According to a long-standing myth, artistic geniuses tend to perch in spaces secluded enough to let their imagination run free and derelict enough to tolerate their creative chaos.
Zachary Eastwood-Bloom, Frame magazine’s: “one of the best students of 2010” and the V&A’s: “one to watch for 2011” greets me from the top of a ladder. His head almost touches the ceiling of this arched space, tucked beneath the Overground’s rails, just off the Kingsland road, with rumbling trains providing the daily soundtrack.
Bloom has left the pursuit of high art for a more mundane endeavour: the repair of the heating. Apart from this small, albeit important flaw, Manifold studio, which he shares with eight other artists, boasts refurbished walls, hands-on interns and ideas, in draft form, lying on desks. This sunny morning the natural light penetrating the glass façade, gives the industrial space a balmy feel.
On the ground, he guides me through sketches, works in progress and completed pieces by fellow artists. His explanatory voice is slow-paced, mesmerising and as you follow his hands moving over the plaster moulds it’s easy to forget why you came here for in the first place.
That doesn’t mean he’s avoiding the subject of himself. He just enjoys talking about things that fascinate him. “Ultimately my work is not about me like for example Tracy Emin’s work is about her. I am probably the opposite. A lot of my work is about space and form, that’s the common denominator.”
In Bloom’s universe, everyday objects like a chair or a piece of concrete seem to be transformed and gradually digitised. When I tell Bloom that ‘Information Ate My Table‘, made me feel the digital world was invading my reality, he doesn’t seem surprised.
“That’s what it’s all about,” he says of his contribution to the last London Design Festival.
“We increasing live a digital existence, whether it’s through Facebook or Twitter, because of work or entertainment, we spend huge amounts of time online”.
This duality of western-world life is really distinctive in his work. “That piece was quite a metaphor for me: that the digital and the real world not only coexist but one is invading the other.”
Bloom was born and raised in Dewsbury, near Leeds, but he moved to London two years ago to do a Masters in Ceramics and Glass at the Royal College of Art. His hands have been moulding clay since he was 18 but the practical aspects of his aspirations pushed him one step further. “I never used ceramics for its properties, but as a tool to make more or less geometric sculptures”. While at the RCA, he started to question the materials he was using and the ways he was using them.
After the guidance of one his tutors, he went to a CAD (Computer-Aided Design) course and began experimenting with CNC milling machines that used CAD designs to bring his visions to life. “That method didn’t really fit with clay and the possibilities were wider using other materials like wood or concrete,” the artist explains.
CNC milling is a highly automated process that so far has been mostly used by designers to make prototypes for furniture and objects. “Artists and sculptors can be a little slow to adapt to new technologies,” he admits. “It’s quite hard to get into, because in order to use the machinery, you first need to learn about computer modelling.”
Nevertheless, he doesn’t disclaim the merits and necessity of manual effort. Most of his works need the polishing or initial intervention of his own hands in order to get prepared for milling. Artists still have to learn how to use their hands before using digital technology and Bloom seems to be enjoying both.
“There was a time when traditional painters would say you have to mix your own paint from pigment but now that’s unheard of and the truth is, it’s all part of progress,” he says. “There is a downside as well though, you can see a three-dimensional representation of what you’re building on your screen but you don’t quite know how it is going to be or feel like,” he adds.
Embracing progress, he is experimenting with new mediums such as sound. “I want to see how shape and form can be changed through sound and how an object would sound”.
A video creating digital landscapes based on the music his brother made was his first foray into sound and image experimentations. In order to complete the project he collaborated with a programmer to build the code but he’s eager to become even more tech-savvy himself. “Life is a constant learning process. I think in order to keep fresh you have to keep on learning.”
The piece he is preparing for next year’s London Design Festival also investigates the possible interactions between image and sound. His concept involves a ballet performed to contemporary music, motion-captured to digitally create new forms. “These forms will be a product of the dancers’ movement and after the show they are going to be milled to create three-dimensional sculptures”. His part-performance, part-video and part-sculpture piece is expected to establish him as one of Britain’s most promising artists.
Bloom is conscious of the fact he’s being observed by the media but he dares to position himself on the other side the fence as well. Through his blog page on Klat Magazine’s website he presents and examines works of artists he respects or relates to. “I like specific bits of artists’ work; bits of Anish Kapoor or Carsten Nicolai’s idea-lead pieces”.
This young artist realises that understanding himself is a way of understanding his work and moving it one step further. “A lot of my work is a comment about society but it is also about me, being taken over by digital processes,” says Bloom with a faint smile betraying the pleasure of this game of seduction.
Eastwood-Bloom will participate in the “Presence-Absence” exhibition (9-13 June), at Kingsland Road Studio, 284-288 Kingsland Road E8 4DN and in the Metamorphosis exhibition at the Royal British Society of Sculptors in Kensington (29 June-29 July).
More about Bloom: www.zacharyeastwood-bloom.co.uk
More about Manifold: www.studiomanifold.org