Questions & Answers
How did you get into teaching an abstract painting workshop?
The opportunity arose in Kathmandu, Nepal, when Pipalbot's owner Tim Linkins and I decided it would be fun to 'bookend' our "Alchemy - watercolours and weaves" show of my paintings and carpets with some kind of event, just as we'd opened the event with a vernissage and 'lunch with the artist'. It is a chance for people who perhaps have never painted before to experiment themselves and understand how I work to make abstract paintings. I've chosen the theme 'hiding and revealing' as the workshop theme which gives everyone great freedom to be creative. Back in Europe I have taught the same workshop at the Scuola Internazionale di Grafica in Venice. I am planning to teach abstract landscape in Extremadura, Spain in 2015
You started collaborating on carpets. Where is that going to take you in the future?
I had created a carpet series, playing with watercolours and soap. Then I was really interested how a painting would actually translate in a real textile product, made of silk or wool. Would one be able to interpret the same transparency of watercolour? I spent some time in Kathmandu looking at Tibetan carpets and hit upon Pipalbot which is producing some really lovely designs for local sale and export. Collaboration with Tim Linkins has been fun and "Alchemy - watercolours and weaves". I want to do more of this in the future as I have always had a strong relationship with handmade textiles. I'd like part of my artistic expression to continue in textile design.
You lived in Bangkok. Haa a move to the East affected the style of your painting?
Well a move back to the East, because I'd lived in Delhi, India, before working in Brussels. From there I went to Bangkok. Yes, I think one is always affected by one's surroundings. Look at Urban 1 and 2 for example, in the New Works on Paper series which I showed in 2009 and I think you'll see a strong influence in those works. Some landscape paintings done in the Chiang Rai area of Northern Thailand also carry the same influence. But at the Bangkok show someone came up to me and said "I don't know how to read your paintings, perhaps because they are abstract, and our Thai artists are predominantly decorative in their influence". That was a real challenge because obviously 'paintings of nothing' don't have the immediate visual stories that figurative paintings do - one has to start inventing the stories! Since then, I've also painted landscapes in Ubud, Bali.
When did you become interested in painting?
Before I answer that, you need to know that I collected art. I knew absolutely what I liked and I bought it from a variety of continents and settings.
Nigerian Ife primitive paintings – the hungrier the artist the better the work; Vietnamese masters painted on bag paper with holes in it; extraordinary abstracts from an Italian women in Piazza Navona desperate to sell works to fund her ticket to Spain for her next show – I had $300 in my pocket and pocketed four, later to be valued at $2,000 each in New York; a talented Colombian working in upstate New York who preferred to be a horse breeder, and gave his dealer two paintings a year.
I also slowly understood that I carried colour in my head.
It took me many years before I could make a connection between that and being a colourist. Paul Klee, during his Tunisian journey in the early 1900s exclaimed triumphantly “Colour and I are one”. Indeed on meeting Klee in art books I found a true soul mate.
When did you first paint?
My first painting experience was in Rome, in an apartment with a terrace overlooking the energetic space of Campo di Fiore. The 270-degree panorama begged to be painted and without realising I walked through the old town until I stood in front of an art shop. I purchased my first tools and painted for three days solid – quirky, naïve sketches and wash. I had not even learned perspective or shadow. That's where the passion started. It hasn't stopped!
Who are the artists that influence you?
There are many, but Sean Scully and Gerhard Richter stand out as giants. Then I would also acknowledge Pierre Soulages, the Cornish painters of the St. Ives School, William Scott.... there are many influences.
Where can people find your work for sale?
I currently work out of two studios, in Venice, Italy and Bangkok, Thailand. The website indicated where each of the recent works are located if available. There are also worrks available for purchase in London.