May 16, 2021
Have you always aspired to create art, or did you discover your calling later in life?
I always knew I would do art; there were generations of artists in my family including my mother and grandmother. I pushed back against some of the more academic influences, but there was enormous invisible support there.
Did you study art as a student or are you self-taught?
When I was sixteen I entered into an apprenticeship with the painter Richard Berry. He had a profound effect on my approach; his influence was so powerful I had to leave the country to get away from it. He gave me not only things to develop, refine, tune in to…but also ideas and approaches that I had to resist. It’s hard to understate how useful and empowering that relationship was.
What artists informed your development? And what artists do you look to now for inspiration?
I copied my mother when I was a child, and competed with her (we were in Africa, and I would do my own versions of her drawings). Then Richard Berry. Most of the artists in my family were portrait painters, so Sargent was there from the beginning. The next really significant influence was when I began to overlap with the circle of portrait painters in London in the late 1990s-this includes Brendan Kelly, Stuart Pearson-Wright, James Lloyd, and Justin Mortimer (who went on to become a great friend) (We had adjoining studios for a long time). And of course the standard modern influences of Richter, Martin Kippenberger, etc.
What was a pivotal moment in the evolution of your work?
In the early nineties I had a bit of an epiphany; I stopped trying to think of myself as a ‘painter’; working that one field. It not only freed me from some useless technical pursuits, but also gave me a feeling that everything I was interested in could be pulled together and used to drive and inform the work.
Tell us about your process. Do you begin with an image or a concept?
I start with an image, always. I want to find disparate elements to grind up against one another. I don’t want to be intellectualising it, I just want to be guided by my response. I want it to happen sub-consciously.
What informs your work? As a visual artist, are you inspired by music, film, science, literature or other art forms?
As I said I try and find a way to bring everything in, the same way that collage has exact forms duplicated in musical construction, etc. I honestly believe that I can only work effectively if I can find a way to channel all those interests, responses, excitements into some effective flow. And each discipline turns out to be a fantastic tool for re-opening and reappraising the others.
What was the most challenging project that you worked on?
Working for other people is always difficult. It can also be very educational. But I like a piece that can be solved by any means at all, and as soon as it has a purpose it is much harder to work effectively. Portraits are the hardest.
What do you enjoy most about the work you do?
I still get an enormous charge out of something taking clear self-legitimising shape out of nothing – a complete independent entity where there was nothing, not even anything imagined or hoped for.
What made you choose to drop with LGND?
They were so open and transparent with me. I think something interesting can be done.
How do you think NFTs will change the future for artists?
I am not an expert here at all. But art is going to find its place in the virtual world. I would like to think that that will allow an amazingly direct and immediate connection between the artists and the people who support them.