” I like to make paintings that show the puzzle of existence.
Something that when people look at it they say, yes I have felt that. “
– John Anderson
John studied during 1966-68 for his Secondary Teacher’s Cert., Melbourne Teachers’ College, then went on to do a Diploma in Fine Art (Painting), RMIT and in 1970-73 was a Secondary Art Teacher. During 1974-75 he travelled Europe and Asia with the assistance of the Australia Council, Visual Arts Board. Since then he has taught at TAFE and had various jobs as well as painting and sculpting. His works have been shown in several high profile galleries and exhibitions.
John is ten years older than me and it was interesting his view of life growing up and how he has put many of his memories into his paintings. He describes his painting as mostly self taught as he talked about his painting teachers in RMIT at the time as being people who passed by occasionally but had little input as far as technique, methods, use of materials or much else. A situation which I hope has not continued as I expect more from learning institutions.
I had a good look at John’s work on the web before the chat and even though not entirely to my taste I found a lot in his paintings to be admired. The floating dogs, people and objects are not my thing, but the vivid use of colour, the application of the oil paint and the rendering of many of the subjects is beautiful and interesting.
John describes his work as record of or attempts to squeeze time into a 2D space. Things from separate times are put into the one scenario and icons from his past our placed into a type of stage setting to create a dialogue or a story for the viewer to either interpret or make up for themselves.
Classic cars ars make up a large part of the paintings with other familiar icons from the past forty to fifty years. John is not really interested in abstract, surrealist, expressionist or non-representational art. He didn’t have very flattering things to say about “commercial wall art” and “pop art” and prefers the work of artists such as Titoretto, Goya, Francis Bacon, Rembrandt and the like. Art that has established methods such as drawing, observation, and training as their basis. He described the former as very ordinary or even poor in a lot of cases. (I have to admire a person who says what they really think!)
Since his work is mostly figurative and has a realist touch, and he admires such established artists and not the “bleeding edge” of the time, it is no surprise that during a time of abstracts being the thing to do in art school, he was a bit different in his choice of style. More the loss really for those he studied with, as his narrative paintings really do invite the viewer in to look around and see what is going on, unlike modernist art which I also find very dry and unappealing.
I very much liked John’s paintings of the roads travelled in the Red Hill and Cape Schanck areas. The play of light and shadow showing the undulating road surface with the curving roadsides and trees arching over to create a type of tunnel effect pulling the viewer into the painting was very interesting. Both these spots appeal to me as well and I have planned to do some work centred on the tree-lined roads running through the Red Hill area in particular. His description of being in the studio and losing track of time, food, drink and the whole world outside is so familiar to me. I call my space “The Zone”, where time, space and the rest of the world disappear!
The honest description of the financial realities of being a professional artist were refreshing to hear if not a little sad, as most if not all of us will need to supplement our income in the future. It made me more keen to open my own gallery which my partner and I have discussed in the past, as we see commissions and costs for emerging artists as being no more than rip offs in a lot of cases.
John is happy to see his work leave his studio, he doesn’t hold on to many out of any emotional need. If you want to sell, you need to let them go, even if you do paint subjects for your own enjoyment of the subject and stories. I personally am thrilled to see a work go to a new home! (especially in exchange for money to keep my business going and buy more paint!) One work leads to another and what is not totally resolved in one can carry on to the next as the experience and learning of a lifetime continues. John works on one piece at a time so he can work through the story he wants it to tell, as they all evolve as he works on them. He works on linen for its ability to last (and it is what galleries traditionally have required), primes with oil based primer and rabbit skin glue and applies the paint in thin glazes to thick luscious coats. He doesn’t frame but leaves it to the buyer to add their own last touch to their purchase. Framing can be a personal thing for customers, so I understand what he means, having reframed for a couple of people.
Paintings are illusions, John said, which I guess means that we are the magicians or illusionists, creating something from nothing – or stories and dialogues from memories, myth, stories and poems. I can deal with that.
This was a very good chat today. It again proved that you don’t have to want to paint exactly like someone to get a load of great information and enjoyment from listening to their story or from looking at their artworks. As long as it is not hugely offensive or upsetting, I will try to glean what I can from those who are willing to take the time to pass on their experiences and understanding. So thanks John!
For those who would like to look at John’s work he has a web site at the following address: http://www.johnandersonartist.com