David is a brilliant British artist who does work that knocks me out. His “Centered Paintings” http://davidcharleswilliams.com/ are simply masterworks, but he does so much more. He also has strong opinions about the art world and his own creative process. Without further ado, here’s David …
“ …It’s always nice to distract the eye and mind of the struggles of everyday life and art is the perfect vehicle for that …”
MICHAEL: Hey David, Your work is fantastic. First off, you seem to have a thing for circles and strong color. What's the inspiration there?
DAVID: Thanks! Glad you like my paintings! First off, I would like to say that I'm a bit disinterested with the theories of art and all the dogma that goes with it. If one wishes to load themselves up with theories, I have no problem though don't expect me to. Does that make me an “Outsider” or an artist of little value? Who knows? Though I can tell you, I couldn't care less. Not to say I'm unaware of theories, I make art on my terms and my terms only and I try not to leak in too much “Art for Art’s sake.”
Agnes Martin had it pretty nailed in my opinion - in the sense that she wanted to turn her back to the world. I can relate to her and her mental illness issues also as I too suffer from mental illness. I suffer from an acute case of “Bipolar Affective Disorder.” I have had many so called “episodes,” that in some cases have led me to be sectioned under the mental health act here in the UK. It’s not a great experience. My priority is to keep my health stable and my mind in the “Now.”
This is where my art becomes a sanctuary and I make my work firstly for myself. Don't get me wrong, as I love to exhibit work though I am tired of galleries bleeding artists for their own profit. The majority of artists are desperate to show and sell their work, so it becomes easy for galleries. I have first-hand experience of this. I am straying from the question a bit sorry. I digress ...
The circle is pretty much perfect in my eyes! I just dress it up a bit. I don't make art to fit in a box, but I wish to create an aesthetic that I can connect too. My centered paintings seem to get the most attention though they can be very process-based and methodical to make. Sometimes, a bit vacuous so I like to explore by experimenting with other series of works etc. I play with colours all the time. I'm no theorist though I use intuition mostly. Colour is like taste! It tickles the senses. I'm interested in nature and the Nature of “Self.”
MICHAEL: Your "centered" paintings are truly exquisite and I'm only seeing them online. They must be really fantastic in person! Why do you call them centered paintings and how do you explore yourself while creating them?
DAVID: I'm glad to be able to say that my centered paintings look much better in person which is always better. A lot of art is solely viewed online in this age of the internet. So it's lovely for the work to further impress in person. It's always disappointing when one views work in person that fails to impress more than it does on screen.
I call them “centered paintings” as a whole mindset thing. For me they become a vehicle to rest my gaze upon. Meditative almost. They become very grounding or centering, thus why I call them centered paintings. I have not made a centered painting in a little while as I wanted to distance myself from them with the intention to come back to them with a revitalised mindset. There will be more coming out early next year. I now feel excited about making them again, so let's see what the future holds with them. I've had a long time to consider where I take them. I want them to be more considered I guess.
I started to feel that making them became a vacuous exercise though I believe the break from making them will bring back the value in the process. Making them in hind sight is quite therapeutic. I would ideally like to make larger ones only though it's a problem storing them and selling them as they are not presented in the right spaces. I would love an investor to back a show so I could afford to make the large ones, only I will be focusing on for now at least on the mid-size. I might have to compromise and use square canvases as I don't have the facilities to build the round canvases.
If I could hold down a job that would give me an income, that would help too, only my illness can be a day to day struggle so I generally rely on my disability income to support me. Though I'm also very lucky to have a family that has supported me over the years. They even went as far to building me a studio in their back garden. I feel blessed in ways and sometimes burdened in others.
I would even be happy to sell my work at cost price so I can invest the money for new materials. Materials can be excessively expensive. I like to think the work I make will last way beyond my life time. Hope that answers your question?
MICHAEL: I also love your abstracted, figurative portraits. What's the inspiration behind them?
DAVID: Sometimes I will stray into different styles that are a little off key to give me fresh ideas. Sort of runs in par my illness I guess as there are days I wake up and want to totally do a 180-degree turn. In my experience, galleries generally don't like you to vary in style too much. Though I would see myself as a series artist, more akin to the Cy Twombly. It is amazing what diversity can sometimes do and in turn feed back into other works. I destroy alot of work that has sat around too long, then recycle the stretches. Saves me money which helps a lot.
As I mature a lot as an artist, I tend to believe in myself as too what the market dictates. I don't make art to make money though it would be nice to earn more through my art. I would take more surfing trips if I did. Surfing is a very natural experience dating back to my very early years of making art. It all really started in my making of Land Art. Something so undeniable about nature. It's inside us all, though religion on the other hand, seems so un-natural. I have had many issues with religious beliefs and I wonder how much we really need it, though some things happen to me in cycles and I am totally dumbfounded where I'm overcome by what if God and the idea of God slips into my consciousness periodically and I make work that neither is for or against, but only offers questions.
MICHAEL: Yes, I understand.
DAVID: Music is another massive source of inspiration. I would love to sometimes make music, so instead, I try to compose a visual record of pieces of music. It would be hard to translate the image into physical sound though I compose it. The circle is mostly a starting point here. Something to hold it together.
Finally, I will say this. I want to be open as an artist to work naturally in the way my mind works, thus the diversity of styles. Inspiration is everywhere! Only yesterday, I was blown away by the experience of walking. I wish I could have switched back and forth from the studio being in the landscape. I make notes mentally so by the time I communicate the experience, it all becomes a set of abstract forms, shapes, colours and marks. I don't expect the work to communicate this directly. I just like the image to exist in its self and I’m pleased that people take from it what they wish. Just as I may get a different experience of being in the landscape as would another. Nature is God in my eyes! The more you think of it, the whole comprehension of life is way out there. Seriously!
MICHAEL: When it comes to art and God, I think we all have lots of questions. Having said that, it's hard for me to conceive how your talent is anything less than God given, but that's just my opinion. How do you think creating your art helps you mentally? I'm not an artist, but looking at art certainly calms me down and makes me feel better.
DAVID: I think the act of being creative takes me to a place I feel safe and secure though it’s not always rosy as I also can become very frustrated with it when things are not working out. This is why I turn to making a diversity of series so I can turn to a different process rather than get hung up on one aspect.
As far as art being an escape, it so very much can be. It’s always nice to distract the eye and mind of the struggles of everyday life and art is the perfect vehicle for that. With all the problems I have with my health aside, I feel blessed to be able to live a life surrounded by creative endeavours. That said, it can be a journey of ups and downs.
MICHAEL: Some of your portrait and figurative works are partially abstracted which makes them intriguing. What's inspiration behind them?
DAVID: They are imagined spaces inspired by everyday experiences. I like to give an essence of something leaving the rest for the imagination. These paintings are “Picture Paintings,” though yet to be officially realised. Still, works in progress. I like to have different series of works on the go at the same time as it keeps the creative juices flowing.
MICHAEL: Are you saying that paintings can still be "works in progress" even after they've been sold? This sounds fantastic to me.
DAVID: No I’m not saying that. When a painting is sold, it’s finished as I have no control over it then. There are paintings that don’t sell, so I might over paint them or reuse the stretcher if they have been laying about for a while. I was referring to the “Picture Paintings” I have been working on for a while that are yet to be realised as a series. If I’m not happy with a painting, I won’t sell it. Though I have given away paintings I consider sketches as they are mostly unsigned works if someone really likes them.
MICHAEL: What do you think about the art world/art market and how they function? Dead, famous artists are still selling very well while many living artists are struggling.
DAVID: A lot could be said on this subject. Wherever there is money there is corruption unfortunately. My concern is making work that challenges me and keeps me wanting to make more. I have no business pandering to markets or art world politics. I want to make work. I would like to sell more, so I could make more too. I struggle to sell paintings at £1000-£2000 which is pocket change in the high rolling art market.
I probably don’t actively put myself out there though I find it all a bit show-some when I go to an opening and the work is almost secondary to the shoulder rubbing. I have no concerns for such occasions though it’s part of it all, I guess. If opportunity comes knocking, I’m always listening though I’m not too fussed on getting my wallet out. Ideally, I would like to deal through one person and one person only. Less complications, Ha! The perfect world, heh? Though I will say this. I’d rather do business in the art industry than the music industry, so I feel I have it pretty good!
MICHAEL: You know David, what you've just said is also complicated by the fact that we have a situation where most people don't know anything about contemporary art. Many feel that they must have an art history degree to even appreciate it, let alone buy it. How do we address this dilemma?
DAVID: I don’t think it’s a dilemma as such. It’s how it is and it’s not about to change. My work is mostly to provoke an experience that involves sight more so than about having an art history degree. I view most art if I’m honest this way so I take what I want from it. I don’t care to see it from the artist’s point of view so much as an experience to the individual, much like listening to music or admiring a landscape. I like to think of my work as approachable and I wish to dissolve meaning and let the painting envelop one.
I have had my work praised by educated art critics whilst also being enjoyed by individuals who have no idea about art and the history of it. So in that sense, I’m doing something right.
The best lesson in art for me is to open my senses to nature and experience the world through my eyes and not a book that sees it in the eyes of another. First hand experiences and really tuning one’s self into being in the moment.
MICHAEL: Finally David, What's the point of art? I mean, why should people care about it? Art is not curing cancer or ending world hunger so what's the point?
DAVID: Understanding humanity! That's the point of art! For me, at least. No, it will not solve all the problems in the world, though saying what's the point of art is like saying, “What's the point? Full stop!” For me, at least. People should care more about enriching their lives with good experiences and that's what I endeavour to give through my art.
MICHAEL: Thanks David. I love your work. Cool chat.
DAVID: I thank you for taking the time to talk with me and for taking an interest in my art.
Check out David Charles Williams at http://davidcharleswilliams.com/.