question and answer

Thursday 24 September 2009

an email interview from 2008… written in my usual lazy lower-caps style i’m afraid

When did you first become interested in art and why?
in a school report at around 7-8 years old my year teacher praised my drawings and said how they had impressed the other children in the class. i’m not sure i saw it then as art, just a natural activity, but my mother covered all of my bedroom walls with my drawings. i formally became more interested in art or in being an artist at around 14-15 years old.

Who are your main influences?
i like elements of abstract expressionism, the process of painting as the message, also elements of arte povera and art brut, also the work of the british artist richard long. i’ve never felt brave enough to use text or words in my work but poetry and prose are just as visual to me. whilst at art school i first saw the work of the boyle family and they were quite a big influence in terms of the concrete reality of materials.

How would you describe your style?
at the moment – fluid, evocative, contemplative – difficult to pinpoint, quite a tough question.

Who is your favourite artist?
i don’t think i have an absolute favourite – you admire different artists for different reasons – i feel an affinity with artists such as pollock and rothko in their search for spiritual meaning and purpose, going beyond the need to depict concrete things but towards the more psychoanalytical. i like turner and monet too (as do most painters!)… more recently, i’ve begun to really admire the work of edward hopper – they are understated and yet very powerful, atmospheric, the stories or narratives unfold slowly – he had the most incredible skill in using the effects of light and the absence of things to tell a story, and the images, although representational, have very abstract qualities in their composition and use of colour. i like art that compels me to just stare and it reveals its meaning over a period of time.

Is anyone else in your family interested in or practice art? If so do you think that influenced you?
an old relative was an amateur artist, a couple of other relatives are involved in the arts – one in graphics, the other involved in theatre production. nobody has influenced me directly to pursue art, art was really a vehicle for me to gain confidence in myself. the great thing about art is that it allows you to be opinionated, forthright, passionate about things and no one can knock you for misrepresenting things because its about your interpretation.

What are your favourite subjects to paint?
i like the overlooked details, disregarded things, decaying structures and forms that have a quiet history…. i also like transient things, frost, fog, rain on a window pane, shadows, reflections in puddles, clouds, the sky after heavy rain… these thoughts and memories filter through in the making of my work.

What are your favourite mediums to work in and what mediums do you work in the most?
collage is very therapeutic and also fun, i utilise all of my accidents and paper discards, i like the organic, fluid, layered nature of painting, the do a bit, ponder, do a bit more… it’s a personal journey of discovery. i might incorporate paper, sand, chalk, to build up texture. i’m not a purist with materials, i am always prepared to take a risk.

Do you prefer working on paper or canvas?
my preferred surface to work on would be a hard substance such as plaster or wood as i like sgrafitto, but that makes the finished artwork very heavy. i also like working on or with paper but there’s always the added cost of framing if you want to exhibit them. i prefer to work with more robust materials, the constructed panels become sculptural objects, they don’t require a frame.

How long does it take you to complete a typical piece?
oh months!! i do a bit, then leave them, come back… it seems more authentic to let them develop slowly. it’s perhaps not very disciplined or well planned but the works become more vital to me, i have a strong commitment to their integrity as artworks, i never just embrace the accidental. i always have lots of things on the go and they resolve themselves within different timescales…. i seem to work better this way, rather than outwardly planning what i want to do, having works at different stages kicks off new ideas and approaches.

Tell me about the importance of photography in your art work.
it’s a useful tool for recording things, an aid to my visual memory – i never work directly from photographs, they are just starting points or more often departures – often it’s because the objects or things that i see are transient events and photography serves to record the moment, but the real idea is in my personal thoughts. another aspect of photography which i like is the way in which it forces you to think about subject, composition and colour very quickly… the restriction in using a viewfinder to study things very closely.

When did you start using photography to aid your artwork?
i guess when i got my first digital camera in around 2003 – so not that long ago – i have so many images now it’s quite a headache to keep on top of what to keep and what to erase. i have a habit of taking many photographs of the same scene and then i procrastinate over which is best.

I noticed that your style has adapted over the years from art works such as ‘road/kill’ compared with your ‘works in progress’ in recent years. Is there a particular reason for the changes in style?
no particular reason – space, time, cost of materials, circumstances, the location in which you live/work is always the first point of reference for ideas – actual experiences – i suppose that with the more recent paintings i was seeking something more sculptural, tactile, and more simplified too.

I particularly like ‘mire’. What inspired this piece and does it have a particular meaning behind the painting?
oh yes, mire is about flooding, rain, bogginess, mould, damp, the overwhelming sense of a landscape slowly returning to sludge and slime – a strange ecology – i do follow the news stories such as the increase of algae in rivers posing a threat to aquatic wildlife.

You describe some of your painting to give the impression of pollution, coastal erosion and decay. Are you concerned about the effects of global warming? How do you feel about the current situation regarding pollution and global warming?
yes i am concerned – it seems too many people are concerned with material things, the biggest house, fastest car, the best tv, there’s a sort of selfishness in living today. scientists and experts seem divided on the global warming issue, whether it’s a natural event or manmade… the truth is the landscape, the planet, has altered radically, even in my own lifetime.

What is your idea of ‘good art’?
oh, well – i know what i like! seriously, for me it has to have a particular materiality, something vaguely familar but still has some layers of mystery – something which makes me contemplate, think a lot, makes me connect with something i had forgotten, a memory, an emotion, an awareness of the sense of just being – visceral sums it up. sometimes i get irritated with conceptual art when it’s just a video box on a plinth as the method of portraying the idea is very bland – i won’t knock film as an artform as there are some great arthouse movies and they often make a better job of portraying human emotions (such as tarkovsky) than a ‘video artist’.

Do you have any ideas for future projects?
yes, i have been working on some initial ideas around roads, architecture, scaffolding and maps (again!), in the the sense that nothing is ever finished, things are built, demolished, added to, taken away, new buildings and roads, to create a more efficient and comfortable lifestyle, its getting quite ‘busy’, and very noisy!! let’s slow down a little… all this redevelopment seems at odds with a reuse, recycle culture – shouldn’t we make more use of what we already have?