b.1994 Jersey, Channel Islands
Alexander Mourant is an artist based in London. His work has been included in publications such as FT Weekend Magazine, British Journal of Photography, Photograph, Unseen Magazine and The Greatest Magazine. Recent solo shows include Aomori at The Old Truman Brewery and Unseen Amsterdam, alongside group shows at Jersey Arts Centre and Peckham 24. Mourant is a recipient of grants from ArtHouse Jersey, Jersey Bursary and Arts Council England. He has won the Free Range Award and was recently nominated for Foam Paul Huf Award.
Education: 2013-2017 BA (Hons) Photography, Falmouth University, First Class Honours 2018-2020 MA Photography, Royal College of Art
Series title: Aomori
Maddie Rose Hills: Tell us about your artistic background; where you studied and what you are doing now:
Alexander Mourant: My relationship to art really started whilst at school. At first, I utilised photography as a means of informing my ceramic sculpture, but it soon became firmly positioned at the forefront of my mind. My first photography mentor, Sue Macpherson, was very supportive and helped develop my curiosity. I felt a desire to pursue its practice and concepts further, which led to studying photography at Falmouth University. I spent 4 years down in Cornwall, which felt simultaneously intimate but distant, and ultimately, I made the move up to London in 2017. Since then I’ve worked part-time in London whilst sustaining my practice. Last year, I also commenced my MA at Royal College of Art.
MRH: You were born in Jersey; is that where you were brought up as well? Do you think Jersey has impacted your connectedness to nature?
AM: Yes, I am Jersey born and bred. My family have lived and farmed in Jersey for generations, so a relationship to landscape, space and experience is embedded in my psychology. I can now clearly see how this rural upbringing has influenced my subject matter and sensibility.
MRH: Is it important to you that your photographs have an emotional and spiritual relevance, and that viewers connect to them in this way?
AM:My relationship to photographs is always evolving. But I feel in terms of making a picture, a picture I will remember, the image needs to do more than merely represent. I sense every maker has this unanswerable question always on their mind. It’s like an enigma, or a scent, or more likely an aroma, which is either found in the image or not. I’m not sure if this thing is emotional or spiritual, probably both, but it is something which displaces me. As I hope it would displace you.
MRH:Looking back at your Aomori series which you will be including in the show, how did you come to use blue church glass to alter the colour of the images? What was the significance of using this colour at the time?
AM: For me, the immensity found in the colour blue, encourages a deeper reflection on our past, present and future. In the same way, the presence of the forest and the density of its nature, arrests for us, the relentless progression of time. It encapsulates an ancestral space; blue is not only a colour, but a place itself. Experimentally, I sourced blue glass from a church window, which was then cut to fit the filter holder of my camera. I wished to truly introduce this colour into my process, by exposing my film directly to the blue world. I didn’t want the blue to be an after thought, a digital intervention, it had to be real. And glass, which is normally a material of separation, is employed directly in my process to unite both medium and idea. These photographs bring Solnit’s blue of distance near, into the world of the forest; the photographs are by process, forever blue.
MRH: Why did you choose the ancestral forests of Japan for these works. Do you have a particular affinity with the place?
AM: In Japan, followers of Shinto – an ancient and sacred religion – place a strong belief in Kami. Kami are essentially spirits, although this is a great simplification of the mythical power these beings possess. Through diligently conducted religious and spiritual ceremonies, present day Japan connects through the Kami to their ancient past. The Japanese believe that Kami pervade every aspect of life. They live in the fabric of reality; rocks, trees, plants, waterfalls, even mountains contain Kami. Kodama are the spirits found in the forest, living in certain species of trees. They are the very being of the forest. Upon researching this extensive spiritual belief, it became evident to me that Japan had strong metaphysical potential and was an ideal site for my work. It was only later, when Susan Bright commented on the religious symbolism of my work, did I realise the importance of using this process (blue church glass) in Japan: “the spiritual history of the process seeps through into the image, to a time when the land was a place of worship”.