This week we will be talking to multimedia artist Madeleine Washbrook discussing her practice which focuses on technology, and the abundance of waste that often comes with it, exploring art making from a post-human, post-digital lens.
Image description: a landscape image depicting 2 multimedia paintings, one square covered in vibrant imagery from Spiderman comic strips to toy robots. The other painting is a rectangle consisting of a collage of imagery of film and cartoon characters. Text in black on the top reads Madeleine Washbrook. In the bottom right reads at madswashbrook.
Can you give us an insight into who you are and what your practice explores?
My practice has always been a platform for me to make my voice heard as I am a naturally quiet and shy person, but before I had my art, I had the internet to make all my opinions heard. Because of this development, my practice and its focus on technology is political. I’ve been around technology all my life and questioning my symbiotic relationship with technology, or how it can become parasitic, is at the heart of my practice. Technology is often an unquestioned, integrated part of modern society and life, from production to its impact on our mental health.
What is it that interests you in the Internet and digital technology?
I think that it is not fully good, or evil is what excites me, life is not black and white, and neither is cyberspace or technology. Why would it be? Exploring that grey area has been enlightening because it is personal to me, I’ve seen the worst that cyberspace has to offer but also the best. Within that middle is why I stay connected and why I want to explore it in my art.
Madeleine Washbrook, Into the Jaws of Death, coated paper, fabric scraps and acrylic paint on canvas, 2021, 80 x 60 cm
Image description: a rectangular multimedia painting covered in collaged imagery of cartoon and film characters. Along the right hand side of the painting hang trails of fabric scraps.
You have described your work as exploring the abundance of waste in technology. Do you intend your work to create a political comment on environmental pollution?
Absolutely. Environmental pollution and other political issues thrive in the underbelly of the technology industry and I think Western consumers ignore this – that be actively or passively. The metal in our devices, like Coltan and Cobalt, is mined from the Democratic Republic of Congo under dangerous conditions by men, women and children as soon as they’re old enough to mine. It’s modern slavery. Without proper safety equipment. Once these products are used and discarded, they’re shipped to other countries in Africa, like Ghana, without permission. The West refuses to deal with the responsibilities it generates from the consumerism culture it created and upholds – it is white supremacy.
Madeleine Washbrook, Artifact #1, VHS Tape Box Plaster Cast, 2020,
19 cm x 10 cm x 3 cm
Image description: a plaster cats of a VHS tape that is cracked and broken, showing the grooved texture of wheels and fixings.
How do you engage with new materials and processes within your work?
I like to work from an abundance of materials and resources, that be digitally or physically. I end up using all my materials either way, in the current project or a future project. From these resources, I can make sense of what these materials can achieve. When I introduce a new process or material into my practice, I engage in a lot of experimentation and create “tester pieces”, but I learn a lot from this process of learning so I can learn all the different ways I can use this new process or material. It’s sort of a crash course with the process or material. All these experimentations are relevant and contribute to the final development of my pieces in each project I pursue.
Your paintings involve a chaotic layering of imagery and materials. Can you tell us about your process of creating these pieces?
While I’ve learned how to make the paintings from tester pieces, the paintings themselves involve a lot of trial and error. It’s a case of taking all the resources I’ve collected from either the internet, research, real life or my own imagination and constructing that into a cohesive image and placing the images around the surface I’m working on to see what belongs where. I usually have a rough composition with the main elements of the piece planned out before starting but the creation of the paintings is a balance of thinking through making, and research and planning.
The Covid-19 pandemic has had a significant impact of artists and makers. How have you adapted to creating artwork and has it influenced or changed your approach?
My practice has embraced the DIY aesthetic, to the point where I don’t particularly enjoy or identify with neatness in my work anymore. I think having fun, enjoying the process and following my creative tangents has kept my creativity alive in the pandemic and if I kept to a strict planning process, I would have burned out long ago. Oddly enough, the smaller the spaces I work in becomes, the larger my work has become. I’ve become more comfortable with going bigger and thinking outside my space and reach.
Madeleine Washbrook, In Symbiosis, acrylic paint, acrylic pens, tights, acetate, printer paper on canvas, 2021, 100 x 100 cm
Image description: a square multimedia painting covered in vibrant imagery such as Spiderman comic strips, to toy robots tights and smiley faces.
What one thing would you like to change about the art industry today?
Elitism. It probably always will be, but it’s built on who you know and what connections you have. I know a lot of people don’t see anything wrong with that, but that still dictates who gets in and who doesn’t. One of the many reasons I’m going to art school was to build connections.
Do you know what projects you will be doing next?
I’m currently focused on post-humanism and the cyborg, and how it links back to post-human childhood objects, which I will hopefully continue with further in my practice. I’ve been writing a lot of prose and poetry that address personal issues through a digital lens, which will develop into a poetry anthology and available through BAAAD Press.
A final message from the artist.
The world and cyberspace are nonsensical places. Stay safe.
If you are interested in being featured as an Artist of the Week you can fill out a short application form here.