So here goes, my first artist interview on Brogues In A Coffee Bar. Drum roll please…
Presenting the artwork by Neill Fuller! I was initially attracted to his work when I discovered him on Twitter (oh, the wonders of Twitter) and I adore his miniature paintings of miniature things. Neill lives and works in Somerset and graduated from Bath University in 1993, since he has had several exhibitions of his work around the UK and in 2013 won the Blackswan Arts Prize. In particular it was his project titles 50 x 50 Paintings which interested me. Each piece (pictured below) is 13 x 18cm and has been created in one single studio session over 24 hours, over a 3 month period. Here is what he says about the project…
What initially inspired you to undertake the 50 Paintings at £50 project?
I had started to exhibit my work in 2013 and wanted to carry some momentum over into 2014. I had lots of ideas trying to come together (perhaps too many) and I didn’t want to make a batch of paintings that would never see the light of day. I was also interested in how artists make a living from what they do and saw that this separate project could help me become more overtly commercial in outlook and engage directly with an audience.
What is the concept behind the project?
Put simply, trying to align the making of paintings with other trades or jobs. In a previous career I could see how my work had an end result and of course regular renumeration. For artists this link is usually blurred with untold hours of effort bringing end results and progress in a less direct way.
I tried to replicate a relatively normal working situation, where each studio visit would result in a definite end product that could then be offered for sale. This wasn’t always the total sum of a day’s painting as I also worked on other, larger work alongside these smaller paintings. I pegged the price at an approximation of the UK minimum wage, not to devalue what I was doing, but to break down the mystery of pricing a piece of work and lend an air of a ‘fools errand’ to the project. A nice bi-product has been the positive feedback from other artists and a realisation that these small works can become a regular part of the way I work.
Where do the objects come from?
I’ve had a few of the objects since I was a child, some of them have been stolen from my own children and some have been press-ganged. I’ve tried to restrain myself from buying too many of the self assembly models of funfair rides, and some of the objects such as the white plastic terraces come from a fantastic shop that specialises in materials for architects models.
All things miniature from mini sculpture, painting and dolls houses seem to be very popular at the moment, what is it you like about the objects/replicas you have chosen to paint?
On one level, using objects that ape things from outside world allows me to create a painted space that hovers between the inside/studio and other external spaces or situations. In the same way, the objects have an original purpose of being used in a similar type of play, usually in creating or recreating places or spaces.
Some of the objects are mass-produced, often made in bright plastic (the material of imitation). Some are trying much harder to be faithful replicas and some are lovingly handmade versions of objects. I like that they’ve already been through a process of distillation or simplification by hand or machine, for better or worse.
Do you have a collection of used/painted objects that you can’t discard? If so, why are you attached to each piece after painting them?
There is a great photograph of a collection of 50 or so of Philip Guston’s late, small paintings in his studio, each one showing one of his motifs that have been combined in his larger works – a car, a boot, a lightbulb etc. It’s like his alphabet or toolbox of images. I may well be building my own version up so I keep all of the objects as I feel I will need to return to them in the future.
I see your work as very optimistic, playful and fun. The colour could perhaps be seen as naive. What do you hope others get from the collection?
Yes, the playful element is central to them all and at the heart of the process that creates them. This is fairly obvious when painting toys but hopefully goes a little beyond this when considering the choices I have made. Painting an upside-down plastic tree, placing cats on balls, breaking up a toy xylophone to build a set of steps, these actions, alongside using certain colours and strong artificial lighting aim to emphasise that this is essentially an act of play. I hope people make that connection with their own experiences.
Explain your routine/creative process…
I try to go to the studio every day. Currently this is comprised of at least 2 full weekdays, weekends and most evenings. I work on quite a few paintings at the same time including any specific 50×50 piece for that day, so a freshly mixed colour may find its way onto more than one work. The objects are mostly painted from life, lit by a single artificial light source.
Drawing sometimes gets bypassed when starting new works, as I often take time out to mess around with the objects, which then results in an impulse to start a new painting. Luckily making the small pieces has become part of my routine, so I can make a quick version to get the idea going.
I work out of a studio in the centre of Bath and also my garage at home. The garage houses some of the objects and other useful materials such as plywood and cardboard. It’s here that I do most drawing and come up with ideas for the paintings that are combinations of objects. I like the idea of building these random and futile things as if I was doing some sort of essential DIY or carpentry.
What is your favourite painting? Is it a still life?
I’m not sure I have a favourite painting but the question gets me thinking. I’ll offer up ‘Socken’ from 1963 by Sigmar Polke. I could give any or all pieces by him but this one is an early still life of sorts – it’s of some socks and is both understated and humorous.
Finally, I asked Neil What’s next?
I’m going to extend the 50×50 project in some way. It’s become part of the way I work and I love the engagement with others that it brings. It will deal with a smaller and restricted group of imagery and although they will still be made in a day, they’ll be made over a longer period of time. I also have a show at the Tobacco Factory in Bristol next March, so I’ll be making some bigger work that is in part site specific.
So watch this space. You can buy Neill’s work on his website here. All images have been generously given by Neill himself: you can contact him here. For more inspirational art and features on Brogues In A Coffee Bar click here and don’t forget you can see updates and follow me on Twitter!