I don’t think I can say exactly why…I like having a project, something to do for a specific show, rather than showing something that is already made. I thought it would be nice to make some work over a period of time—to have a set of materials and I sort of fill up a given space.
And I just wanted to make some oil paintings because I haven’t made any since I was at art school. My studio that I have at home isn’t quite appropriate for that—it’s a bit too dusty and dirty. So, this was the opportunity.
The thing about oil paint versus working on paper, which is what I normally do, is that with oil paint you can go back to it and keep working on it…This was, in some sense, quite challenging for me. I set up the canvasses in a way that I was constantly looking at them all the time, whereas normally I’ll make a drawing, like this for example, and it just goes in a box and it’s finished. Whereas you can’t do that with wet oil paint.
Yeah, I edit the drawings a lot, so that’s the critical difference, I suppose. The paintings I don’t edit it at all because they cost a lot of money to make on canvas.
I’ve only got sixteen of them and I have a show to do, so I can’t really edit. It’s unlike the drawings where I’m completely free to do whatever I like and I quite often throw seventy percent of them away.
I like drawing. I’ve made a lot of books over the years and it’s a quite a familiar thing—a comfortable thing for me that’s very easy to produce. I quite like shifting between media because, I don’t know…it just means that I don’t get bored. I’m not really one of those people that wants to be a master of anything in particular. Certainly not craft-wise, anyway.
The thing about working on paper, is that you can still chuck at least half of them away because paper’s sort of cheap. Whereas the canvas, y’know, they’re too expensive and too time-consuming and too space-consuming to start throwing away. It just becomes really impractical. Knowing that you have to keep them all changes things, to a certain extent.
But making these paintings has been really enjoyable, I really feel like I would do some more, definitely. I like the fact that they look like ‘paintings’. They are paintings, obviously…But I’m happy that they look like the kind of oil paintings that I’m interested in….there’s a certain seduction, there’s an appeal to oil paint, something quite visceral. There’s also a sort of myth making that goes with painting as this special ‘thing.’ In a way, that’s why I have always worked on paper. I’m just not interested in that aspect of painting, because it too easily becomes a product to sell and it suddenly becomes precious and there’s so much history of painting that somehow you have to acknowledge…
But I always want to learn something about what I’m doing and this residency did present an opportunity to explore a different medium and explore what you can do with ‘that’ versus what you do with ‘this.’
Well, I don’t know…I think I would be deceiving you if I said there was any kind of strategy where the work is about this or about that, because it really isn’t. It is very intuitively rendered…I just sort of respond to a context. In this case, I’ve got these canvasses and I’m making some paintings, and I’ve never really made paintings in this manner before.
There’s almost nothing that’s very figurative in them, unlike the drawings. Maybe one or two are, but for the most part they’re just sort of shapes with text—all my works have text. I’m always thinking about trying to say as little as I can. There is a certain economy in the language that is important.
Yes, there isn’t any illusion or context that isn’t immediately apparent in the way that they communicate.
What makes me quite happy is that when I came up with the premise for the show—I’ve got oils on canvas, an art shop over the road, a clean space and it’s all very practical and I’m just going to see what happens—I sort of thought it could actually be quite challenging. Maybe a bit stressful, really, having to make a show where you have to include every painting you’ve made.
But, in the end, I always think as long as it’s not shite then it’s alright. And it’s been an alright show. Quite interesting, I think, especially if you know the premise. —[O]