ANNE GRAHAM INTERVIEW WITH PAUL CROOK FOR ART REVEAL MAGAZINE
AG: Tell us a little about your background and how that influences you as an artist?
PC: I have always found painting the most fascinating process of visualising ideas. I think it's the gradual appearance and construction of form in an essentially illusionary space that I find most appealing. There is something uniquely dramatic and magical about applying and arranging a set of colours into some kind of given order to investigate the possibilities of an emerging idea. I am very interested in the transformation process of painting, in a world where things can be over regulated and disciplined; painting allows me a form of play and the freedom to challenge myself.
I have been fortunate enough to have been supported and encourage by a variety of excellent art tutors, from school through to fine art post graduate level. I soon realised that you can't develop your work in isolation, a rigorous art school environment is important; the young artist needs to feed from the criticism and advice of established artists and other students. This background gave me the confidence necessary to work independently as an artist. It can be very challenging to sustain working for long periods, alone in the studio. I did benefit hugely from my own art education, this is one reason why alongside my own practice as a painter I work as a fine art lecturer. My intention in teaching is to give students the space and guidance that allows them to find a genuine personal direction for their own study. I get a lot back from seeing art students taking risks and developing their understanding.
I have a long established interest in painting. Although the way I have worked has evolved throughout my career some aspects have remained more consistent. I have had an on-going interest in strong, dominant colour and the way it is applied to construct an image. The most recent paintings refer to a built, urban environment; often places that I recognise from where I lived as child or that I have developed a connection with. They recall the idealised, post-modernist architecture that can be found in simple domestic settings. These places offered a promising, beautiful and perfect future; a place for shelter, escape and happiness. The paintings attempt to explore what remains of this optimistic new world.
AG: What is the most challenging part of being an artist?
PC: Working as an artist can be consistently challenging, both practically and financially. I have been lucky enough to support most of my practice by working as a fine art lecturer. I make paintings to investigate a number of highly personal subject contents and would like to think the work is never compromised for any reason. To produce paintings that I feel go some way towards successfully resolving my thinking demands a substantial amount of studio activity. I have to allow time for the speculative and exploratory process of painting that involves making the inevitable mistakes and the re-working of my ideas. To show my work in challenging, gallery spaces on a fairly regular basis, I have to dedicate some time organizing and planning future exhibitions.
AG: What is the most challenging part of working nowadays with traditional media - like painting?
PC: Painting does have a long, rich history and tradition. As a contemporary painter I fully embrace this extensive range of painting we can experience. I see it as a great pool of knowledge to enjoy and to learn from. I like the way that painting has developed, evolved and been consistently re-invented to explore the necessary concerns of the individual artist. If there’s a challenge it's that the medium offers so many possibilities that the painter has to work hard to select what components of the painting language they would like to explore. It's a fantastic time to be a painter, on a wider international level the painting language is being embraced and there are huge numbers of very interesting painters out there! With so many artists exploring so many ideas through painting it can only open up more possibilities for future painters. Painting remains one of the most popular areas of study on many fine art degree courses. Painting often appears to be a fairly basic process, it is only when you delve a bit deeper that you find it becomes more complex, difficult, and endlessly challenging.
AG: What are your future plans as an artist?
PC: I am at the early stages of a new series of paintings, exploring a number of possibilities through some smaller scale works. I tend to work on quite a few paintings at any one time and this approach often results in a series of related paintings. As this new body of experimental work comes together I will begin to consider the possibility of making some larger scale paintings.
AG: What advice can you give to those who are just starting out in the arts?
PC: In my role as a fine art lecturer I encourage students to be open minded about their future. If a student follows a route they find enjoyable, intriguing and exciting they have every chance of going on to become a very interesting and successful artist themselves. If they want to work in the arts at a serious level I see it a crucial step to study art on a high quality art course at university. This will expose them to a wide range of possibilities and encourage them to find a position for themselves in what is a vast subject area. I feel it’s important for the young artist to develop the confidence to be adaptable and flexible enough to get involved in visual art on both a collaborative and an individual level.