The Colour of Sound – In conversation with Marcus Aitken

We had the pleasure of sitting down with Marcus Aitken, a contemporary British artist living and working in South London. Known for his beautiful gestural paintings that utilize a combination of layering, distressing and blending to present a multifaceted surface to his work. With a background in design, Marcus has developed his artistic style, creating cutting-edge abstract works.

Marcus’s work has been shown in exhibitions internationally, amassing a global collector base. His work has been featured in several publications, including Schön! Magazine, Art Plugged, Saatchi Online, Soft Punk Magazine, High Snobiety, Trebuchet, Condé Nast, and Culture Trip. He has been named one of Saatchi Art’s top 20 emerging artists to watch in 2020.

We are excited to feature the short film “The Colour of Sound,” which explores the vulnerability of an artist and the importance of this in creating work. It touches on the highs and lows of being in a creative field and provides unique insight into the mind of an artist


The artist @marcusaitken_
Director & editor: @teefonline

KB: How did you become interested in becoming an artist, and how did you develop your art style?

Really from a young age, I’ve always had a strong interest in creating things, whether it be art or music. When I was studying for my art degree in London I was creating these large-scale sculptures which then formed into wearable jewellery pieces. After a while of trying to break into the accessories market, I realised it wasn’t for me as I just wanted total freedom with my creativity, so this is where I picked up the painting again and haven’t stopped since. My painting style has definitely changed over the 8 years I have been painting, but it has always been abstract in its form as this is an area that is limitless in its possibilities which enables me to find a lot of excitement in what I do.

KB: Can you describe your art-making process and what inspires you?

It’s, raw, intuitive and is heavily influenced by music. I don’t think I can pinpoint my exact inspirations as there is so much that forms my work.

KB: You mentioned that you use a combination of layering, distressing, and blending to present a multifaceted surface to your work. Can you describe how you developed this process?

For different series of works, I tend to introduce new ways of working the canvas and sometimes I use a combination. It’s been a trial and error process of figuring out what works for me and then once I find something I like, seeing how far I can take it, for instance at the moment, it’s building up layers of the canvas offcuts from unused works to create a rich layer to showcase the material itself, ultimately creating a new narrative from otherwise discarded objects. I try to capture some of this process to show my audience on IG with short videos.

KB: Can you talk about the role of vulnerability in your creative process?

Personally, I think it’s vital for any artist to be vulnerable to get the most out of themselves… it’s kind of our job, right? For me, my work is truly intuitive and as a result, a mixture of emotions are captured on canvas for the end result.

KB: How has your background in design influenced your artistic style?

I always feel lucky that my creative training was in graphic and media design as I feel it has given me a certain edge & different viewpoint of approaching the canvas, as opposed to if I were to have the traditional fine art route. Layout and the juxtaposition of hard lines and thrown-on paint marks is something that really satisfies me in my practice.

KB: Can you describe what it felt like to be named one of Saatchi Art’s top 20 emerging artists to watch in 2020?

It was a great year for me and definitely created a rise in more people starting to know my name and buying my work. I guess it’s just really gratifying to know that your work is recognized on a bigger scale outside the confines of my studio space.

KB: You’ve exhibited your work internationally and have collectors around the globe. How do you think the reception of your work varies across cultures?

I think there’s definitely more of an appetite for the type of work I produce in countries like Germany, France, Spain, and America. However, maybe this is because these places are culturally closer to the UK where my biggest collector base is. Having said this, when I did my collaboration with Farah Japan, I had an amazing reception there so am I keen to show my work there again in a more formal gallery setting.

KB: What has been the most meaningful interaction you’ve had with someone experiencing your art?

Kids always give the best reactions to my work, because it’s pure honesty. Adults hold back as they don’t want to offend, so often fill you with praise but Kids say it how it is – good or bad. I don’t want everyone to like or understand my work, that would be boring right!?

KB: How did you first become involved with the short film “The Colour of Sound”?

So Lateef who filmed/directed the film reached out to me as he had come across my work and wanted to create something which taps into the inner thoughts of the artist. We’re both London based so we met up a few times to chat through and film the project in my studio as well as rehearsal space with my band Fabricators. It kind of morphed into being about sound as well as painting as we are both musicians so this was an attractive route for us both.

KB: In the film, you discuss the impact of vulnerability on your art-making process. Can you elaborate on this and how it relates to the film’s title?

I guess it’s about the unseen things that go into the process of creating as a whole whether that’s art or music. For me it was just highlighting a conversation about being open within your work and what this does to a finished piece as ultimately it really affects it, whether you try to let it or not.

KB: How do you balance the highs and lows of being in a creative field?

With beer…. It’s definitely a lifestyle choice that I wouldn’t recommend signing up for without seriously thinking about it because as well as your bank balance waving up and down constantly, so do your anxieties about when the next project is coming up. Having said this, when good things are happening there isn’t a more rewarding feeling knowing that you’ve created this all from a blank canvas – it’s a real pat on the back to know that people want to have a piece of that.

KB: What are your upcoming projects or exhibitions that you’re excited about?

I have a few collaborations with brands coming out soon, as well as an exhibition in Spain. I have also been working with Soho House running art workshops, which I will be rolling out to work with new partners towards the end of the year.