Interview with RICHARD UNWIN
Journalist for The Art Collective gallery (May 2013)
Q. From what I can see, your paintings seem to contain a lot of ambiguity - faces are depersonalised, backgrounds are hazy etc. - is this linked to your interest in memory and the way we picture things in our minds?
A. My aim is to capture a 'glimpse' of the action. I try to keep the use of a paint brush to a minimum and use rags, palette knives and my fingers instead. This means that each figure needs several re-paints until it feels right. I suppose you could say too that I'm after a sort of 'hazy recollection' of an event, I hope my approach also loads the picture with a sense of movement and energy.
Q. On your website you mention memories of childhood and that you also use found images, does your own childhood have a particular resonance for you? And, when you create a painting, are you mixing up your own memories with speculations about the people in the photographs?
A. I have a theory that most people are haunted by memories of their childhood. My own childhood was a happy one so maybe that's why the work has a haunted feel to it… perhaps it's a kind of yearning.
Q. You've worked in design, where you must have had to work to client briefs. Do you find a big difference between commercial work and being free to paint what and how you like, and did you find it a smooth process switching between the two roles and lifestyles?
A. I've always regarded myself first and foremost as an artist, my work in the design industry has generally been at the creative end (i.e. book jackets and record sleeves) nevertheless you are right that there is a big difference between being the two disciplines… design is always about the clients' brief whereas art is about the artist's unvarnished reflections on the world around him.
Q. You talk about using rags etc. to paint with. This gives a sense of a sculptural quality imparted in the work and also, perhaps, a stronger physical connection between yourself and the work. Do you find it easy to decide when a painting is 'finished' and what feeling/relationship do you have towards works once they have been completed and you've moved on to something else?
A. I love to 'feel the paint' when I'm working, it's an exhilarating way to paint and when it works it has a wonderful expressionist quality. I've always had a problem knowing when a painting is finished, fortunately my wife is very good at spotting the point when a painting has 'arrived' and then prising the brushes out of my hand. I get very attached to certain paintings but the oxygen I get from making a sale softens the blow of losing it.
Q. Finally, are there any particular artists you admire or who's work has had a strong influence on your own art?
A. Turner is my hero, I especially love his loose watercolours. Frank Auerbach for his darkness. Also certain photo-inspired artists like Peter Doig.