We talk in depth about painting with contemporary British artist Paul Kingsley Squire.
What do you do?
I am a multi-disciplinary artist exploring different mediums; seeing what happens when using paint and what different things occur in the digital process. I allow the medium to dictate the outcome.
When you say the outcome do you mean the subject? Or is your work quite process based?
Well the abstracts came out of experimentation. I come from a graphic art background and a lot of digital design. I have been a web designer for many years and I am still doing that for income. Eight years ago I started playing around with paint because I wanted to get away from the screen. I had always been interested in painting and had done it a long time ago for A Levels, but I never went to an art college. So I started messing about with paint on canvas and developed my own technique; using thick layers of paint and this method of building up work into abstracts.
The abstracts then always seem to form into a kind of landscape, so it is like a scene but without recognisable forms such as trees or mountains. I just keep working on them until I feel like I am satisfied with the result; I have developed this technique through experimentation.
I also started doing portraits because I wanted to explore using paint with a physical subject, and I’m not interested in creating still life, landscapes maybe, but faces are very interesting, because everyone’s got one and they are all very different; you have an endless supply of material to use. They were a way to experiment with paint, not because I wanted to be a portrait painter; it was just another way to experiment. I painted a few of my friends and just continued on; it was quite addictive, all painting is quite addictive as you probably know.
Who are your biggest inspirations for painting?
I have a long list!
Who is up there?
I think Lucian Freud is probably the greatest painter we have had for a long time and will be remembered for hundreds of years. Frank Auerbach for the way he uses thick beautiful textures in his paintings, then others like Maggi Hambling, John Byrne - a fantastic Scottish artist with his own style, Paul Wright – an amazing portrait artist, Colin Davidson - it’s the way they have taken the paint as a tool of expression, not just for doing photographic reproduction; they use the paint in a unique and accomplished way.
What do you think are the connecting personality traits that take a painter that one step further?
I think they have never been interested in the fashion of the time or what you are supposed to do. They have gone on their own path, obviously they have had their influences, but in developing their own technique they have created their own style. That is what interests me, artists that have their own unique style, I mean, I totally respect photo-realistic artists, or ones that paint just like Rembrandt, the skill level is amazing, but those that interest me are the ones that have their own unique take on things. I think what makes them like that is that they are obsessive and driven. For example, Lucian Freud was painting when everyone wanted abstract expressionism.
Vincent Van Gogh inspired many, but he peaked my interest in painting because in his life he was such an interesting character; he tried these different styles and after that he went into his own style. That is interesting because he was so cut off and was such an outsider; painting was his only form of expression. He got the ball rolling for expressionist artists doing their own thing.
So where do you see painting in 2017?
I think it is incredibly diverse and there are some amazing artists around. In some ways it can be easier to get exposure and in many ways it is more difficult, because of the internet people are blasted with images all of the time, people don’t have to go to a gallery and wonder what it is all about and study the brush strokes, they just zoom through an awful lot of images; more than ever before.
Fifteen years ago, they famously declared that painting was dead and obviously it isn’t, and it continues to evolve and grow. And in the times we are living in it is difficult to maintain that uniqueness, focus and to just keep going. It is expensive living these days, more than ever before it seems, we have more things to pay for: mobile phones, broadband, etc. Yet all over the world there are painters of every subject doing new things all of the time.
If you were to exhibit anywhere outside of London, where do you think you’d go?
Oh I’ve got my eye on a few places, I like Holland, I like Amsterdam and other Dutch cities, they are very culturally aware and as you walk around Amsterdam there are lots of galleries and beautiful homes with great art on the walls. Paris would be interesting. New York would be very challenging, I hear that some New York galleries are now taking 75% in commission.
Really? That’s insane!
You can imagine it happening.
I went to Florence a few years ago, it’s an amazing place, you just feel so humbled by the history and the art schools that are very traditional in the way things are done; they have that very academic style of art.
What advice would you give to a young artist about to embark on their own creative path?
First of all, it is not to be taken lightly, it is a very difficult thing to do. The hardest thing to do is keep going, so you need perseverance and I think the next thing you need is a lot of patience, because sometimes you can knock something out very quickly, but having that drive to master your craft requires it; you need patience in your career, because there is no map. You need tenacity to keep going, and interest; you have to be really, really interested in what you are doing. There are lots of people who are very interested in social media and who have thousands of followers, but it is about what your art form is and how you do it.
It is important to read about other artists, no matter what period they are from, because that feeds back into your own art and the context of being an artist now. It is good to know about how other artists have been through similar phases in their careers, how they have succeeded, and really how it is a lifelong pursuit. That interest will always inform your own art, which is important because it is very easy to get shut off and enclosed, cocooned and not know where your references are. It is good to have a few and know how things have arrived to where they are.
Paul Kingsley Squire will be exhibiting his paintings in our Spring Collection at the Menier Gallery 28th Feb - 4th March 2017.