This week I managed to pin down my favourite painter to have a chat about Art, Life and Starwars
If you weren’t an artist, Antony what would you be?
I would be in advertising, I’ve always wanted to do that, I come from a graphic design background which I really enjoyed, but with advertising I like the idea of selling things to people that they don’t need, I think that’s the best trick in the world.
Who or what makes you laugh? Apart from me….
Toni Gallagher of course but apart from you, I love the stand up comedian Louis Ck I think he is hilarious.
What challenges have you faced with this show?
In this body of work I guess the biggest challenge was trying to translate my idea, it wasn’t good enough to put it down the way I usually would. I had to discover, make a new language in order for it to have the feeling and emotion that I wanted to convey. This language was part of a discovery process that took from start to finish the best part of 2 years. It’s a bit like excavating an ancient site, you are burying and digging with shovels. I went through quite a lot of paintings that were not included in the show to get to this idea. I started making the final pieces for the show in October, I was trying to discover a new language you don’t know its there. You know you are digging for something but you don’t know until you find it which is actually really nice.
How do you start the process of making artwork?
It’s a similar process when you get in a car and you want to travel somewhere or go on a journey, first of all you get in the car, you have to physically start doing something and in that process, through the nature and discovery of making art, you start somewhere and this leads on to something else. I was making work, carrying on with my usual themes, then I stopped and I thought what is that I really want to do. Where do I want to go and so I thought, I want to make this simpler in a way so I really tried to boil it down and I decided to make the show a set of self portraits. I got rid of all the subject matter that wasn’t really needed. I wanted this to be about paint. and the language of paint. I guess you would describe simplification as the idea for the show. This was reflected in the title of the show “Self”, as in, self-portrait, historical connotations.
Do you consider the viewer when you are making your work?
Ideally I think every artist should say no to this question. I think when you make your art work you are setting your own parameters, that means you set your own rules of how it functions, how it works, how it operates. It has to be successful within those restraints. It’s like when you are driving on a racetrack. If it works for you and you are working within your parameters then it will work. It depends who your viewer is, you know my dad came in and said he hated them, but then he isn’t my target audience. It’s a tough one to answer really, I think if the paining is strong enough in itself then your viewer can hopefully read that, with this particular body of work by the end wasn’t thinking about the viewer I was lost in the process of painting.
Any time any place, which Artist body would you like to inhabit?
Wow well there are so many, I think Michael Angelo had a good time, he had a lot of power, or Bellini. Picasso would be a good one but a bit maybe a bit obvious.
What is the best piece of advice you have been given?
I had a really good mentor, that was `John Virtue, he taught me to keep looking, looking, and looking. Trying to learn your language, the only way you do that is by doing it again and again and again. Looking at life is the essence of capturing something special. Ultimately I think that’s what we try to do with art, for me the purpose of art is to try and convey a reflection of what life is. That’s what I think great art is, when we feel a human connection to it.
What is the best and worst thing about being an artist?
The answer to both parts of this question for me is Solitude, its great when you are fully involved on your own and making but then it’s a really big thing to take on that solitude.
What is next for you?
I’m actually really inspired right now to do things bigger and better, and when I say bigger I don’t necessarily mean canvas size, I feel like I have hit a well, its quite exciting, there is a lot to extract and discover
Its been 4 years since your last solo show, why is that?
Initially I like to do a show every 2 years, but life kind of got in the way and things sort of drifted, it wasn’t a conscious decision but now I’m really glad that there was a four year gap, it fits in really well with my creative discovery and now I feel really inspired.
Now finally knowing what a Star wars fan you are, which star wars character would you be?
I guess i’ve always just wanted to be Boba Fett, isn’t that who everyone wants to be, I used to love the Stormtoopers but you know they are just numbers now. I used to buy so many of them and put them behind my Darth Vader. Of course Darth Vader has everything so he would be a good choice. He has the suit, he’s got the voice he’s got the power, but I think Boba Fett was the coolest because he just nodded his head and appeared occasionally. Id like to turn up as him at the Groucho club.
Antony’s show Self , on at Lazarides , Rathbone Place until March 19th
photograph by Thomas butler