Meet Charles Harrop-Griffiths 

By Javier Melian, Chrom-Art.org co-founder

Charles Harrop-Griffiths is a new artists which caught our attention in social media with his intricate designs, futuristic ideas and exploratory qualities of his work. He can draw, and paint, but he has boundless ways to express his ideas. A complex narrative, with a certain Deco flair, that depicts the information overflow on which we live and how we react to it. It's a visualisation of a world unseen, 'Google glasses' to reveal an augmented reality of multiple replicating lines of virtual interconnection. Charles has been selected for our #TRIBE15 Alternative Art Festival, as his work encapsulates what you will see in our show: Progressive art to be experienced; an eye-opener to a new world.

Harrop-Griffiths work is a quest to find an equilibrium between the physical and the digital. He describes himself primarily as a painter and photographer, but the possibilities of computer based mediums has pointed him towards a more electronic direction. The aim ultimately is to represent modern life in the way he sees it through visual means, without neglecting the audial.


"In the coming year, I hope to incorporate circuit boards, sensors, sound and projection with a more traditional painting practice" he says. "My style has been evolving rapidly over the past year so really i don’t know how best to describe it…. maybe messy" he continues. 

Charles is from North West London, studied Art History at the University of Nottingham, and is currently studying an MA in Fine Art Digital at UAL, Camberwell. "My studio is under a railway arch in London Fields, Hackney. I used to make short films with friends at university, and I interned for a year at The Weinstein Company, believing that film was the way forward. After leaving, I decided to give art school a go, and have luckily found myself at Camberwell" he tells us. 


Getting onto the course at Camberwell has been a huge boost for him, especially in meeting contemporaries who share the same passion in producing art and deciphering how to represent modern life.


How and when did you realise you were an artist? 

As many do, I’ve been drawing from an early age, and then just actively tried not to stop. I’ve always enjoyed creating things, whether its art, music or film. At some points, my interest in one area has outweighed the others, and although creating visual art took a downturn when i went to Nottingham, it was always in the back of my mind. Up until late 2013 I was focussing on film.

Did anyone specially encourage you to become an artist?

I’m constantly encouraged by my friends and family. They’ve all been very supportive along the way, and in many cases…. patient… I’m very grateful for their help. 

Is there a message in your art? What is it?  

I’m not quite sure there’s an overall message. I’m more interested in commenting on current social issues, so naturally this will change over time. In the past decade, the prevalence of internet services and personal devices have clearly changed the way many of us think and act. Like any ground-breaking inventions or evolutions, the situation we find today is completely untested, and brings to question many of our definitions of relationships, friendships, privacy, habits, security and much much more. The internet as an online environment has run wild in our day to day lives, and our increasing reliance on these technologies both personally and as a society, is what I’m trying to represent. Essentially, as loads of artists do, I’m looking at identity in the modern world but more specifically, digital technology’s effects on it. I also look into tomorrow’s world and the possibilities of commercial virtual / augmented reality, 3D printing, drone and sensor technology. 

Lines, Signals, these are a constant in your work. What is the meaning behind them? 

In the past, I’ve used duct tape and electrical tape to make compositions and my drawings are culminations of messy mark-making. More recently I’ve been using complex linear drawings to visualise the materiality of the internet. Each line representing an interaction, or piece of information and together these lines trying to capture the absurdity of this information abyss. I hope to go further with this, by incorporating live data, and each line showing fragments of live online interactions. In the advent of commercial Virtual and Augmented reality, this is all part of wider research into visualising the internet as a public space based on corridors and rooms, rather than books and scrolls.   


What would be your dream collaboration? 

Collaboration is incredibly important, especially when approaching work that relies on technology. From a technical point of view, I’m not a programmer or particularly good at electronics, so inevitably, to do what I hope to do, I will need to collaborate with specialists in these areas. From an artistic side, I’d love to collaborate with Bill Viola, The Chapman Brothers, Chris Ofili, Daniel Rozin, as well as a number of musicians pushing the boundaries of sound creation. Then again, being realistic, my focus is going to be on collaborating with my colleagues at Camberwell. In recent weeks, a few of us have created an online collective, www.phishermans.net to bring together our different practices and focus on set narratives. Were in the early stages, but I’m hopeful that we can produce some thought-provoking results / outputs… We’ll have to wait and see!   

You constantly try new media. Which is the one you feel more at ease with? 

I’m a mixed media artist. My main skill is to paint and draw, but I’ve found so many benefits in pushing the boundaries with different materials. Sometimes the simplest thing, like tape or wool can create an effect better than paint or a pencil. I’m also a very keen photographer and find that photos are the primary source of inspiration for new work. I do sketch, but the immediacy of photography gives me the opportunity to delve deeper into the images back in the studio. Maybe collage is the best way to describe what I’m doing, but not in the traditional sense, but instead with the mediums I’m using. For example, the 3D renders shown are all originally either pencil drawings or manipulated photos. I also love to test myself. i.e. what can i make from this?  


What other artists do you admire? What is your favourite piece of art? 

At the moment, I’m looking into the obnoxious topic of the relevance of religion in the internet age….. Obviously what I find won’t give any incite into the size of this question but for personal reasons, I’m very curious about its role in the 21st century. This study has lead me to look deeper at  Nam Juine Paik who’s work has given a shining light for today’s ‘New Media’ or ‘Digital’ art, as well as questioning the role of religion and technology together. Sol le Witt has also been a distinct inspiration but as for my favourite piece of work, I’d have to say that it’d be more classical such as a Manet or Caravaggio. Maybe Manet’s ‘The Balcony’ or ‘The Execution of Emperor Maximilian’…… or Caravaggio’s ‘St Jerome in Meditation’. My favourite work changes frequently. 

How would you describe the current art scene and opportunities for new artists to exhibit? 

In London it is particularly difficult as the rising rent and cost of living creates little hope for aspiring artists to live and work in the city. Depending on your practice, If you don’t make money from your work, you can’t continue making it, and especially in London! This forces even the most talented young artists to work elsewhere just to stay in a city described as the Capital of the art world…… It’s a bitter contradiction. Then there’s the issue with opportunities… London’s open exhibitions for young aspiring artists defines the saying “You have to spend money, to make money.” Luckily some of these exhibitions only charge admin costs if you get in, but others demand the entry fee, that they consider small, even if your not selected… Hopefully in a decades time there will still be aspiring artists in the city, and not just ones lucky enough to live with their parents… It isn’t all doom and gloom, even though this is a city out-pricing its inhabitants, there is change in the air and creative thinking is hopefully going to lead to long term solutions in housing, studio space, residency and exhibition programs that will certainly benefit the city’s young artists. Another point to comment is the authorship of digital material. Will GIFs and JPEGs be the next stage at the auction houses? As for art scenes.. there’s a lot of focus on materiality and the digital.. which are clearly relevant.  


What are your artistic dreams? 

I hope to create multi-media paintings and sculptures for both public and private commissions. Depending on my opportunities I’d love to work with cutting edge technology for artistic means. 3D printed sculpture and virtual reality environments are currently at the top of the list, but I’m constantly adding to it. Ultimately my dream is to make work for the rest of my life. 


I have one year left on the MA, so I’ll be looking to apply for residencies, and see if anything comes up! For the moment I’m going to continue my research on ‘Digital Identity and the Virtual Space Race’ whilst looking to collaborate with the Phishermen. I have an ambitious plan for next Easter, that probably won’t happen, but I’d love to rent a canal boat for a few months and travel through the country using it as a home, studio and pop-up gallery. Any help with this would be greatly appreciated! For the moment, you can find my work on www.charlesharropgriffiths.wordpress.com and if anyones interested in prints, commissions, exhibitions or collaboration please get in touch by email charropgriffiths@gmail.com.