Picasso famously said ‘ the purpose of art is washing the dust of daily life off our souls? What for you is the ultimate purpose of art?
Picasso is right, let it all out. For me, it’s a release; it’s about aiming for a perfect piece–to capture feeling and some emotion in paint and color… That’s why I don’t plan the works–it leads to a better end result if you let the painting grow naturally. Then you edit it as you go and get this piece based on instinct, which you may hate, and then love.
How much of your inner life is invested in your work?
My personal situation can’t help but seep into the work–when I was drinking, and we had a recession, my paintings went very dark, then when my wife was pregnant, the work went much lighter. Going to Los Angeles prior to making this show has changed the feel of this collection–that’s an example of how directly changeable I am. I often paint over pieces after spending a week on them, but that’s the process. It’s an outlet and it has to be steered until I think it works in its own right. I’m sort of like a sponge, I channel it and it all has to come out – if you buy my art you buy a part of my soul, a part of my life…
What is your process as an artist?
Making art is a solitary business, good painting requires thinking and time to focus–you study each color; each aspect. It’s about a harmony and a rhythm. I don’t limit myself to anything, every aspect of life is considered–anatomy, science, nature, politics, objects of war, bugs, flowers, wallpaper… It’s all to do with what works best with each other aspect, and it’s a carefully selected knife-edge balance between each aspect or part of the piece–to force the eye to scan every part and come up with a conclusion or feeling depending on the mindset or approach. The hardest thing for me is to contain it all and make it work. I avoid the obvious.
Do you believe artists can affect socio-political change?
Artists can influence the consumer culture massively, just look at Shepard Fairey and his campaign for Hope. If you take Warhol or Lichtenstein, their influence is still everywhere today in advertising and the high street culture. Banksy is anarchic, and yet became a positive symbol of hope and change. Art is a key influence in change. Art affects everything from the streets, to the galleries, to the advertising agencies, to the catwalks, to packaging, to all areas of high street culture or lifestyle choice.
Would you describe yourself as working in a tradition of pop art?
People ask me if I am landscape, portrait, figurative… and I say no, it’s hard to categorize it. The definition of pop in the dictionary is art based on modern popular culture and the mass media, especially as a critical or ironic comment on traditional fine art values. So perhaps it just is a natural artistic response to our surroundings and time. Jasper Johns wasn’t aiming to be pop when he painted a flag, it was probably more politically motivated, but it all fitted into a new movement of change in the air, post WWII, rock’n’roll… They just reacted to their time with what they had – collage, glue, household paints, wood. Andy Warhol actually ate Campbell’s Soup as a kid, when he was ill, so that work was about memory and his mother. My art is about memory and childhood and nostalgia, and my own situation.
Why is your latest show called Under The Influence?
The show is called Under The Influence meaning everything seeping in, political, or personal. I went to Los Angeles prior to making the show and that really has been a positive aspect–travel is a good thing to do before locking yourself away in the studio. The narrative feels post-migration, semi-political and reminiscent of my last ten years. I love each piece. The works from where my last show ended, pretty dark, so the first half was a reworking of older pieces, with fresh eyes.
Under The Influence is at Maddox Gallery, Mayfair London from October 5
Written by John-Paul Pryor