robert bradford


-When and why did the idea first occur to you to take toys as your

I began using toys as my central material about five years ago, it started
in my studio in Cornwall and began simply from a few moments that I spent
staring into into my childrens cast off toy boxes which happened to be
stored there. I responded to the variety of colours and forms they
presented, the random juxtapositions, and the non rational \'meanings\' that
those combinations started to take on My work over several years had
usually incorporated elements from my immediate environment, everything from
whole books magazines and twigs collaged into paintings t, scrap building
timber furniture and tree waste into sculptures. There are many reasons
for choosing scrap, the obvious first one being financial. I have always
enjoyed working on a physically large scale, paintings that you could feel
that you could enter, sculptures larger than life. For some time I was
making pyrotechnical fire sculptures in parallel to the more permanent
pieces so it would have been wasteful to use new flammables. I have always
disliked the blandness of many traditional sculptural materials clay bronze
stone plaster etc. I like materials that are more obviously malleable, that
have already had a life, have been part of other peoples lives. To me the
fact that these things have been used ,touched by humans for other reasons
than making art automatically adds depth to the work by giving it a history
both separate to the work and integrated within it. The toys are mini
sculptures designed by uncredited people. It is both theft and

-The toys you use are forgotten and abandoned. Is this their chance to get
their own back?!

The shapes and forms that the toys have are as or more important to me than
what they are. If the final object is to work the toys must \'fit in\' do
their job as anatomy hair clothing or objects carried, they cannot be
allowed to get away with too much. I worked part time as an adult
psychotherapist for several years so have learnt quite a lot about things
like the influence odf aspects of childhood and about deprivation and
abandonment - so I suppose I am saying yes to your question. The toys are
getting a second coming, for good or evil they are back, they want more
attention than they have been getting. They want to live longer.

-You make life-size, or even larger-than-life sculptures, mostly of animals.
Is this to highlight the real-artificial contrast that exists in your work?

There is certainly a real artificial contrast/ dilemma/ dichotomy in the
work. I am interested in the idea of species (beings) whether animal or
human. Both humans and animals come in quite a wide variety of forms that\'s
what is interesting to me. I like the idea of making natural forms (beings
really) out of something which is in ways rather unsuited to the task. I
like the challenge, the impossible absurdity of the attempt, but it is
quite perverse of me in ways I think, but then I do not seek an easy life.
It has taken me quite a long time to find ways a) of making the things
hold together and b) making the sculptures work as new beings. I do not see
my objects as representations I see them as equivalentsof or substitutes

-What is the reason behind creating animals particularly out of toys?
I see myself bit like a mad scientist trying to create life/ bring things
to life. I have been restless both as a human and as an artist, I trained
as a painter and a film maker, I like movement and change.
I do wonder what it\'s like to be e.g a dog and do try to empathise.
Animals do have as much right to live here as we do. When you live deep in
the country which I have done, you realise much more that we are just
sharing the environment with all sorts of things, many of which are not all
that popular with us. There is speciesism like there is racism. My current
home/ studio is called the Owl House and was very aptly named. Animals can
be playful or playthings toys suit them.

-Many people have commented on the ecological side of your work. Is
recycling a message that you are actively trying to promote?
It is my intention to make an art that is communicative but I have no
message to send. There are some paradoxes. I am too lazy and too driven to
give very much time to recycling, but I also dislike waste I get nauseous in
shopping centres and dislike too much \'stuff\' around (beautiful or useful
is right) -Societally things are changing aren\'t they. How many types of
toothpaste do we really need - one two? Ithink there is a fortune to be
made by the person who starts the \'one good brand of everything shop\'.
A lot of people assume that I am an eco warrior but I sit on the edge of
most of those kinds of classifications. That\'s where artists sit best I
think. Watch from an involved distance.

-Plastic is the dominant material in your sculptures. Do you feel this
gives your work a certain impact, or is it merely the incidental by-product
of working with toys?
Plastic is the dominant material in my sculpture at the moment, but there
are some new things on the way that have no plastic in them. For this series
I always discard fabric and wooden toys and take most of the batteries out.
Everything is a series however long that series may continue for. There are
some bits of metal and rubber in the plastic pieces too. I have come to
enjoy the colour and the shine, the intensity of the surfaces, the fact that
cheap trash can look beautiful - well that\'s a matter of opinion of course.

-People have said that our society is becoming increasingly reluctant to
give up the trappings of childhood. Is your art influenced by this trend? Do
you think it is particularly successful because of this?

I don’t really believe in the concept of total maturity for any one
individual, we all retain childish/childlike aspects, but it helps to know
what they are and how they work. Some of these aspects are positive - the
ability to continue to play for instance is a central root of creativity I
would argue and not just in art. We grow up by not having some of our needs
and wishes met and being (forced)? to meet our own. Often that\'s reluctant
but essential for some degree of mental health. I do understand mental
health problems as essentially being forms of immaturity. A collector of
mine who has become a friend, says that the difference between men and boys
is just the size of the toys- it may not be his quote.

-Toys are one of the strongest symbols of childhood. What place do you feel
they have in the \'adult\' world of art and galleries?

A subversive one I hope, childlikeness can work against pomposity and
pretension , of which there is plenty around in the art world. Maybe as the
global economy collapses there will be less bullshit and more action. It is
noticeable to me that often the smaller the art budgets get the bigger
becomes the jargon. Several artists (including myself) would like to be
able draw and paint like a three year old, but I cant I am trained.

-Humour plays a large part in your work, especially in the sculptures with
which one can interact. Do you feel that this ever stops people from taking
your art seriously?
I think it may do, (it can also stop me from taking myself too
seriously) but I do not apologise for the humour, (which can point up it\'s
by a kind of gestalt process). Many of the works have some \'dark\' areas on
them somewhere and I am not just talking about the tone. Overall, what I do
is very serious or I would not be wasting my life doing it. I would hate to
be considered either just silly or plastic.