Stuart is a painter represented by London's Approach gallery. I've always been a fan...
Did you learn about things like composition/balance and how to apply paint at an early age? Was it instinctive or something you read about in books and were shown how to do by tutors?
"I took up art quite late, at about 16 years old. I think I learnt, as a younger child, a bit from my Mum who could draw, and a bit from my Dad, who was into photography. I could always draw better than most at school. It always seemed strange to me that others couldn't see well enough to make a representational drawing. There was no correlation between what they had made on their page and what was in front of them. I guess they didn't care about, or weren't interested in how things look. And they certainly weren't interpreting a perception, something felt with the mind. For me, looking is one of life's greatest pleasures and while I am hesitant to call it, or anything, instinctive I cannot categorically deny it either. I probably learnt the most by looking at Matisse and Picasso. Then Philip Guston, and then Christopher Wool. Kevin Knox, who I met working in the book shop at the Tate 'taught' me more than anyone I know. Interaction with tutors is more like philosophy than looking and learning 'about things like composition/balance and how to apply paint'."
Have a look at the j-peg I've attached above - What can you tell me about this painting of yours from 2010?
"I don't know where that painting is - probably in storage in Belgium. It looks unfinished. It is two metres tall and made with oil paint applied by roller through a stencil that is cut out by hand. Those paintings, of which I made many, usually had a multi-layered process and were finished when I covered up a part of it with a monochrome layer using the same colour as the ground. I was interested in Freud's Fort/Da ideas relating to the pleasure we derive from a control and mastery of absence and presence. The 'ground', distinct from the 'figure' and the monochrome top layer, tend to be seen as empty or absent."
How's your work going at the moment? What was the last painting you did that you feel pleased with?
"I haven't painted for a while because I am trying to write a short PhD dissertation about post conceptual painting; what it is, if it exists, do I make it? Moran Sheleg wrote a review of my last show at the Approach gallery - Handmade Colour Pictures 2016 - that I very much enjoyed reading. Its in the Journal of Contemporary Painting (Volume 4 Number 1)."
Is this the longest break you've had from painting? Do you miss it?
"This is the longest break from painting I’ve had. I have begun to miss it and things about it. The studio, a place to be, the daily activity, a sense of purpose (no matter how futile), camaraderie (futile based), physicality, lows and highs of achievement or utter lack thereof. I do not like feeling like a consumer when I see pictures by other people, which is how I feel if I’m not making; I like to make a contribution and a connection."
What's the best exhibition you've ever seen at The Approach gallery and are they nice people to do business with?
"I like Magali Reus shows I’ve seen at the Approach. I get along very well with everyone at the gallery, I wish I could be more of a social being but I find socialising difficult - probably why I became a painter."
Which painters currently making art and having shows are you excited about / what was the last good show you saw?
"I like Carroll Dunham (more recent the better), Christopher Williams (all of it), Maria Lassnig and Jasper Johns (work since 1980s). So .. . . best recent exhibition? . . . Jasper Johns at the RA."
Do you ever so slightly prefer Picasso to Matisse? (or is it the other way round?)
"I prefer Matisse but they are both so remarkable - words fail."
Is boredom a good thing? Can you come up with a quote about boredom like this one be Debuffet? "Boredom is the fertile compost out of which art is created. It's very healthy to be deprived of all festivities, because then you have to make your own, with your very own hands"
"Boredom is good, yet I suspect it happens less now because of mobile phones. I always remember John Cage’s quote: “If something is boring after two minutes, try it for four. If still boring, then eight. Then sixteen. Then thirty-two. Eventually one discovers that it is not boring at all.”
What albums would you take with you on a desert Island?
"I’ve forgotten what an album is. I just about remember CDs. The ones I’ve listened to most are early Caruso recordings, Bach Goldberg variations and Rameau music for piano. Marvin Gaye’s What’s Goin’ On and CAN Soundtracks."
When was the last time you felt jealous?
"Jealousy is a problem for me - I feel it too often. I agree that artists should make an enemy of envy. Yet it must serve some function; I think I must use it as a form of motivation, which is its positive side. The flip side of it however is, it eats me up - depressing"
Could you imagine having a girlfriend of best mate who loved you but thought most of your paintings were a bit lame and nothing to write home about? Would it eat away at you?
"I’m a bit confused by the question - very hypothetical, I mean would we get on? But I couldn’t care less if someone thinks my paintings are lame. I have to set my own standards, and I mostly don’t meet them, so I’d generally agree with ‘lame’ in any case. I am more of a self-hater than a self-lover so I get on better with people who are mostly unimpressed."
What do you think is Woody Allen's best film?
"I like Husbands and Wives, Crimes and Misdemeanours, Annie Hall, Manhattan, Celebrity, Hannah and Her Sisters, and Bullets over Broadway. If I had to choose one it’d be, Manhattan."
"Do you ever regret selling your paintings? Do you ever want them back to have a proper look at now and again?
"I know the feeling of regret, not because I want to look at them but more like the regret I have of having said something that I may no longer agree with, which is generally how I feel the next morning about the things I may have said if I’ve been drinking the night before. When you’ve made something that exists concretely out in the world, it’s a statement for better or worse, at least with spoken words there’s very little evidence."
What's the best art shop you know? Which brands or makers of paint do you respect the most?
"A. P. Fitzpatrick is my favourite art shop. I like Sax oil paint."
What are your favourite names? If you had a son or daughter which names would be possibilities?
"Luke Gottelier and I called one of our group exhibitions Fritz and Betty"
What is your idea of beauty in art?
"Titian (production line reclining nude), Cezanne (late landscapes), Christopher Williams (photos by commercial photographers). I like Maria Lassnig paintings; they are far from beautiful but aesthetically remarkable."