head to the arctic with louis vuitton
London’s New Bond Street store commissioned artist Blaise Drummond to create the latest in its world travel series, and to curate a bookshelf of some of his favorite works.
New York, Venice and now The Arctic - all places explored by various artists, as commissioned by Louis Vuitton for its exquisite illustrated guidebooks. Heading up to those freezing climes was Liverpudlian-Irish painter Blaise Drummond, an artist known for his precise works that often see a mixture of watercolor, collage, ink, acrylic and collage. Drummond spent three weeks hiking and kayaking in the Arctic, taking 4000 photos along the way, later used as a basis for his paintings. Additionally, Drummond has followed David Bowie and Frank Gehry in curating a corner of Louis Vuitton's New Bond Street bookstore, filling it with works by David Shrigley, JD Salinger and Nicholson Baker. i-D chatted with him exclusively on the day of the The Arctic's release and the bookshelf big reveal.
Where exactly is "The Arctic"?
I had to look it up myself! It's a line on the globe above which trees don't grow anymore. It includes Greenland, Canada, Scandinavia, Iceland and Russia.
Were you around the icebergs?
I went on a ship into a fjord and then I'd go on a little rubber boat and be on icebergs walking 'round where nobody was. The funny thing I found about the icebergs is that even when you're there, they look totally unreal. It looks like polystyrene. Then you photograph it, and it still doesn't look real. It's such an alien thing to our eyes. The icebergs are like cities, but they change every day.
I like the little in-store display of your iceberg cutouts using graph paper.
I use graph paper a lot in my collages. It's like the Proustian thing of the madeleine. I have this attraction to it: this greenish-blue graph paper that I remember from primary school. I'm always buying different graph paper when I'm in different countries.
Which are you other favorites from the illustrated Louis Vuitton travel series?
I like the Edinburgh book by Floc'h who is a famous French illustrator. It's got a contemporary Tintin feel. And my children really like the one on Venice, which is like a manga story.
Where would your fantasy trip be to?
It's a terrible confession, but you know some people really like traveling? Well I've never been to India or Japan, and I don't have anything against it, but I don't have any burning ambition either. This is quite lame, but I love the Australian band The Go-Betweens, and I wouldn't mind going to Brisbane and seeing where they're from and the places in their songs. Recently I was reading a Matisse biography and I realized that an awful lot of his paintings were made quite near my gallery in Paris, so I walked down the road and I was like, "My god!" and you see the railings of the apartment that are in the paintings. There's something magical about that.
How do you find time to paint when you have four kids?
My studio is an old cowshed opposite the house. I thought it'd be really handy, having a studio opposite the house, but now I've had kids and they're all rattling around and going around on skateboards and bikes, I can see if they're bawling or crying. Then they're banging on the window all the time. They inevitably come in sometimes. I rip off some of the things they do. Kids are brilliant in the way they work. The thing that they esteem about the work that I make is its verisimilitude, whereas what they do is fantastic in terms of the life of it. I'm looking at what they consider mistakes and then ripping off their stuff.
How did you come to this very precise, almost architectural style of yours?
There are loads of artists who I admire who I don't work like. I remember someone on the radio talking about Raymond Carver, and one of the things that really struck me was something he said, like "style is a negotiation around what you can't do." That really resonated with me. I was avoiding certain kinds of painting that I admire - but I don't think I could do - and that led me down certain pathways to a very precise kind of painting. I like things that are a lot softer and more lyrical too.
Which artist might people be most surprised that you're a fan of?
I really like Fairfield Porter at the moment. He's from the mid-20th century. He knew all the abstract expressionists and was making unfashionable European figuration, Matisse-influenced. He made these beautiful paintings: lyrical landscape paintings of Maine and Waspy, wealthy East Coast Protestant types. There are all these interiors of all these nice houses with his friends and this beautiful New England sunlight.
I'm familiar with David Shrigley, JD Salinger and Le Corbusier on your shelf, but can you talk me through some others?
Elizabeth Bishop was an American poet who made these paintings. She's not a painter, but there's something really simple and beautiful about them. There's always something charming about someone reaching maybe slightly beyond what they can do, like a singer whose voice isn't perfect. I saw a review of the book years ago and it popped right out of the newspaper at me. There's Nicholson Baker is one of the great writers. He's famous from the '80s for writing a book called The Mezzanine. It's about his lunch break and he discusses every tiny little thing; the design of the paper bag that he gets his sandwich in, the exchange with the person at the counter. Incredible detail. This is a more recent novel. And of course, there's The 10 Rules of Rock'n'Roll by Robert Forster from The Go-Betweens!