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December 3rd, 2019 | by Tom Harrow-Smith

South Bank in Focus: Q&A with Rod McIntosh

Rod McIntosh is the current artist in residence at Bankside Hotel in collaboration with Contemporary Collective who draws heavily on mindfulness in approach to his works and focuses on the medium of ink as his main creative influence. His artworks won't be the only focal point of his time as artist in residence, Rod will also host a number mindfulness events throughout his time at Bankside, including free, weekly morning meditation sessions. Interested in finding out more, we sat down with Rod to ask him a bit more about his work, his style and influences, as well as the other projects he will be working on during his time in South Bank, including the 'All Things Ink' event that takes place this December.

What does your art mean to you and what are your main inspirations behind your works?

My art I hope is imbued with the energy with which it is created. I enjoy watching folk approach my work, stand  in front of it, and take a breath. Often seeing their shoulders relax with a second breath taken. In that moment a connection has been made. The mindful, peaceful energy within the work allows for a pause for breath from the viewer and a visual pause from the ocular onslaught one can be a part of and the whole load of ‘ugly’ that surrounds us. I would like to imagine that quiet analogue work on the walls is a kind of act of rebellion.

What do you enjoy about being artist in residence at Bankside Hotel and being a part of the South Bank art scene?

I have moved pretty much wholesale from country (Kent) to a city studio for the two months! Being on the South Bank is exciting and challenging. How to cultivate the mindfulness approach amongst the dynamic of a busy capital city. The river and my walk to work with Bingo the studio dog, has been a touch stone to ground myself before arriving at the studio. The space within the hotel is remarkably quiet and the location has enabled people familiar with my work to come find me and to be discovered by the hotel guests, local resident and folk walking around the area. I think being within an area that is a creative destination for many people has meant some really great conversations with people popping in.

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What will you be working on in your time as Bankside’s artist in residence?

I am about halfway through the residency and the first month has been self-directed to shake up and un-assume some things about my work and what makes a successful image. It has been a month of play, risk taking and learning from taking a step away from producing. The second month will be taking this and taking it forward to a collection of work that speaks of this opportunity, the change in location and openness. 

“If you always do what you have always done, you will always get what you have always got!"

What are you hoping to inspire in people through your day of All Things Ink?

I am passionate about the versatility of ink and am constantly inspired by others working with it in different ways and from the history and legacy that ink painting has. The day is an opportunity for me to bring together a group of 6 artists who through our material have a connection. To share, to co-inspire one another and offer participants an insight into our work, our philosophies and joy.

What will you be working on in your time as Bankside’s artist in residence?

I am about halfway through the residency and the first month has been self-directed to shake up and un-assume some things about my work and what makes a successful image. It has been a month of play, risk taking and learning from taking a step away from producing. The second month will be taking this and taking it forward to a collection of work that speaks of this opportunity, the change in location and openness. 

“If you always do what you have always done, you will always get what you have always got!"

What’s the connection between your art and mindfulness?

My painting is created in the moment. I have a number of morning creative and mindfulness rituals that allow me to arrive in the studio without judgement or fear of starting. Seated meditation alongside creating a tabletop of ink circles (enso) or taking a brush for a journey across the page, following my breath all support being present. The work become a record of that moment in time. They are echoes of an active meditation.

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What drew you to working in the medium of ink?

I trained as a sculptor and used it to sketch ideas. And knew how to manipulate it. As I learnt more about the science and history of ink. I was fascinated by it. The purity. Carbon, water and protein binder in its simplest form. A year or so of research led me to the specific inks I use for the particle size of the carbon. So that the ink soaks within the structure of the paper. It is part of the paper not on the surface. This blows my mind every time I create work. The record of ‘that moment in time’ is captured; the ink (carbon) is held within the fibres of the paper. potentially for ever. Like tattoos, cave paintings and Italian frescos the image is within the structure and substrate.

Can you tell us a bit about the artists that will be joining you for the day of All Things Ink? Plus, what can those attending expect from the event itself?

Talia Lehavi is an artist whose knowledge and experience is rooted in the history of ink and Asian painting traditions. Her current practice is a melting pot os contemporary ink painting that honours traditions. Bridget Davies creates beautiful seductive images of women through a loose working with coloured inks and gold leaf embellishments. Her figures sip cocktails, smoke cigarettes in long holders under a veil or tease within a glimpse of stocking. Lan Niziblian, is an accomplished contemporary calligrapher as well as using a traditional craft of Gyotaku - printing off wet fish. Hiroko Imada is an ink painter and a master printer using Japanese wood block technique. Andrea Riot, comes from a street art/graffiti background and creates large calligraphy style artworks. Kate Knight works with biro ink creating beautiful figurative and narrative work with either water colour or gold leaf embellishments.

Participants will get to meet the artists, experience a demonstration from each of their particular skills set to see how it is done, but to inspire and dissolve any held assumptions about ink. A three-course themed lunch is offered in the Bankside Private Dining Room and in the afternoon, I will lead a short workshop in Mindfulness and Ink Painting. The day will close with a cocktail back in the hotel with a reception for the viewing of the All Things Ink Collection. An exclusive curated collection of works from participating artists to be offered by Contemporary Collective.

Do you have a favourite place to visit in South Bank?

Any of the high viewing platforms as part of the Southbank Centre, and Festival Hall and OXO Tower. To get above the architecture to see some horizon. I need to see big skies from time to time. Also, the beach at Gabriel's Wharf is one of mine and Bingo’s favourite places to dig into the sand and feel connected to something that is not pavement.