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Behind the Brush: Interview with ART TNEET

Hailing from Barnsley, Harley Roberts and Sam Batley are part of an artistic group by the name of ART TNEET. The name comes from a question they’d pose to one another throughout their youth to see what the plan of action would be for that night. The phrase captured a lot of what the collective wanted to represent, and they deemed it fit to be the overhanging name which spans the entire diversity of work across the fields of music, photography, poetry, and art. Harley is a painter, who channels experiences of his day job in a factory into his works. And Sam works on a myriad of formats including poetry and collage, to express his vision of the world he sees. ART TNEET has it’s fingers in a lot of different pies, but with each member helping each other reach their artistic desires, it all accumulates to become a unique and exciting project.

How did ART TNEET start and how have the routes of it brought you where you guys are today?

Sam: It was one of them where it started as more of a joke between us and we never really thought it would come to anything. We never properly sat down and said “right let’s do this”.

Harley: Yeah we don’t really know exactly when we all came together, it was a happy accident that drove us all together. A pulling force for us all, and it just felt natural to be honest. We started recording tunes and that and we just had an idea of starting our own record label and get everything on it.

Sam: It’s a loose thing though, we’re all sort of doing our own thing and working on our own stuff but its ART TNEET that sort of pulls all our work together.

On the music side of things, the [retreat] album got album of the year at Jumbo Records last year. Tell us a bit about the creative process with that record and what’s coming up with that particular project?

Sam: For one of the tracks on there (111) that I actually appeared on, we were just sort of jammin I suppose, recording whatever we were doing and I was just sort of seeing what was gonna come out my mouth. I just did a bit of a drunken rant into my phone and that’s what actually made it onto the record.

Harley: And with the album as a whole, it’s about five years in the making. I think we all felt like a part of it, just from witnessing it grow from a few songs into a full on record.

Sam: It’s actually our mate Sam Horton who’s mostly responsible for the music, but we all help out here and there and I think we all felt really proud to be a part of that. To be honest, [retreat] really is the mood of ART TNEET for me, like what we represent as artists - we might all be these separate entities, but we all come from the same soil.

And the booklet which came with the [retreat] record actually had a series of ART TNEET works which came with it. How do the photography and art aspects of it tend to take shape for you both?

Harley: That’s what was so good about it, it was something physical which really showcased what we could do. The actual CD felt like a piece of art among many others that we’d all worked on and it was great to have it all in one place for people to delve into.

Sam: For me, with my photography and my collage work, I just try to represent my version of England - the side that’s not that pretty. I remember as a kid, my mum had some double exposure photos and it always used to fascinate me, I’d be sat their looking at it thinking “how the fuck are there two photos in this photo?” so I love to experiment with that. But the best part is that I’m still scratching the surface, what’s great about photography is that it’s not static.

Harley: With my paint work, it all stems from that mentality of being stuck, the sense of not being able to get your feet out of the cement beneath you. I find myself painting some obscure realities, trying to represent the monotonous grind of machinery that I see every day in my factory job. It sounds very dismal but I do my best to find beauty in that.

Sam: We’re expressing our own versions of reality, we can’t dress anything up because that wouldn’t be genuine. We come from working class backgrounds, and the term ‘working class’ has sort of become bastardised in recent years and I don’t really think that’s right. It shouldn’t be used as something to shout about and glamorised in the way that it is.

Harley: That’s the beauty about ART TNEET. We come from that sort of background but our work isn’t based on it and we’re not defined by it.

Barnsley as a town isn’t viewed as a ‘scene’ in the way that London and Manchester are for artistic output. From your experience of growing up there, why do you think towns like Barnsley don’t get the light shone on them that they deserve?

Harley: It all comes down to facilities. Pretty much from day one you’re told that the way to do things is get a job and get a mortgage. But there are so many people who are creative and want to burst that bubble, but they aren’t given the outlet. We’re extremely lucky in that sense that it’s panned out well for us.

Sam: It highlights one of the big downfalls in art, it should be for everyone and it should allow everyone to be involved who wants to be. The world view of places like Barnsley is tiny, and you aren’t seen to have the same capabilities that people in cities might have.

Harley: The view of being an artist is quite negative in general to a lot of people, and I think it boils down to the fact that it doesn’t necessarily win the bread, let’s say.

Sam: It’s a masculinity thing as well, I’ve constantly been surrounded by that archetypal man and there’s this feeling from a very young age that there are very strict rules on who you can be. But it all comes from their insecurities, not yours. The exciting part is with all the technology which is changing the world now, that ‘small village’ mentality is dying out, people from the next generation are gonna grow up seeing the world as a much bigger spectrum that they are a part of.

What’s coming up in the future for ART TNEET?

Harley: I think it’s a case of us all carrying on as we are doing, working on our respective projects, and then once we’ve got an arsenal behind us, we can go ahead and put our work anywhere.

Sam: We’re all gonna be getting together soon, and when we do, that’s when the ideas start flowing. I draw inspiration from each and every one of us and I think just seeing each other is gonna spark something exciting.

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