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An Interview with Chris Kettle

We sat down with Chris Kettle to discuss his creative process, his fascination with still life paintings, and his intriguing print Mixed Flowers after Fantin Latour. 

AR: Where do you take your inspiration from? What/who are your biggest influences?

Chris: I think inspiration is something we constantly search for, it’s ongoing and organic – it changes from day to day, year to year. My first big influence was the painter Euan Uglow, and still today his work inspires me, although you may not necessarily see it in my work.

AR: Is there any particular artwork or artist that has changed the way you view creative expression, or was developmental to your artistic journey?

Chris: Around a decade ago two painters emerged that made us all stop and take notice, and shook us all up in my opinion...those two were Adrian Ghenie and Nicola Samori.

Chris Kettle, Mixed Flowers after Fantin-Latour

AR: How do your ideas develop? Is there a definitive process or is it more spontaneous? 

Chris: I have a few different areas of Still Life that I focus on at present, my own set-ups that can be spontaneous and painted ‘from life’, past photo shoots that I can dive into, Studies or quick sketches in paint, and my ongoing ‘Homage’ series (Fantin Latour, etc).

AR: The pandemic-induced lockdowns disrupted the routine of many artists. How did your routine alter, and what does a typical day look like for you now? 

Chris: Lockdown was obviously a tricky time for us all, (not least for creativity) and very distracting but I found myself surrendering to the strange times and flowing with the tide. It was a little more difficult to focus in the Studio under such odd conditions, I absorbed the strangeness but I’ve kept it separate from my Art! Typically these days my routine is basically the same – School run/Dog walk/Studio time! 

AR: It’s clear you take inspiration from the Old Masters, when did you first develop your interest in them? Have these older influences always informed the way you work? 

Chris: Around 17 years ago I started looking at The Dutch Masters and painted a version of a Jan Davidz De Heem painting (‘Eucharist in a Fruit Wreath’). At the time it was a significant development for me, oddly there was very little interest in works by the Old Masters back then generally, dark paintings were not particularly in vogue, and I think that drew me to them - but until that point I hadn’t seriously considered the dark stuff!  

A detail from Chris Kettle's Mixed Flowers After Fantin-Latour

AR: Still life paintings are a distinctly traditional subject matter, what drew you to this type of painting in the first place? Do you make a concerted effort to modernise your approach? 

Chris: There are really only a handful of genres in Art and I always thought that Still Life was its own huge universe. I’ve always thought you can say so much with objects, particularly with classic subject material like Fruit and Flowers, they can have their own language depending on how they’re presented. They are organic beings, collections of cells – a bit like us. There is so much room for expression in this genre - a bit harder to ‘read’ than a portrait of a face, but it’s all there. When I first committed to painting Still Life my work could be described as progressive, minimal and definitely modern,… I hope it still is but I think the progressions are quieter, and dressed differently!  

AR: How do you set up your still life compositions? 

Chris: If I’m painting a quick ‘Study’ then it’s got to be quick and ‘effortless’, simple and thrown together - flowers in a vase etc, but for the ‘Festoon’ series I have to scour exotic fruit and veg stores for interesting things to form an arrangement and painstakingly arrange it all for a photoshoot. I also use a PC if I need longer to paint something or I’m ‘Homaging’.

AR: How important is the placement of light and use of colour in your paintings? 

Chris: Light in particular is very Important, it sets the tone of emotion in a painting – it can be understated and a bit neutral or more contrasty and dramatic… I do love a bit of drama on the canvas.

A detail from Chris Kettle's Mixed Flowers After Fantin-Latour

AR: What is the lasting impression you want to leave on the viewers of your work? How do you want them to connect with your paintings?  

Chris: Well if they can connect at all then my work is done - Any connection is good!…I hope that however and whatever I paint, that hopefully something vibrates through the paint somehow - some ‘Human-ness’, some kind of emotional connection, and at times some humour.

AR: Can you tell us a bit about your print Mixed Flowers after Fantin Latour, and the process you went through to complete this piece? 

Chris: It’s a Homage piece that I’ve ‘Hand-Glitched’ - I love the original by Henri Fantin Latour (originally titled ‘Flowers from Normandy’) and I painted my own slightly edited version with sweeps of paint distorting the traditional set up, hopefully giving the painting a totally new feel, and an interesting new dynamic. I like the idea of the flowers being hauled to one side by some invisible power…a moment of powerful atomic force perhaps. It’s odd painstakingly painting something then distorting it with squashed paint, but when it works you definitely get visually rewarded.

A close up of the artist signature from Chris Kettle's Mixed Flowers After Fantin-Latour

AR: How do you see your art developing in the future? 

Chris: That's an interesting thought… It’s hard to say as one can change at any given moment but for now I’m still on my Still Life journey, I’ve ‘Nailed my colours to the mast’ and I’m happy bumping around in that universe!

AR: If you could give one top tip to new art collectors, what would it be? 

Chris: It’s the same advice you’ve heard before – buy what you love! (you’re already an expert on that).

Make sure to check out Chris Kettle’s Mixed Flowers After Fantin-Latour print here, exclusive to artrepublic. To learn more about Chris’ work and explore more of his still life artworks, visit his collection page here.

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