do your ideas come from? Do you see an image and then make a painting
Basically the ideas for my work have been in my head for a really,
really long time, fifteen years or longer. If an image comes up and
it is something to do with that, it suddenly clicks, but the ideas
have been there for a long time. I used to write songs about PJ Harvey
or Sylvia Plath, or Emily Pankhurst- strong, inspiring women. Id
do some sort of creative
soup or medley. Like I wrote a song
about a women who was continually twitching her curtains to look out
of her window because shed gone a bit mad and was living a sad
life, she was a neighbour of mine. At the same time it had elements
inspired by PJ Harvey and Sylvia Plath as well as all sorts of other
things within my own life.
So it all came
together in these creative works?
Yes, I dont think that the painting is any different from
that. When I was at my painting classes in Hampstead, I was painting
Sylvia Plath and I was painting my step dad and his lawn. My inspiration
now is no different from the images that were in my head when I
first became aware of how you can be creative, even at age seven
when I was making things with playdoh.
How long does
it take you to do a painting?
Its different for each one but they tend to be really good
when theyre finished in 10-20 minutes after that time I start
going over things that were good. Its an immediacy thing,
which becomes ruined and then I want to go back and cant.
never just carried on and on with a painting?
I think when I have carried working on and on and on and on for
hours and even when Ive come back to it a few weeks later
its not as good as it was in that first ten minutes, its like
the three cords thing in music.
I just went
to see the Lucien Freud show at the Wallace collection and I wondered
what you thought of his laborious way of working.
At the moment, I cant work like that. If I do ruin something,
if I take it beyond that initial getting the idea down and its
ruined, then the option is to wipe the board clean or to carry on
or to throw it out. I will most likely carry on until its
really, really destroyed. If I can bear to leave it for a few months
and come back to it, I might quite like it, it has happened.
I just wonder
how Freud can carry on and on, it must be so boring for him. In
The Wallace Collection show there is a tiny painting of some eggs,
and the paint is really thick.
It must change so much over that long period there must be a million
you say is the overall thing that you are trying to get across in
Its been described
as a kind of dark feeling
Um, if I think of something really dark Ill think of whats
really light and try and put that in somehow and vice versa.
looking for a balance
Yeh, although they probably all weigh in on the dark side really.
But they also
make you smile. Like Hi Paul, Can You Come Over its dark
but its got that element of trashiness or maybe its kitsch. It definitely
has humour, it makes me smile. Its a slightly inappropriate
humour sometimes, which is interesting.
Yeh I think
that thats part of my personality, that sense of humour.
first solo show Prozac and Private Views
is coming up what work will be in it?
Im going to have a really good go at doing a Sylvia Plath
gas cooker, I dont know exactly what that will be, but I think
it will have some of her poems on it because the family are so protective
of the rights to them
Do you feel
that these things that arent allowed are areas that you need
to explore? Is it about breaking taboos?
I think that the poems are so incredible, that they belong to us.
I havent seen that film (Sylvia with Gwyneth Paltrow)
and I dont particularly want to see it, but it is sad that
they werent allowed to use the poems.
all theyre out there in the public realm, theyre not
secret and theres all this stuff about Sylvias life,
which people know, so the family trying to control it seems slightly
disingenerous. I think that once things enter into the public domain
like the picture of Rachel Whitear that you used for your painting
they almost become impersonal. They are just images and not part
of the real Rachel. The real things are Rachels parents memories
of her, or Sylvias childrens' memories of her.
And the poems are so powerful arent they, they belong to us
But the fact
that the family have that attitude and the poems have got all the
tragic history of Sylvia Plath attached to them, that morbidness,
it adds an extra element. That dying young thing adds something.
Like with Kurt Kobain or James Dean. What is it about it that interests
I think it is such a fine line between staying and going, everyone
is just really hanging on by their fingernails in some way and Im
quite fascinated by that. That being on the edge of the cliff
There seem to be some comparisons between yourself and Tracey
Emin; the Stuckist antipathy, your self-revelatory natures. What
do you think of her work?
I admire her, she is inspiring, her ideas are profound; the shop,
the museum, selling the letters, the tent, the bed. All very moving.
Shes very strong, difficult, likeable and shes not afraid
to not be sweet and cool. I think that you wouldnt mess with
her, she seems quite frightening.
What do you
think of the press coverage that youve had?
Well Goyas portraits were fucking dark, how did he get away
with that? Even Gainsborough you can see the character beneath the
beauty, he was trying to say something. Maybe were heading
for fascist times, the nanny state, political correctness. To cause
such an uproar about Rachel and Diana is frightening. The thing
with the press is that they know the angle that they want and if
you dont give them the answers they just pick out bits that
give them what they want anyway.
Im a cheeky survivor, I talk shit, Im pro active, I
opened a gallery, Im still here. They dont print that
first appeared in Arty 15