Animals and patterns feature heavily in your work, what is it about both that interests you?
I use animals in my work because they fascinate me. There’s so many interesting variations of shapes and colours in the animal world and you can give them character in a way I that find more difficult with a human subject. People have their characters already and you have to work with that but with animals you can create a character, which is more fun.
I use patterns because I find something quite comforting about them in their repetition. I also love the graphic element. When I first started making work seriously it was much more graphics based, lots of stencils and things like that. Over time I’ve become more drawing based but I still produce work that is heavily graphic and that will always be a part of what I do.
Is there a relationship between the animals and the patterns?
There is, but it’s not necessarily a conscious one. What the patterned backgrounds do for me is create a space or an atmosphere that the figure can live in. It sets the scene of the story if you like. I did my degree in Film and I guess I’m constructing a set in a way, so I can put characters in it and tell the story. Only, it is just a moment from the story and the rest is for you to decide. At the moment I’m playing around with Damask patterns and, for me, that gives the piece a kind of gothic vibe. It will change the character of what I put on top but I try not to over think it and just let it happen.
Are your mutant creatures a comment on nature or science?
Definitely nature. The ideas behind these pictures are not about mutation necessarily, they are more about animals as Totems or spirits, as saintly in some way. This is why I use the iconographic elements in the work. They are mythological creatures, contemporary mythological creatures. In my opinion we have, as a species, always thought ourselves better than the rest of the animal world, smarter that it, in control of it. I don’t believe we are and this is my big-up to nature.
You’ve got lots of beautiful finishes on this piece, how important is the printing process?
It’s very important. In creating this new print I’ve really had my eyes opened to the techniques of the printing process and how it can be used to play with, to enhance, or even to change an image. I’ve worked very closely with my printer (Tin Dogs) on this edition and together we found ways to make it really come alive, to give it depth and to play with your senses a little bit. There are things in the printing process that you can do with varnishes and gilding and loads of other techniques that I just can’t do in the studio. With this print its when you walk around it and the light catches it that it really comes into its own. For me the printing process is a medium in itself and that’s how I use it.
What made you become an artist? Nothing, I couldn’t help it.
How did you get started? I started on the floor with crayons, drawing aeroplanes shooting everything.
Where do you find inspiration? Everywhere, and I never stop looking.
Do you care whether people like your work? I do care, of course, just not enough to stop making it.
What memorable responses have you had to your work?
For me the most memorable responses I’ve had to my work are when someone buys something at first sight. They don’t know me, they might never have seen my work before, but they buy it. It's not about the money, it's just that they dig what you’ve done. I find that a massive compliment every time.
What is the greatest threat to art today?
Commercially, I think playing it safe is detrimental and repetition is a killer. For example, there are a lot of the famous spot paintings out there, and ironic copies of those spot paintings.The idea has been diluted. Gerhard Richter did something very similar to them,but decades ago. He tried it out, it was great and then he moved on and made even more great stuff in a totally different way. He really pushed himself and took a lot of risks and I think that is the way to do it. But I don’t think there is any threat to art itself. It will change and evolve and we might not like it, but it will always be around. I think making art is part of the human condition. We need to make it and we need to make it so much we’ll paint walls. For some people it’s an impulse and that’s hard to keep down.
What’s the best advice anyone ever gave you? Persevere.
What have you sacrificed for your art? Financial security.
Do you suffer for your art?
I think all artists suffer for their art in their own heads because they want what they do to be good, and that’s never easy. But suffering is also part of the process and helps you push yourself to make it better. At the moment though, I’m really busy so I don’t have the time to squeeze in any suffering.
When are you happiest? On Sundays.
Is there an art form you don’t relate to? Interpretive dance.
Which artists do you most admire?
That changes a lot. For me it’s like music, what I like to listen to can change, depending on my mood. At the moment I’m really digging what Missbugs are doing.
What work of art would you most like to own?
I wouldn’t want a finished piece; I’d want the sketchbooks, like one of Degas’ sketchbooks for example. His studies are so quick and the lines are so good. It’s all about the lines for me and with sketches you really see the hand at work and the process, but you also see the mistakes and the lines that didn’t work and I love that.
If you weren’t an artist what would you be doing? Making films.