"My work is very auto-biographical. I’m a loud, exuberant, emotional and probably exhausting character, and my work will always reflect this."
Could you tell us a bit about yourself. How long have you been a practising artist and where did you study?
I left high school and quite quickly the band I was playing with took off, allowing us to play music together for quite a few years. As all of that came to an end I was left with a bit of a hole in my life. Painting and being creative has always been an intrinsic part of growing up in my family household so applying to study painting at a higher level seemed like a good route to go down. I studied Fine Art Painting, BA at Wimbledon College of Art, graduating in 2015. It was a great school, filled with some brilliant tutors and funny people. The fact that I started when I was twenty-four worked in my benefit, I had already spent some time away from home and had already had my social awakening, meaning I was in the studio most of the time. I was also very aware of how great it was to have a studio and resources readily available, and didn’t want to waste any of that time (or money).
After completing my degree Stevie (my wife) and I moved to Antwerp for greener and cheaper pastures, painting there for a year after which we then came to be in Suffolk. I’m now soon to be thirty and would say that I’ve been thinking about art as a focus for fifteen years now!
You were recently in a group show called "Dumb" Curated by Kristian Day. Could you tell us about that show?
It was a great show, filled with heavy hitters. Some painters which I have been looking at and up to for a while so it was an honour to be hanging in there. It happened at Mercer Chance which is a brilliant non-profit in Hoxton, run by artists for artists.
The show was called “Dumb” which is a word that one of the the other exhibitors, Paul Housley has been playing with in different connotations in relation to painting. In certain examples the word “dumb” is used to describe base materials such as paint and canvas which need to be activated by the intelligence of the artist. I can get on with this. He’s a good painter who I can identify with in terms of his obvious love of Picasso and Guston.
Shit, that Robert Rush painting in the show was a knock-out too! Probably quite an obvious choice for me though.
Your paintings often feature strange/comical figures, could you tell us about these and where your inspiration comes from?
My work is very auto-biographical. I’m a loud, exuberant, emotional and probably exhausting character, and my work will always reflect this. Painting has always been a form of self-help for me, or a way to work out any problem solving that life throws up. Funny and sad - sad and funny.
After finishing my studies at Wimbledon I watched the movie “Mid-night Cowboy” a bunch of times, Loving everything about it. I started to see parallels between Joe Buck’s (the lead) path and my own - country boy moving to a bright new city (Antwerp), thinking he’s going to crack it, living on a crazy busy street filled with busy, crazy people - soon realising that what was once gold is now dust. I’m a theatrical guy, and really like to throw myself into a role. So once I had made these connections I started to try and live my life as “Joe Buck” as possible. It was all really fun.
I’ve put that one to bed after having a solo show which bought together all my ideas and am happy to move on. Right now I’m working on a body of work which is a response and inspired by Drones Club’s new EP. They are old friends of mine so I’m able to talk with them in depth about the ideals that they have in regards to the music they make and what kind of message they want to get across. They are ideas that I’m very much on board with and I’ve found it very rewarding exploring those together with them. We are working on a collaborative show together for the start of June.
Tell us a bit about how you spend your day/studio routine? What is your studio like?
Stevie and I share a studio at Asylum Studios. It’s set on an old American air base which was abandoned after the Cold War. The old buildings, radio station, bunkers etc. have been filled with a mixture of different and weird businesses. Asylum Studios is where a lot of the police work and intelligence operations happened. In fact, between Stevie’s and mines studio is a partition wall with a one-way mirror window set in. It’s where the Americans would hold their interrogations. In the late eighties there was quite a significant U.F.O sighting - it was our studio where the American air men who saw the U.F.O were bought for questioning. It’s a very atmospheric place, old jet fighter planes are strewn across dis-used runways, radio domes and watch towers spike the horizon. Its very close to our house that we live in on the South East coast.
Asylum Studios itself is a co-op run by some brilliant, active and entertaining artists that we now call our friends. Its great to be part of a certain community that makes decisions together and pull each other forward.
Having a partner in the same line of work as yourself is such a bonus - Stevie and I both drive each other. There is a constant support net there if ideas are wavering and you don’t have to twist an arm too hard for a crit!
What artwork have you seen recently that has resonated with you?
If you can call The Louisiana in Copenhagen an artwork in itself then that! Just as a building it was beautiful. The lines, the alluring corridors leading to perfectly framed views of the Scandinavian shoreline and the architecture of the gardens. It was incredible. As a museum - just as great. Whilst we were there we caught an ever poignant Louise Bourgeois show - next door, Asger Jorn! But for current resonant work, the John Kröner show at Gallery Bo Bjerggaard that we caught whilst in the city. It was such an excellent example of incorporating the space into the exhibition, right from the windows of the gallery being left open to let the white chiffon curtains billow in the cold, Danish air to raising the floor through the show so it finally meets the ceiling to create the feeling of a wave of doom! The paintings were fresh and a perfect mixture of comic noir, using techniques which I hadn’t thought about before. He is also a painter who I wasn’t previously aware of so it was all the more exciting.
Where has your work been headed more recently?
I have always had light-play with sculpture, but I think about it more and more. It’s a crazy beast which needs looking at with a whole different eye, which is probably why everything 3-D I’ve made are very much literal reliefs from my paintings. It’s something that I would like to learn more about and be able to use as a vessel for my painting or vice versa.
How do you go about naming your work?
A lot of the Midnight Cowboy paintings were named after one-liner quotes from the film, sometimes translated into Flemish as I was living in Belgium at the time. There’s a lot of lines in that movie which made me chuckle. This most recent body of work I’m making I have named after the song titles from Drones Club’s EP. My work, is figurative, honest and brutal - the titles should reflect that.
Is there anything new and exciting in the pipeline you would like to tell us about?
I’m working with an artist I really love, Jonathan DeDecker, towards a solo show of mine which will be curated by him in an brand new space in China Town, New York. The show will be large scale works on paper which is something I’ve never done before but I’m up for the challenge and feel comfortable in Jonathan’s hands. I’ve worked with him before and trust him. For me the idea alone of China Town excites me enough. It’s totally romantic.
All images courtesy of the artist
Interview published 01/06/17