+1 ::: Why are you an artist Geoffrey, and how did you first decide
that art was your path in life?
I knew I was interested in art when I was 10 and had a painting
accepted in an exhibit in Nassau, Bahamas where my parents were then
living. I had a very hard time convincing them that that was my chosen
path and in fact they were dead set against it. I ended up leaving
home at 15, moving to London and going to art school.
+2 ::: Could you tell us some more about your work?
I have always been interested in figure and narrative painting.
I was drawn to classical painting early on, when everyone around
me was into pop art and installations. They bored me stupid and I
couldn’t wait to get back to the National Gallery every time to find
some sanity. I did respect the early 20th Century experiments and
was much taken with Picasso for a long time. I start losing interest
somewhere in the painting of the 1950’s. My desire has always been
to somehow find a way to marry the elements of the past with the
present. To use classicism in a modern way. But how? I am still searching.
I have absolutely no interest whatsoever in conceptual art. It means
nothing to me.
I am also driven to paint about the Holocaust as my parents were
both survivors. I keep thinking if I can paint the right picture,
my murdered aunts, uncles, cousins and grandparents will finally
leave me in peace.
+3 ::: In some of your more recent works the backgrounds are painted
with Rubenesque nudes and angels. Is there a relationship between
them and your subject?
Very much. At first I was using the paintings in the backgrounds
to stop deep space from occurring. I go to great lengths to compress
the space in my paintings and achieve a tension between flatness
and three dimensionality. I realized that I could play narrative
games between the ‘painted’ space in the paintings in the background
and the painted space in the painting. It is at its most obvious
in my latest paintings ‘Quetzal’ and The Reality of Things’ where
the cloth on the foreground figure literally goes into the painting
behind her but she is painted in a very different way to the ‘painting’.
I never directly copy paintings but rather paint ‘in the style of’
and manipulate the images for my purpose. I seem to like painting
flying babies a lot at the moment!
+4 ::: What artists have influenced you, and how?
It depends what year you ask me – Francis Bacon, Pablo Picasso,
Egon Schiele, Ferdinand Hodler, Klimt, Munch, Van Dyke, Vermeer,
Rubens, George de la Tour, Fragonard, Boucher, Watteau, Vincent Desidirio,
Odd Nerdrum, etc etc - the list is very long and my interest comes
and goes. They have all given me something even if its just a feeling
that I am not alone or completely crazy. We are all in this together
you know. Art is a relay race going all the way back to the caves.
We hand the baton on and hope the next guy runs like hell with it.
+5 ::: You are also an art teacher. How has this influenced your
career as an artist?
I like to think that I am of some help to people who have not travelled
so far down the road yet. Making art is a scary experience for a
lot of people and I try and make them feel less scared. I can help
with the how part but not the why part. I wish someone would help
ME with the why part!
+6 ::: What inspires you to paint and how do you keep motivated
when things get tough in the studio?
I don’t know where my ideas come from. They just appear by themselves.
I never feel like its ME making the art, I just turn up for the job
and get my orders. I meet a new model and just start working. I always
work from life. I can’t get anything out of photos other than photographic
reality, which is not what I see when I look at things around me.
I am usually motivated by boredom more than anything. When my depression
reaches stranglehold pitch, which it seems to do on an increasingly
frequent basis, I try and just get involved in painting or drawing
something, anything really, and within a short while I am usually
again absorbed in creating and listening to the painting instead
of my self. I always, however, find I return to a sense of disbelief
in myself and of failure once again to reach whatever I had felt
inside. It’s a cycle that never seems to change. I wish it would.
+7 ::: How have you handled the business side of being an artist?
Badly. That’s why I am still broke after 45 years of being an artist.
+8 ::: Where do you see yourself in 10 years?
Hopefully still painting and not dead. I would like to think that
the work will get better, though that may be too much to ask for.
+9 ::: What's the best and worst parts of being a full time, working
The best part is feeling alive making paintings and the worst part
is needing to make paintings to feel alive. In that I mean, when
I am painting there are moments that I am actually truly happy. Brief
and sporadic as they may be, for those moments I am really one with
the universe and not totally dominated by self. But those experiences
are highly addictive and have been keeping me obsessed for 45 yrs.
It has led me to living a very hard life that is filled with anxiety
and fear financially and that most ordinary people cannot even imagine
and would not tolerate. It seems to be the lot of artists through
the ages. Quite why or what it achieves for us mystifies me.
+10 ::: What advice would you give to an artist just starting out?
Don’t give up your day job. Lack of money is the worst part of any
artist’s career and having another form of income is the best thing
an artist could have. I wished now that I had trained as a plumber
or an electrician when I was a teenager, as well as art. I would
have had choices that are no longer available for me.
Believe in your dreams above all. Without them there is no art.