Who is Will Cruickshank? He grew up in Devon, by the sea. After starting out studying architecture, he switched to study Fine Art Sculpture at Manchester, and once graduated moved to London, working in derelict spaces he could rent cheaply. In time he decided to find unused buildings on farms outside the city, with the possibility of cheaper rents, larger spaces, and a working environment closer to nature.

How’s life in the countryside, while most artists try to live as much as possible in big cities, closer to the social life and galleries? Whilst I worked in studios on farms around the outside of London, I continued to live in the city, so was still able to enjoy what it had to offer culturally and socially. Working in the countryside gave me a lot more space, but also the annual rhythms of a working farm and the isolation helped in developing the work. Two years ago I moved back to Devon in the south west of the UK where I grew up, and I’m sure that in turn will play its part in influencing how, and what I make.

Will is a multidisciplinary artist. He creates varied artworks such as: sculptures, weavings, prints, videos and photos, all according to a recognizable style, following the timeless currents of abstraction and minimalism. There are two elements that immediately catch the attention: the rigor of form and the attention to color… or so it seems. The rigor of form is often the result of archetype and concept. The attention to color appears to be well calculated, but it is not always: often it is totally random…. who would have guessed that? What is impressive is that through this color we can perceive the spin and rotation of his production methods. And method is a key word in Will’s work.

Everything is created by himself: self-built machines are co-protagonist with the artist. There is a thin line that divides the artworks and the machines. The artworks are the result – and obviously the final products – but the machines are a curiosity in themselves. Do you first think about the final work or the construction of the machine? When I first began working like this I started by developing mechanical processes that could create objects. Where I am now is slightly different, I often find each object points to a new refinement or addition for the machine or process. Now the work steers the development of the machines, and in turn, the machines steer the works.

What are the production difficulties? It’s a very experimental practice, and I guess you often have a form in your mind, but then you get another result.  What are you doing in this case? As the machines are self built, they are often unpredictable, and the same goes for the materials I use. This means that generally things rarely go as I expect. But I think this is the exciting space of making, where you can discover new possibilities for your materials and devices. Sometimes of course it is disappointing when things do not go to plan, but after some time, it possible to see new directions and opportunities.

How long does it take to build a machine? And how long does it take you to produce the work? Most of the machines have evolved over a long period of time. My first attempts are usually a bit wobbly and unreliable, but bit by bit I adjust them, as I learn what they can and can’t do. The large Cement Mixer Winding Machine has been developed over about 6 years. It began initially as a device for wood carving, but now it can do all kinds of things. Sometimes individual artworks can be made over a few days, but there do tend to be a lot of failed attempts and adjustments before that moment. 

The potential of the technique is amazing. It is as if a perfect circle is closed. In such a technological world, it’s impressive how Will manages to be so traditional – in the materials used – and contemporary – in the expression and achievement – at the same time.

Can you briefly describe your choice of materials and what is your inspiration? Wood is normally my starting place to build machines, but after that I try and use things I already have in the studio. Over the years I have collected a lot of broken mechanical objects and hardware. I try to go to the shops as little as possible. For yarn, I try and collect old stock. I have collected a lot from a factory that made school uniforms, and still have some of that to work with. Most other materials come from builders merchants. I think the studio routine inspires what work I will make next. By being with the machines and handling the materials, the next step presents itself, I’m always looking for a new direction to move things in. If things do get too predictable, I change something, or move across to another machine or process.

Last but not least, what would you like to develop in the future? Do you have something that is very close to your poetics and research? I think the production processes I have developed could lend themselves to making objects on a much larger scale. There are additional requirements and space needed for that, but hopefully those opportunities will present themselves in time. Other than that I plan to keep investigating and following the possibilities that the materials and machines present, moving things forward wherever I can.

This post is also available in: Italian