Manc of the Month: Alex Giles

We are super excited to introduce our March Manc of the Month, Alex Giles. Alex has found himself super busy after lockdown and the opportunities just keep coming for him. He took the time to answer some questions as we delve in to find out more about him and his work.

Cotton On MCR: Please introduce yourself and your art to our Cotton On MCR readers.

Alex Giles: ‘Hello. And thanks for the chance to talk a bit about myself and my work. I’ve been in Manchester for 14 years now, having moved here a couple of years after finishing art school in Derby. Art school left me with what must be a pretty common feeling amongst graduates. A foreboding sense of being cut adrift without a plan or prospects. I ended up in a number of dead end jobs: sorting office temp, labourer and a handy man at a locust farm which was beyond the realms of sanity, so many brilliant stories from that one.’

‘Eventually my practical skills got me some work as a carpenter on a low budget feature film. My determination and willingness to have a go at anything seemed to be a good fit, and was the start of a really enjoyable, rewarding career… It always felt like I had some unfinished business with the art world though, and although I had the occasional dabble, it felt like I was trying to gear up to something more significant. 

‘When we went into lockdown, I took the chance and started working on some new techniques and on perfecting my style. I always wanted to make eye catching, dynamic, technical work. But it is hard to get something right without having the time and space to experiment. Freelance film work, doesn’t leave you with much energy or creativity to get on with your own stuff. You put everything into realising other peoples visions.’ 

‘When the film industry began opening up again in the summer of 2020 I had to make a big decision, whether to keep going with my painting or to slip back into production work. I kept going, despite being pretty broke.’ 

‘Then in late August I secured my first solo show at the White Elephant gallery in Morecambe, run by Paul and Neil, they saw my bright,colourful work as the perfect antidote to the bleak times we found ourselves in. Sadly, covid restrictions meant that we couldn’t open in the usual manner, but that didn’t stop one of the most unusual twists in my story occurring…’

‘During the summer I had been communicating with an agent for a brand new gallery in Nanjing, China. And they had expressed a strong interest in my work. Before my show could open (or not) they decided to buy the entire collection. I can’t really convey how that felt. It was pretty overwhelming to be handed such a lifeline, during such a weird, difficult period when the world was on it’s backside. It pretty much handed me the key to another year or two of painting.’

Since then, I’ve been working hard at improving and progressing my work, and also at establishing relationships with other galleries and collectors. I realise that what happened to me is a very rare occurrence. I’m just incredibly grateful that I can wholeheartedly continue making work that offers a feeling of optimistic escapism. Both for myself and my audience.’

COM: What first got you interested in art?

AG: ‘I have always been interested in materials and substances and process. I would spend hours in my dads shed, dismantling things, mixing chemicals together, playing with fire. Art just seemed like a legitimised way of doing this as an adult.’

COM: Your artwork is very graphic, and almost looks digital on first glance – is this intentional?

AG: ‘Yes! It’s all about the technique though. I used to make work as quickly as possible, with very little refinement, the idea would come to me and I would make it immediately, from whatever materials I could get a-hold of.’

‘My drawings are all over the place, I can barely draw a straight line. Painting frustrated me. But I always knew what kind of work I wanted to create, I just didn’t have the method. I design my pieces digitally and then work backwards, like solving a puzzle. This is nice, now how do I make it? The puzzle is an important part of the pieces character. A lot of people have asked me about doing NFT’s and I’m not sure. I feel like me taking on the digital puzzle I have set myself and then making it physically is an integral part of my works appeal.’

COM: What inspires your work?

AG: ‘I daydream quite a lot, and can put myself into little trances, when I do, I can bring up visuals, sort of like a mild trip. Often I have to try and commit them to memory before I fall asleep. I think there’s a lot of colours and shapes from what I saw and consumed as a child.’ 

COM: What does a typical day in the life look like for you?

AG: ‘Up at 7. Shower, Banana, Tea. Drive to the studio, I listen to a lot of NTS radio. More Tea! Plan out or execute new work, if I’m in the middle of a collection, I will have up to 5 pieces on the go so I can bounce between each one as the layers dry. I try and do some exercise.  Home around 6pm. Then evening based activities.’ 

COM: What is your favourite piece that you’ve made?

AG: ‘Really tough question. I can definitely tell you which ones I don’t like. I kept bubbles from my first collection. From my latest, maybe Michael nuggets?’

‘Michael nuggets’

COM: Outside of your artwork, what are your other interests and hobbies?

AG: ‘I used to party a lot, but that is less so these days. I like a good book, contemporary American fiction in particular. I just started climbing, which is good. I go to the cinema a lot and would still like to make a film perhaps. The odd party.’ 

COM: Do you have any exciting plans/exhibitions that we should know about?

AG: ‘Yes! So my current exhibition is at the Ducie St Warehouse in Manchester, presented by Universal tomorrow. Go and check it out. Have a cocktail too.’

‘Beyond that, I am working on a capsule collection that will be going to Art Central in Hong Kong this May. And very exciting news is that I am in advanced talks with a gallery in New York about a Solo show later this year.’

COM: If you could live in any piece of artwork, what would it be and why?

AG: ‘Haha, well. I suppose it would be pretty easy to choose something tropical and beach based. I do love the sea. Maybe it would be fun to spend 5 minutes in a Bosch to see if you could make it out alive. But for the rest of my life? Probably something that represents what and where I am right now. So Dogs playing poker by Cassius Marcellus Coolidge.’ 

‘Dogs playing poker’ by Cassius Marcellus Coolidge – Image credit:

Find out more about Alex on his Instagram page @alexgiles or his website

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