcing information and even promoting an event but it does cause problems when friends post up compromising photos for a laugh. Lots of advertising on social networks can irritate people and I have been at both ends of this scenario so it has been good, bad and ugly for me.

Thanks for talking to us about your work Lee! You can follow more of Lee’s sonic adventures on his Twitter @LeeMcDonaldArt or his website.

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