Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Painting From (Un)real Life

As usual, I was asked who my favourite artists were in an interview the other day.
I never know how to answer this sort of question. I could be concise and list the scores of artists who have influenced my outlook and work over the past 20-something years, along with the individual works that have affected me (even if, in many cases, the artists who created them were of no interest). My answer would be at least two or three thousand words, the length of an average magazine profile.
Instead, I keep it simple. I stick to the 'brand' names that even art-illiterate readers and middle-of-the-road journalists might recognise. I love Pablo Picasso. I think almost everyone does. Maybe even more than his work, I admire his curiosity, his willingness to experiment and his relentless productivity. I love Francis Bacon, Frida Kahlo and Francesco Clemente.
On the other hand, there are those who are not visual artists who have exerted a hell of a lot of influence on my imagination.
Working on Venus In Hell, the series for my last exhibition, I listened almost constantly to Vincent Gallo's CDs, Recordings of Music for Film and When – set to repeat, especially at night. More than any other music, it brings my feelings to the surface. The sounds remind me of colours and shapes and delicate layers of watercolour paint mixed with harsh improvisations of line and textures trapped under a thin skin. When I paint hard-edged work, especially in enamel, I listen to a huge amount of PJ Harvey - Dry, To Bring You My Love, Rid Of Me and Is This Desire – and Nick Cave. I love the dark erotic surges of his music and lyrics, especially in Murder Ballads. Lately, maybe because I live at the beach now, I've been playing laid-back, hypnotic Malian tracks by Ali Farka Touré, and Toumani Diabaté and Jack De Johnette.
When I first read Joan Didion's novel, Play It As It Lays (1970), it blew me away. It felt almost like reading an account of one of my own dreams. Everything in it is some kind of strange metaphor of the self, or rather the disintegration of self. I was influenced by it in my most recent work, and I know I'll do more that is directly inspired by it. But my bedside bible is The Outsider (1956) by Colin Wilson. How ironic that reading "the classic study of alienation, creativity and the modern mind" made me feel more like I had some kind of place, that I belonged somewhere, even if it was at the edge of things!
I adore Pedro Almodovar's movie Kika – I wish I had the costumes by Jean-Paul Gaultier in my wardrobe. Despite seeing it countless times, Wim Wender's Paris, Texas always haunts me. I love the dialogue (written by America Deserta's poet laureate, Sam Shepard), especially Nastassia Kinski's long, heart-wrenching monologue towards the end, not to mention the barren beauty of Robby Müller's cinematography and Ry Cooder's mournful, slide-guitar soundtrack (which reaches right into my heart – God, how I wish I could play a National Reso-phonic guitar!).
Then again, the two films that I love the most, and keep returning to, are Ridley Scott's Blade Runner, (I'm fascinated by Pris and Roy), and Luc Besson's La Femme Nikita. Themes of female violence and sexuality have always been strong in my work, and if I wasn't an artist, I would probably want to be a cool assassin like Nikita (played by Anne Parillaud) if/when I grow up.


David Howard said...

I saw a photo exhibition in the Miami Art gallery in Florida, USA not the Gold Coast, AUS. It was all on Frida Kahlo. All in black and white. Just candid shots of various times in her life. It was fascinating.

Kokoe said...

When she slams the pencil through his hand, I know she's capable of anything. She acts out so beautifully against authority. It takes my breath away every time. And every time, I also wonder if I could do that.