Q. Denis, when, how and why did you start your art practice?
Ans: Like most visual artists, my need to create images began at childhood.
At eleven years old I was taken from the inner city surroundings of my birth and enrolled in an experimental Art School in the UK. It was here that the natural impulse to communicate with images was allowed the space it needed to develop through nurture and nature.
Once having accepted the term ‘Artist’ to identify myself and who I was as a human being, then the impulse to paint images became an obsession, one which I simply had to pursue to discover the inner power that lay within the creative force. I was also very interested in the subconscious connection to that force and why it seemed important and what it meant in the creation of original paintings.
As I grew as a person and as an artist, my obsession developed from instinctive creation to a more intellectual understanding of the creative need and its process. These two elements, [instinct and intellect], integrated into the base for experimental art making. After many years it became clear to me that visual art (painting in particular), as an Art form had been under valued as a way of connecting to gain a deeper understanding of humanity. And what it means to be human. It is my attempt of that understanding that I hope to develop through the process of making Art, which is probably more important than the end result or what is actually produced .
Q. Professionally, what’s your goal?
Ans: It seems to me that the words Professional and Artist are diametrically opposite in meaning to each other. The word ‘professional’ implies a career or something like that.
Picasso once, said : “An Artist is what You are and all You can possibly become, unlike say, a Bank Clerk who can become a Bank Manager.” I think that sort of explains my viewpoint of setting myself a professional goal. My aim is to create original and authentic Art, I have no professional ‘artistic goal’ as such.
Q. How would you describe the art scene in your sphere of activity?
Ans: That can vary depending on where I am. For example, when I had my studio on an island in Greece (1988-1995) the Artists on that island were more spiritually based, yet advanced in a contemporary way of handling and creating visual art.
When I moved to Sweden 1995- 2007, I found the Artists more insular and closed off – if not parochial in their creative mind-set. Over the last few years I have been actively involved with the visual art scene in the North of England – Here I found the art and many of the artists who create paintings to be reticent in accepting or creating what could be termed as ‘progressive art’. It’s a sort of nostalgic viewpoint that seems to rule their world. I find this to be very limited for visual artistic variation and or the expansion of painting as a medium. Many of these visual artists simply do not take the risk of creating something different.
There are exceptions to this, there always are, but the exceptions have been are few and far between. I also feel that many artists, (especially in the UK and the USA), spend much more time trying to ‘sell’ themselves and their art than they do creating or thinking about what they do. And this social media posting habit of every single stroke done is time consuming and totally unnecessary. The quantity of Art on the web is an overkill and eventually people will ‘tire’ of seeing it – It will end up a few dedicated fans liking every post – so whats the point of that? Art should never be announced – it should arrive as a surprise.
Q. Who or what has a lasting influence on your approach to creating art?
Ans: Norbert Lynton, Nigel Whiteley, David Young, Kasimir Malevich, Mark Rothko, Dominicos Theotocopulous (El Greco) – And of course, my own constant questioning of myself of why it is I create Art at all and for what reason.
Q. What does Art mean in contemporary culture to you ?
Ans: Art ‘of today’ has a kaleidoscope of meaning. Art can be anything that is exhibited within the accepted framework of an Art Gallery. Visual art and painting in particular, seems to have lost its value as a contemporary cultural influencer. Where as once it was a way for artists to question inner depths and the nature of what reality actually is, now it seems it Art mainly reflects the surface of an accepted universal reality.
It appears to me that the Post Modernist doctrine of the last four decades has reinforced that retrogressive standpoint with the re-examinations or versions of Art of what has been done before. As a consequence visual art [painting] had become even more of a commodity than it has ever been. The www has helped to encourage this overtly commercialisation of Artists work and I believe, in many instances, Art is now seen as just another sort of profession rather than a way of life. This attitude is slowly changing with the new generation of Artists who are slowly awakening to a well founded belief, that it is far better, more rewarding and much more an honest approach to….. ‘Live-for-Art’ rather than ‘Live-off-Art’.
Q. In there any advise can you offer to those who are just starting out in the arts?
Ans: Indepth discussions with other artists is important to gain alternate ways of thinking. Of course reading about the past masters of Art, especially the 20th century artists, does provide valuable information. What I mean by that is not their actual Art Works, but how they ‘thought’ about their Art – And how they arrived at their ultimate pieces or series of artworks (ones that we all know). However, it is always the best policy to follow ones own path and not rest or rely on what has been achieved by imitation or transcription – that is just copying to sell or gain favour.
Braque once said that: “…there is Art of the people, and then there is Art for the people, the latter having been invented by the intellectual.” And that, I believe, is a phrase well worth remembering as one develops as a visual Artist.
Dens is an artist and writer and Editor for painters TUBES magazine (on line and print) Click here for the TUBES website.