"For me, painting is ‘world-building’ and everything that enters into it–the objects, costumes, landscapes and architecture, as well as all the formal decisions made along the way–must contribute to the effect of the whole."
Could you tell us a bit about yourself - how long have you been a practising artist and where did you study?
I graduated from the Slade in 2004 and the Royal College in 2010, both in painting.
Your work comes across as 'idealised' or 'romantic', could you tell us about your work and your process?
I arrive at the imagery through a combination of memory and process. Ideas go through various stages of drawing, photography and collage, and are encouraged to take on a life of their own and evolve in unexpected directions.
For me, painting is ‘world-building’ and everything that enters into it–the objects, costumes, landscapes and architecture, as well as all the formal decisions made along the way–must contribute to the effect of the whole. Sometimes this happens consciously and sometimes unconsciously.
I can see what you mean by ‘idealised’ and ‘romantic’, but I also think there’s another side to it. Sometimes people tell me my work comes across as artificial and hallucinatory in an unsettling way. The characters are always alone, doing quite introverted things, and their expressions are ambiguous or inscrutable. When I think of ‘romantic’ artwork, I think of artists like Casper David Friedrich, Eugène Delacroix or Géricault; artists whose work is characterised by very dramatic, emotional subject matter. I think of my own work as being more understated than that.
What artwork have you seen recently that has resonated with you?
Lots of things:
- Paul Nash at Tate Britain, particularly Nest of the Siren.
- David Hockney's Portrait of an Artist (Pool with Two Figures) at Tate Britain.
- Simon Dybbroe Møller’s Lettuce exhibition at Laura Bartlett Gallery. He made black and white sculptures of lettuce leaves out of silicone, and an unusually sexy film about cormorans.
- Alexandr Deineker paintings at the RA Revolutions: Russian Art 1917 - 1932 show. I'd only seen them online before and was surprised at the way they're painted - very thin layers of paint rubbed into a thick base layer. Also in that show was a subtly obscene painting of a female shot putter by Alexander Samokhvalov.
- The Mythic Method show at Pallant House - especially Madame Yevonde's Goddess series and Robin Ironside's watercolours.
- Molly Palmer's video Two Friends and Two Curtains at the RA Schools degree show last summer.
- Anything by Graham Little or Benjamin Senior. They’re both friends of mine who have taught me a great deal.
- And Fishing with John by John Lurie, which is a TV show from the 90s that you can find on youtube.
Some of your paintings show people with various fruits, could you talk about the meaning behind this?
Well, a lemon might remind you of all sorts of things; healthiness, bitterness, holidays, innuendos, soft drinks, the smell of disinfectant, or it might just be a patch of yellow working in relation to other patches of colour in a purely visual way. Sometimes I think of the fruit as being like little pseudo-artworks, placed on white tablecloths, being looked at in a certain way.
The original idea came from a packet of Pierre Martinet salad in a French supermarket. There was a picture of a man holding a cherry tomato, totally absorbed in looking at it. I liked how they had chosen to convey the freshness and healthiness of the salad by using an image of someone in that particular psychological state… it reminded me of what it feels like when I’m painting.
I also wanted to make a series of work with a consistent theme, partly because my previous work felt jumpy, and partly so that I could concentrate on developing the style without having to worry so much about content.
Tell us a bit about how you spend your day/studio routine? What is your studio like?
I don’t really have a routine – sometimes I’m up very early and sometimes I’m up very late. My studio is at home so I can take my unfinished painting around the flat with me, propping it up on the side of the bath or hanging it up in the bedroom, so I’m always looking at it. The best ideas come when you least expect them.
Where has your work been headed more recently?
It’s continuing along similar lines... I’m working on a diptych at the moment: One painting of a man drawing a line through a puddle of milk and one of a woman balancing an egg on the edge of a table. They’re both winter scenes, so perhaps they’re a little more sombre in feel.
How do you go about naming your work?
They have very pragmatic titles: Bath, Bed, Pile of Oranges, Sailor Girl. I don’t want the titles to influence how the paintings are read but it is always useful for people know which one I’m talking about.
Is there anything new and exciting in the pipeline you would like to tell us about?
There are a few things coming up: A group show called The Diamond Sea, curated by Kristian Day at the Saatchi Gallery, a three person show with Caroline Walker and Lian Zhang at Lychee One, and a couple of unconfirmed things, one in New York and another in Belgium, that will hopefully also go ahead.
All images courtesy of the artist
Published date: 5/4/17