9 May 1962 |
Tenterden, Kent, England
|Movement||Young British Artists|
I'm more and more fascinated in my own work. I work from 10 A.M. until about 9 P.M., but it's not an obsession, it's a pleasure. There's never enough time.
I have to go with what the painting says to me. The painting is always informing me. I'm its servant; it's not mine. I'm doing what it wants.
I got a job as an assistant film editor, which lasted for a few years, but I found writing incredibly difficult, and I thought, 'How am I going to make a film if I can't write?' I didn't really comprehend that someone else would do that bit.
I want to paint something that's gorgeous, something that's perfect. So that it's full of sadness.
People constantly describe me as a formalist or even a minimalist, but I'm not really bothered with the rules of painting or the history of painting. My approach is that everything is mine. I take what I can use from wherever, and then I forget where I've taken it from. But there is no point me making anything that looks like anyone else's.
One drawing demands to become a painting, so I start to work on that, and then the painting might demand something else. Then the painting might say, 'I want a companion, and the companion should be like this,' so I have to find that, either by drawing it myself or locating the image.
I don't make political work. I don't make work that criticises the state. I make as human work as I can.
My mum always liked poetry, and she had pictures on the wall, so there was this visual stuff around.
I'm probably not going to develop to a final state as an artist. Like, become better and better, more and more refined. Become 'pure.' I don't think that's going to happen to me, because I don't really see that as something I want to explore.
I love to see a wood full of bluebells. Growing up in the Kent countryside, I have special memories of this brief annual spectacle.
I'd like to give people leaden boots in galleries, so they'd be a bit slower in front of my paintings. And that's because I spend so much time looking at them. I can look at them a long, long time without getting bored. I disappear.
I'm probably creative for half an hour a day. The rest of the time, I'm just doing what's necessary to make that creativity visible.
It's not part of my ambition to become fabulously rich. My plan was always to make my pictures, and hopefully people would buy them, and then I'd buy a studio, buy a house, help friends out, do bits and bobs – but I've no idea after that.
If I'm feeling desperate, I'll go out image-hunting. I'll go to news agents and stand at the rack flicking through magazines or go to second-hand bookshops. And then, bit by bit, like concrete poetry, I start to realise that I am drawn to particular things, and then I start wondering why that is.
I have to take it as a given that I have got a certain ability to do something. I can be an artist, which is take something and transform it into another thing. I can just see something, and I can see my painting.
I don't vote. I voted Labour once, in that moment of euphoria. I know that if people only made a voice for change, then change will happen, but I'm not that person. I'm painting pictures.
Now, I love painting. I love looking. I love the fact that they don't move. They constantly change with the light. They are sort of patient.
All art becomes history as soon as it is made, so it is inevitably part of a tradition. It doesn't matter a toss if it is in paint or in film; it is all art.
My desire to be an artist really came out of being broke and unemployed and incapable of holding a job down. That's what it was driven by for sure.
Sometimes I can see the whole painting from the outset in my mind's eye. But more often than not, that idea doesn't last the duration of the painting. Sometimes it comes out easy, just as I had envisaged. But that is reasonably rare.
Small paintings can be fantastic. But you can't often get a narrative out of a small painting. In any case, museums are huge places, and you want to take up some space.
Over the years, my 'Door' paintings have become somewhat mythologized.
I found that gloss paint suited me entirely, and its qualities still intrigue me. It's viscous and fluid and feels like a pool. It's highly reflective, which means there are layers of looking. You look at the picture, and you look at the surface, then you look at the reflection in the surface behind you, then you look at yourself.
A painting should be tough; it should have muscle, but I have to find some tenderness in it, too. There has to be that dynamic.
I lived on nothing for years – squatted where I lived and where I worked, stole electricity, made things from stuff I found in skips, used paper that had been discarded – you do everything you can do to keep going and not have to get a job.
I like things that are just about to go. Everything's leaving. Death is never far away from me. When you make something, death can't help but be in it.