Richard Wincer

Richard Wincer

Interviewed on 04.05.2011

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[TRACK 1]

TONY WRIGHT:

This is Tony Wright, it’s the 4th of May 2011 and I’m talking to Richard Wincer in Arts Mill.   Can you tell me your full name and where and when you were born?

 

RICHARD WINCER:

My full name is Richard James Wincer.  I was born in 1951 in a place called Alvechurch in Worcestershire.

 

TW:

Oh right

 

RW:

Near Birmingham.

 

TW:

Right.  What was it like in Worcestershire in those days?

 

RW:

I had a really good childhood, quite free in the countryside.  We lived in a sort of rural area and basically in the 1950s at that time, looking back on it, it seemed a very freer time when we just wandered around the countryside basically.  I lived there till I was about ten and during that time I sort of went fishing, playing football and was out most of the time.  I developed a strong affection to the countryside and I can’t complain about it all, it was a really nice time, and then later on after that at about the age of eleven I moved to a place called Bromsgrove also in Worcestershire, which was also in the countryside, and I basically carried on doing the same things, playing sport, fishing, wandering round the countryside and I had, looking back on it, an enjoyable childhood.

 

TW:

So did you relate to the countryside in a special kind of way do you think?

 

RW:

I think over the years I did develop an attraction and an affection for the rural landscape there which has certainly influence me as an artist and…..definitely, all those early experiences have really influenced my work, looking back on it now, certainly, and they still do, in fact I still go back to the area.  My mother still lives there, she’s ninety now and she still lives in Bromsgrove and I go back visit her and I go back to my old haunts; I go fishing in the places I used to go fishing when I was a child, and take photographs of the area, and often it will come through in my work, so I’ve got….I think it’s quite important, that sense of place, I really do feel that, so….I’m very much aware that these things influence my work.

 

TW:

Were any of your family artistic at all?

 

RW:

No…..my mother could play the piano and my father had a good singing voice, but he didn’t really sing that much – no, not really, so….you know with all that pressure to get a proper job basically rather than being an artist….but I think I knew from quite, from being in my early teens what I wanted to do and that’s what drove me to carry on to be an artist basically

 

TW:

Did you have any formal training then?

 

RW:

No, I did the normal O Level and A Level at school; I went to a grammar school and the art department was quite good, and I became very interested in landscape painting and soon found that it was one of my big passions really, so along with sport, I played  a lot of sport, and by the time I was about seventeen I really pretty much knew what I wanted to do, it was just how to go about it really, and I’d already been out there in the countryside, taking canvasses out and painting pictures on my own at that age really, so I was pretty much determined that’s what I wanted to do, but obviously there’s always the pressure that ‘are you gonna get a proper job?’ ie, ‘is it gonna make you any money?’ and I think even when I first went to night school in Stourbridge which was the first year of a foundation I was basically told that it would be very difficult to earn a living, but there’s just something driving me to do it, I just ignored all that really, so it’s proved to be correct [laughing] – I haven’t made a lot of money, but I just felt that….I think I knew from that time that that’s what I wanted to do.

 

TW:

So how did you progress then, through your twenties, late teens to twenties?

 

RW:

Well, after doing a couple years of foundation at Stourbridge I decided to specialise in fine art; I pretty much knew that I wanted to do that anyway and then I applied to a London college because being ambitious and everybody felt the place to go would be London, and I fortunately got accepted at Goldsmiths College, so I was at Goldsmiths College from 1971 to 1974, and….and that’s where a lot of my art education really got started and I met a lot of very interesting people who taught there, and they changed the way I looked at things, and…..I don’t have any regrets about that either, it was a really good place to go and it was just getting to be….it was just starting to be the place to be in terms of art education.  As an arts school it was starting to develop its reputation so I was there at the very beginning of that really, and you know, I met a lot of very interesting people and some well known artists, so it was good.

 

TW:

Well when you finished at Goldsmiths, did you carry on painting, or did you have to earn a crust in a different way?

 

RW:

Well I had to…..I wanted to do post graduate but I didn’t get…..it’s a bit of a long story – I didn’t get accepted at Slade or the Royal College although I had an interview so I was suddenly out of the college environment and no job and no work basically, and into the real world where I found it very difficult at first because when I was with my contemporaries I was in an art situation, studying art on a very intellectual level and suddenly I was unemployed basically, and I was unemployed for a while and then I realised I just had to do something, so I just got a job in the Parks and Gardens Department, just learning how to be a gardener and although it was poorly paid, it was actually a really good experience and I met lots of people who were ex-dockers because the docks were closed in London and so the Council was employing a lot of ex-dockers at that time and I….I enjoyed it, a bit like I suppose National Service really, and I had, I just felt……I was full of my own self-importance a bit when I left art school but I was….you know…had a big ego….it brought me down to earth a bit and I worked there for a while and then I could have carried on working and worked my up, because they offered me a better job with all the qualifications that I had, but the art thing pulled me away from that again, so I left and I managed to finally get a studio in Deptford in South London which I found there quite a large building which had a floor in it which I set up as a studio and I was still in contact with all my old people from Goldsmiths, so I got them involved and we set up a studio in Deptford, in south east London, and then I just basically tried to do my own work and do jobs; I worked as a technician in a school for a while, a pottery technician, so I learnt about ceramics and I lived quite cheaply in some cheap council housing in Deptford, and so I managed through those early times to get by and tried to establish myself as an artist, which wasn’t easy, and…..so I was always doing some form of employment to earn some money on a part-time basis or I’d have a few months when I’d work, and I was still trying to do my own work as an artist….so then by the time….I was still doing that and living in Deptford by the time I was in my early thirties and then I got into a couple of quite good exhibitions in London, so I started to get established then, and a bit more work…..yeah, so….it was a struggle but you know……

 

TW:

What exhibitions were those?

 

RW:

Well in 1980 I was in what was called a Summer Exhibition at the Serpentine Gallery which was selected by another artist called Tony Carter and that was for basically promising up and coming artists to get a foothold, so that was quite a good…..you know, quite a good audience for that and the work was well received, and then further on in 1983, with a show at the Hayward Gallery, a sculpture show at Hayward Gallery.  There were about fifty sculptors in the country then, so I sort of got myself into that position but then I found it quite hard to sort of capitalize on that and….so I just went back to my studio and I carried on working, and then my work at that point – one of the nice stories is….I had a job, my way of earning a living at that point was window cleaning so I would usually get up about half five and then I would go out with a sort of gang of window cleaners and I’d be finished by one o’clock, two o’clock, so I had the rest of the day to my own work and we were driving all round the centre of London and at one point during the Hayward exhibition, because my piece of sculpture was outside, you could see it from Waterloo Bridge so one morning I was in the back of the window cleaning van and we were driving over Waterloo Bridge, I saw my sculpture outside the Hayward Gallery and I was in the window cleaning van! [laughing] and everyone was going, ‘Richard’s hut, Richard’s hut’ so it was a bit of a strange situation to be in that, you know, and…..I still couldn’t sell much work because I was doing large sculptors and installations basically which weren’t sellable like a drawing or painting, so I wasn’t making much money at all from art, in fact hardly any, so I was still window cleaning at that point, and then unfortunately I got made redundant from that because there was no work, and so I was walking around thinking ‘this is a bit rough- I can’t even get work as a window cleaner now’ so I decided to…I just had to do something, I wasn’t making enough money from art, so I set up my own business which was making wooden canvas stretchers for artists, for frames that they stretch canvas on and because of my contacts in the art world I knew there was a niche for good quality stretch frames, and well, it took quite a lot of….I just jumped in at the deep end really and I finally got that set up, made a lot of mistakes, finally got it set up and I worked away, and suddenly it started doing quite well because people knew me from the art world, and soon really well-known famous artists started coming in to me to get their canvas stretchers, and I made sure that I was at the right top end of the market, I gave a really good quality products and basically I was a craftsman working with wood, and so that sort of…that was okay you know, I’d got it going but there was a certain tedium in it when I was just working at my woodworking machine doing hundreds of tenons, and again I had this call that this isn’t what I should be doing – I should be doing my own work, so I was supplying lots of well-known artists with things to do their own work, so I turned up at their studio thinking ‘this could be me really’ - delivering stuff – and so at that point I got an offer, somebody wanted to buy it, because it was going up, so I sold it, sold it after about four years and that gained me a little lump sum of money which was really nice because I’d never really had any money, and about a year…..oh I remember now, this money….I’m tying into my childhood bit now – my mother had gone to visit my brother in New Zealand so my house in Worcestershire, the house was empty, so I thought ‘the first thing I’ll do is I’ll drive up to the house and stay there for a bit’ and I found that one of the things I did was I went out and bought a whole new load of fishing tackle with the money, or some of the money, and suddenly rekindled this interest in what I’d done in my youth and I thought ‘really this is…’ so I’d been in London twenty years at this point, and I thought ‘why am I there?’ – I didn’t feel my work as an artist was going that well and so I spent a bit of time back at home, a month or so, getting familiar with the place and you know, sort of going fishing and doing things, taking photographs and when I went back to London I didn’t feel I had any connections with it any more, and I felt that I was getting near forty, I’d be thirty nine or something like that, that I should leave but as it happened you know, there was a strange circumstance where I actually ended up meeting up with someone from my past, which developed into a relationship and my partner, Louise, was living in Hebden Bridge so I met her and fell in love, then she said ‘well come and live in Hebden Bridge’ so I left London and came to live in Hebden Bridge so that would be 1990, something like that, something like that, and again I arrived and it was a bit difficult at first because again I’d no work and my money was running out, and then suddenly I got all these phone calls from London, saying they weren’t happy with the stretchers they were getting, so I thought ‘I don’t know what on earth I’m gonna do’ - it was all a bit difficult, so I thought ‘I’ll start again’ and in the meantime I’d had an artist’s studio at Dean Clough in Halifax, so I started developing all my contacts again with the artists that I’d dealt with and they wanted my stretchers again, so I started manufacturing canvas stretchers again as a way of earning a living, and….did that for a while and left Dean Clough and went to another, bigger workshop in Siddal in Halifax, and I found that I could make stretchers and do some painting, and I got my work going again, my paintings going again and…..then about, I think it’s about eight years ago now, I took the plunge again and just stopped the business.  My lease was up and I had to leave the building so I thought ‘I haven’t really got it in me to start again, so this time I’m going to give up and start painting again, and see how I get on’ so I just took the risk again really’ so that’s how I went from – that’s how I ended up here then getting a studio at Arts Mill, so I’ve been here for about eight years now.

 

TW:

Right.  So do you still make sculptures or do you just paint now?

 

RW:

I don’t make much sculpture at the moment.  I do the odd wood carving. My problem with sculpture was that you soon get a studio full of sculpture that if you haven’t got an outlet for you’re just cluttered up with sculptures, especially if it’s large, and I started a process which is a bit akin to wood carving which was wood cut print making, using wood cut, so I have a wooden panel which I then carve the image into and then ink that up and take a print off that, so I found that connection with the wood and the carving of the wood to make a wood cut quite a nice compromise, so when I get a 2D image I still feel that I’m sculpting it out of the surface, so my wood cuts did quite well and I usually get them in at the Royal Academy in the Summer Exhibitions, so that’s one of the main things that I’ve done, is wood cut.

 

TW:

Do you have, what shall we call it, a philosophy of art, what are you actually trying to say with the work that you do it?

 

RW:

Well I suppose you know, I’ve always felt that it’s….a spiritual activity.  I’ve never really done it to try and make money which sounds a bit strange because that’s probably why I’ve never had any money, but I’ve always tried to keep this feeling that I’m searching for something of the truth in some way, and I try and remain true to that; obviously you know, it’s really nice when I sell work but I don’t really wanna just make work to make money – what I mean by that is I don’t want to just look at a market and compromise what my vision is and how I see things, and in order just to sell work, so it’s a delicate balance between doing what you feel you’re really about and getting someone to feel that when they see your work and making it work financially.  You can go the other way I think and say ‘I’m just going to make money from art’ – what sells, what is popular, what does well and do that, but I’ve never really felt comfortable with that at all, so basically it is a deep spiritual activity in the sense that a lot of the time I don’t know where the work’s coming from – it’s an unconscious process and I still have that idea that the artist is some sort of medium for things that come in from somewhere, I don’t know where, and it comes out through you and you’re trying to find what that is and you make those mistakes, then every now and then you get something that really does work and it’s quite magical when that happens, and because once you experience that magic the first time, you know that is the truth – there is something there trying to express the truth, and…..I don’t know if that makes any sense at all

 

TW:

It makes perfect sense to me

 

RW:

Yeah, yeah….but you know, it’s difficult because obviously……[getting a drink] 

 

TW:

So do you think your audience or spectators, people who look at your work, do you think they get some of that magic and some of that spirituality out of the work?

 

RW:

I hope so, but people tend to bring their own filters into it when they look at work.  You have to be open and very often people will approach work with pre-conceived ideas, and so a viewer will look at a piece of work with their own pre-conceptions so they filter out sometimes, so instant decisions are made like ‘I don’t like it’ or ‘I like it’ or ‘it’s not my thing’ whereas a lot of work really needs to be contemplated and you need to spend time, but we don’t seem to have time and I’m guilty of it myself you know; I make a judgment in about three or four seconds on something, so I’m guilty of doing that when I approach other artists’ work I have to say….but there are people and it’s happened quite recently; I’ve recently sold work when someone’s come in and gone ‘I really like this’ and they paid me for it, and I really appreciate that, so it does happen definitely, you know.

 

TW:

I’m just curious, you said when you were young you were always in the countryside, and you seemed to have….you liked it shall we say.  When you moved to Hebden Bridge then, the landscape around here – has that affected you or your work in any way?

 

RW:

Well I’m not sure; I think people who see my work tend to think that it has.  I still, if I’m doing a landscape now, I mean my work has gone through a period of abstraction and I’m now coming back now, so my recent work – I’ve been working on abstraction which obviously gets rid of the figurative image, but has a landscape feel to it, I think you could feel the landscape in it.  Now I wasn’t sure whether it was a Yorkshire landscape or whether it was a child thing, or….I really wasn’t sure, but just recently I’ve been pulling it back.  I’ve been coming back to more figurative – I’m on the border between figurative and abstract which is the realm I find quite interesting now….I was explaining where you can, you know, on a sliding scale between being very detailed and very figurative, going right the way through then to abstraction, where there’s virtually nothing but a black square, so if you’re painting, in a way you’re operating somewhere along that scale.  At the moment I’m….I’m finding it quite interesting to be just where the images start to go into abstraction, so….for me to deal with abstraction was quite hard at first because I’d never done it before, and now things I’ve learnt through that…..I’m trying to bring it back, so the landscape feeling is coming back but I find I’m using imagery from Worcestershire rather than Yorkshire, but I think there are elements of…..I think it must happen, you know, I think people would look at them and probably say ‘it’s not…..’ it’s not coming from where you might think, it might be a bit more…

 

TW:

So I mean, this sort of imagery, this naturalist imagery, you’re on the edge of it, what about the other aspects of it?  The colour side of it, or even design or shape, that sort of thing, or even scale, are there any influences locally that affect those aspects of it, or is it just you in front of the canvas kind of exploring what’s there?

 

RW:

Well I don’t…..I don’t go out any more….I don’t go outside and paint which is a different feeling.  If you’re out in the landscape and you’re working outside directly, then that is a different feeling.  It’s something I’ve been thinking about trying to do, then I would probably be a bit more aware of the scale of things like you’re saying, and the real colours that are out there, but when you’re drawing on your inner self, it’s a different thing, so…..I think I’m very much aware of the vast expanse and how small we are in comparison to that I think, so…..and also there’s a feeling of isolation about it you know, the lone house in the middle of the wild countryside, but there’s a certain comfort in that in the sense that you know, when you’re trudging back you see the hut in the distance with the light on and smoke coming out, that sort of romantic idea or the feeling that you’re coming back to a sort of warmth you know, that feeling – I used to get that feeling late at night when I’d been on a fishing trip and you’re walking in the sort of dusk or darkness back, but you’re going back home sort of thing you know, so there’s a feeling of isolation about it, but as an artist that is a part of the process, that you can feel isolated but it’s a very nurturing, creative isolation if you know what I’m saying.  The problem is getting the work out there and you getting out there to promote what you do.  I was said to be….I’m happier if I come to the studio, I can deal with that; the problem  that I find hardest is getting out there promoting and marketing what I do, in fact I’m hopeless at it, so some of the paintings do express an isolation but it’s not a lonely….it’s not a loneliness, it’s a nurturing, creative space or place where you’re trying to express yourself.   Does that make any sense?

 

TW:

Yes.  So is there a kind of romantic element or a symbolic kind of meaning to between abstraction and sort of naturalistic sort of pictures.  Do you think about those aspects of it when you’re actually painting?

 

RW:

I think I tend to be on the romantic side, yeah.  I think there’s a strong tradition of…..well there are various things that you can get trapped – there are certain things on the romantic side you can get trapped into, that is the starving artist in the garret which is a myth basically of we all starve and we’re all just poor and mundane, you get discovered, well……it’s not true basically [laughing] but you can get locked into that, you can think ‘oh I am this person, this’ you know ‘I’m poor but I’m doing really good stuff and one day someone will just walk in and say this is all great’ – bit of a dangerous situation to get into, so there is the romance of that, but there’s also that….we have an English landscape tradition through Turner, Constable and the romantics – I definitely feel akin to that because I associate with the….there’s a romanticism about nature, plant life and that thing I was saying about the artist being a medium for external things and a reliance on the unconscious – that’s romantic, and not….I used to intellectualise a lot about art; I have always had a theory or a reason why I did something and a lot of that came from my art education.  A lot of work in the seventies was conceptual so if I was talking to someone, I’d have to have a very good reason or why I was doing something, or I could talk very eloquently about what I was doing because I had a theory, or the current theory of art which constantly changes, so each generation of student thinks they’ve got the answer, but it changes.  As I’ve got older I don’t intellectualise as much about what I do, I work basically on a feeling about things, not to the extent you know, that I feel I’m slapping the paint all over the canvas in a highly expressionistic way where it’s just a motion, there is some control, but I find the more I think….I get trapped if I start thinking too much, I need to be acting and doing something and learning from that really.

 

TW:

Right. I suppose there’s two things I want to ask really.  One of them is about being an individual and the other is….for the lack of a better phrase, issue-based work.  Would you put yourself in either of those categories?

 

RW:

You mean issues politically?

 

TW:

Yeah.

 

RW:

No….no, I don’t do that…..I have tried to in the past, but I don’t feel comfortable with it.  I’m not sure why….it’s….not it’s not my thing, but I don’t have a problem with it in the sense that I do know there are other artists who work like that, and deal with contemporary issues, but from my point of view, no…..it’s not a conscious decision….it’s…..from the point of view that I feel…..politically I feel that the arts is impoverished; we don’t fund the arts much…..and people who are trying to be creative and working are finding it very, very hard in the current political situation, and it’s hard for me you know, again it’s very hard to earn a living but I……I feel that there has to be people out there flying the flag for creativity, because we’re so obsessed with making money and we’re so obsessed with material things, don’t get me wrong – I don’t want to be the starving artist in the garret that we were talking about, but we seem to have lost sight of more meaningful, spiritual things and then creativity becomes a material object in itself, so people buy things for the sake of it, for their monetary value, not their artistic value, so I feel…..that it’s important for me at my age now, not being a young person any more, I mean when you’re young you want to change the world, so you get involved in….I was more political and I wanted things to change, and you know, I found it hard living through the Thatcher years you know, I felt slightly oppressed as a creative person then, and now I still have the same feeling – I feel the arts is being squashed and….we need it corporally as a society, we need a culture.

 

TW:

Like you said, art theories, they come and go, not even every generation, every few years they come and go, and politically and economically it seems to be the same really.  What was in politically five years ago is out now and in another five years it’ll change again I’m sure.  Is that another reason why you think you said you don’t like thinking about it too much any more, you like to just do.  Do you think on that political side it’s because it just changes, that there’s in some ways, there’s no point because you’re always playing catch-up and you’re not actually trying to produce something of value, shall we say?  Is that part of the roundness of the way you visualise art?

 

RW:

Yeah, you mean that because politically things change that you can’t get on one band wagon because then you’ll be off it in a few years’ time….yeah, but it’s…..it’s very difficult because you have to find your inner core then, you have to find an inner centre which is not easy, it come and goes you know, sometimes you find it then it’s just gone…..it’s an inner strength that isn’t…..obviously you’ve got to be aware that you’re a part of the sophisticated society.  Artistically we’ve gone….all the boundaries have been broken down, you know, all the barriers between the disciplines of painting, sculpture, photography, video, it’s all open to you and it’s a sophisticated world – I don’t want to advocate the idea that I’m some primitive guy working away in a jungle somewhere and I just don’t wanna know about society at all and I’m just doing what I do, that wouldn’t be correct at all cos I’m still a political, social individual who’s having to bring up a family and deal with council tax and everything else, so……but artistically, I don’t know whether I’m going to explain it very well, but….it sounds a bit….it is just finding yourself really within that, and it’s very difficult to…it’s a hard thing to do, but……you know, it goes well sometimes and then sometimes it doesn’t go so well, sometimes I feel…I come in and I think ‘time to put all the paints away and forget about it, I’m so bad’….you know, you just have incredible self-doubt because….if you’re a musician and you play to an audience you get an instant applause or whatever – you get some response quickly.  If you’re an artist in the position that I’m, in you have to work for months and months and maybe a few years and then someone will see something they like, so you’re bound to go through self-doubt, and you’re not in a college situation where you’ve got a peer group or people constantly interested in what you’re doing; there aren’t constantly people interested in what I’m doing, I don’t get many visitors, I just have to have this self-belief….and believe me, I go up and down, you know, so I wouldn’t like to make out that I’m on top of the game all the time, I’m not, but then it wouldn’t be interesting if I was.  I need to solve problems.  If I could just do it like this every day, knock them off and they were selling, and you know, it wouldn’t be interesting.

 

TW:

You say you still do a lot of wood cuts and you do the painting as well which is in this flux position.  How do those two compare, your wood cuts to your painting?

 

RW:

Well I’ve had a slight problem with it because the wood cuts is a sort of fairly…it’s a disciplined craft in a way; you have a distinct process to go through and that controls your emotions in some way.  Like I was saying earlier, you can’t just fling the paint at the canvas.  If you’re doing a wood cut, you have to go through the process – that is you make your panel, you put your image onto the panel, you carefully cut it, do a graphite rubbing to see what you’re getting, then you have to ink up the thing and….it’s a…..there’s a craft to it, there’s a skill to it, and then of course you’ve got all your emotional image that you want to get into that as well, you know…painting can go right….as I say on this scale where you are literally splashing colour around, either angrily or despairingly, and so you’ve got this emotional outlet, totally emotional outlet, but really I feel things come together more when you can control the emotion in some way, so I’ve had a problem with the painting from the abstraction point of view because…..well I’ve found over the last few years, I enjoy physically painting but….I’m throwing myself into an abyss; I don’t know what I’m doing in a sense – sounds a bit strange – but I don’t know what’s gonna happen when I’m painting, and with a wood cut I know I’ve got an image, say of a tree, I’m trying to reproduce that in some way and I know at the end of the day I’m gonna get some sort of image of a tree……when I’m doing an abstract painting, I don’t know what’s going to occur, basically – I’m far more lost and that can be an interesting position to be in but it is also quite frightening in a certain way, and having tried to do this for about four or five years now, that feeling of throwing yourself in at the deep end was getting a bit tiresome because what I want to feel at the end of that process is that something really happens and I’ve got….wow, after all that work, yes, I’ve found what it is I’m trying to say, or what I’m trying to do, but I was finding that more and more difficult so now I’m pulling it back and using a little bit of imagery, recognisable imagery with it, I’m feeling much more comfortable and things are starting to flow a bit and I’m back….I  feel it’s more about what I’m about and when I’m involved in an abstraction I’m dealing with what high art terms….I’m dealing on the sort of….. ‘wow what happens if I paint a black square and put it on a wall’ – what question does that ask of somebody?  So I’m involved in arty theory which I feel comfortable about, now I’ve pulled it back, I’m more comfortable with what I’m doing without looking at the whole history of American abstract expressionism or something like that [laughing]…..you understand what I’m saying?......and…..yeah

 

TW:

Very interesting that, yes.  What do you feel about sort of Hebden Bridge, the sort of the art scene in Hebden Bridge or the cultural scene in general?

 

RW:

Well I feel very good here…obviously as an artist you feel….if you want to, if you’re a young person and you want to get on in the art world, really you do have to be in London, sadly.  Everything focuses around London, so when I left London I knew I was making a bit of a….you know, could I be making a mistake?  But it was my personal life that took me through that and became happier in that sense.  Now what I wanna say about Hebden Bridge is….I do feel very comfortable here and I like it, and there is a group of artists/musicians, there’s some very interesting people in Hebden Bridge – I’m not a great socialite, but I do…..I mean I like it here, but I’m always aware, from my past, that I’m no longer in London, but then I used to deliver stretchers to hundreds of artists in London who lived in rabbit warren studios with their name on the door and nobody had ever heard of them, so you could feel incredibly isolated if you live in London – you don’t….it’s not this great world - it can be equally, it can be a very lonely and isolating place, and there are a lot of people who leave colleges and a lot of artists who feel like that, although they are actually in London.  I don’t…..I’m probably at a period in my life when I’m more comfortable with myself now, as an artist and as a person, and I like Hebden Bridge, it suits me, you know, it’s not a…..it doesn’t suffer from the small town mentality – I don’t feel that – I think it is quite open because of the people that you can meet her, you know.

 

TW:

Right, okay.  Are there any sort of other artists that have influenced you in any way?

 

RW:

Well my first influence was traditionally Constable, and having rejected all that [laughing] and gone through you know, the art education, I rejected all that and I got into the sort of classic Marcel Duchamp phase, whose work I did find very interesting, but….since that time I’ve just tried to develop my own vision of things.  I do look at other artists’ work and it varies; I may like somebody or you know….and now I do….have a broad range of things really and I still look at….I go back to looking at Constable oil sketches or Turner, the very traditional things….but for me the problem is creating the time to do the work really, that’s one of the big things – doing it, yeah.

 

TW:

Do you think you’ll ever, on that scale you were talking about, go further and further towards the realism side of things and may actually become a landscape painter, and that might be a direction you want to go

 

RW:

It’s possible.  At the moment I’m….one of the problems I had was because the wood cut was so figurative and the paintings were abstract, I felt I was sort of split in some way, I was trying to tie the paintings in, and I think when people look at a….you have to be….if you’re in the top echelons  of the art world or if say somebody like Picasso, it gets to a point where you’re so well known it doesn’t really matter what you do; you can do….well, a sculpture with forks sticking out of it, or next you can do a drawing of a…..a really nice linear drawing of a nude, it’s just a Picasso and everybody accepts it, or…..but when you’re not, then galleries and people like to say ‘what is it that he does?’ so the problem I have sometimes is because I do different things, or one minute I’ve got an abstract painting on then I’ve got a woodcut, ‘hang on, is he a woodcut artist, is he an abstract artist, how do we compartmentalise him?’ do you see what I’m saying?

 

TW:

Yeah

 

RW:

But it shouldn’t be like that really, you should be free just to do things.  If I feel like I want to make a video or a film, then I feel I should be able to do that, but I’m trying to, at the moment, artistically bring this, you know, this figurative element into the abstract world where I’m on that boundary between the two, which I’m finding quite interesting at the moment, so then the imageries, coming back to the woodcuts, its landscape, I’m feeling a bit happier about them, I’m feeling happier about things, so…I don’t know whether that answers your question – I can’t remember what

 

TW:

Yeah, the other thing that’s a bit split like that is the fact that you use all this imagery from Bromsgrove that you bring back to Yorkshire and then you base things on, but  the environment here obviously fulfils you in some kind of way, so you’ve got this kind of double imagery in a way that you’re trying to fit together as well.  Does that bother you, or is that something that you’re actually trying to do, or just sort of happens?

 

RW:

No, I just feel that if that’s happening, it’s about what’s happening in my life and you now, I tend to feel that work is about my life in a way and my experiences in life, which is where I want the work to come from…..so I’m happy with that really.  I’m aware that these things are gonna crop up, and even family life, I’ve done work about my family situation and used figures from my personal life in the past, so I’m happy when work shows those things cos I know it’s more truthful and more honest.

 

TW:

Yeah.  Do you sometimes think you’re going back to your childhood at all when you think of that?

 

RW:

Yeah there’s obviously….there’s a feeling that you could say is…what’s the word….when you’re looking back in a nostalgic way, regressive in some way.  I used to worry about that, but I don’t worry about it any more because I don’t know, it’s like you….I listen to authors who write books – I used to do interviews with authors and it would be about their childhood and everyone was saying ‘I’ve got a great book’ and then there’s an artist you’d do something and you’d say ‘can you do something about your childhood and they’d say ‘oh it’s a bit backward looking, nostalgic’ and it’s not – it’s a part of the rich vein that makes what you’ve actually become, and I don’t feel uncomfortable about that any more, you know, and there’s a childlikeness to some of the things I do, but then that’s because that creative spark can be very childlike and playful, and it hasn’t any preconceived ideas at all, it just does what it does in an honest way, you know………..

 

TW:

Right.  Well I just wanna ask about, I mean I’ve been asking you all about your life and you’ve been responding.  Is there anything that I haven’t asked that you’d like to say, either about your work or your life in this area?

 

RW:

I suppose if there was a message that I’d like to say, is that…..if you’ve been given gifts in life you should use them, and if it’s to be an artist or a musician or a teacher or caring for people, it’s a crime not to use it, so that’s what I’ve realised in later life that I have to do, no matter what the circumstances are.  Don’t waste your gifts basically.

 

TW:

Are any of  your children….are they artistic in any way?

 

RW:

My son who’s fifteen, George, plays guitar, so I think he’s got a lot of music ability, so I’m encouraging him to do that, yeah, it’s really nice.

 

TW:

Do you talk to him at all about being an artist or being a creative person?

 

RW:

He’s at an age at the moment when he’s just out playing sport and doing things, and he does come here, but at the moment he’s sort of all things on his mind.  I’m sure it will change – I don’t push it…..and he is toying with the idea of going to art school, although I feel that his true vocation would be in music in some way, but no, he’s sort of quite blaze about it all really, he doesn’t [laughing] you know, he just wishes we had more money I think, more posher cars and things like that, but I’m sure it will change, unless you do the classic thing of you don’t wanna do what your parents did, I don’t know – who knows?

 

TW:

Yeah.  How long have you actually been in this studio then?

 

RW:

I think it’s about eight years now.

 

TW:

And you find the environment…..cos you have a kind of separate studio and in different parts of the building there are groups of studios, so there would be more interaction shall we say.  Do you feel quite comfortable to be on your own?

 

RW:

I am completely comfortable with it, yeah and I really enjoy it, and I can’t wait to come in in the morning.  You know, there are times when I get a bit down and think I’d sooner do something else, but this is the best studio I’ve had for a long time and I like the idea that there are people around, but I didn’t really want to be in an open plan situation.  It reminds me a bit of being back at art school, and the rent takes up a sufficient amount of my budget, but you know, I like it.  I wish I had a bigger space but everybody wants a bigger space but the light is good, it’s nice and warm, it’s a good studio, yeah.

 

TW:

Well I think we’ll leave it there then if that’s alright, we’ll call a day.

 

[END OF TRACK 1]

About Us

Wild Rose Heritage and Arts is a community group which takes it's name from the area in which we are located - the valley ("den") of the wild rose ("Heb") -  Hebden Bridge which is in Calderdale, West Yorkshire.

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Pennine Heritage Ltd.
The Birchcliffe Centre
Hebden Bridge
HX7 8DG

Phone: 01422 844450
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