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contemporary american artist Geoffrey Laurence

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::: realist paintings
::: artist interview


"The best part is feeling alive making paintings and the worst part is needing to make paintings to feel alive."
Geoffrey Laurence


American realist artist American Realist Artist Interview


Geoffrey Laurence



Geoffrey Laurence Artist Interview - November 2006



+1 ::: Why are you an artist Geoffrey, and how did you first decide that art was your path in life?

I knew I was interested in art when I was 10 and had a painting accepted in an exhibit in Nassau, Bahamas where my parents were then living. I had a very hard time convincing them that that was my chosen path and in fact they were dead set against it. I ended up leaving home at 15, moving to London and going to art school.

+2 ::: Could you tell us some more about your work?

I have always been interested in figure and narrative painting. I was drawn to classical painting early on, when everyone around me was into pop art and installations. They bored me stupid and I couldn’t wait to get back to the National Gallery every time to find some sanity. I did respect the early 20th Century experiments and was much taken with Picasso for a long time. I start losing interest somewhere in the painting of the 1950’s. My desire has always been to somehow find a way to marry the elements of the past with the present. To use classicism in a modern way. But how? I am still searching. I have absolutely no interest whatsoever in conceptual art. It means nothing to me.

I am also driven to paint about the Holocaust as my parents were both survivors. I keep thinking if I can paint the right picture, my murdered aunts, uncles, cousins and grandparents will finally leave me in peace.

+3 ::: In some of your more recent works the backgrounds are painted with Rubenesque nudes and angels. Is there a relationship between them and your subject?


Very much. At first I was using the paintings in the backgrounds to stop deep space from occurring. I go to great lengths to compress the space in my paintings and achieve a tension between flatness and three dimensionality. I realized that I could play narrative games between the ‘painted’ space in the paintings in the background and the painted space in the painting. It is at its most obvious in my latest paintings ‘Quetzal’ and The Reality of Things’ where the cloth on the foreground figure literally goes into the painting behind her but she is painted in a very different way to the ‘painting’. I never directly copy paintings but rather paint ‘in the style of’ and manipulate the images for my purpose. I seem to like painting flying babies a lot at the moment!

+4 ::: What artists have influenced you, and how?

It depends what year you ask me – Francis Bacon, Pablo Picasso, Egon Schiele, Ferdinand Hodler, Klimt, Munch, Van Dyke, Vermeer, Rubens, George de la Tour, Fragonard, Boucher, Watteau, Vincent Desidirio, Odd Nerdrum, etc etc - the list is very long and my interest comes and goes. They have all given me something even if its just a feeling that I am not alone or completely crazy. We are all in this together you know. Art is a relay race going all the way back to the caves. We hand the baton on and hope the next guy runs like hell with it.

+5 ::: You are also an art teacher. How has this influenced your career as an artist?

I like to think that I am of some help to people who have not travelled so far down the road yet. Making art is a scary experience for a lot of people and I try and make them feel less scared. I can help with the how part but not the why part. I wish someone would help ME with the why part!

+6 ::: What inspires you to paint and how do you keep motivated when things get tough in the studio?

I don’t know where my ideas come from. They just appear by themselves. I never feel like its ME making the art, I just turn up for the job and get my orders. I meet a new model and just start working. I always work from life. I can’t get anything out of photos other than photographic reality, which is not what I see when I look at things around me.
I am usually motivated by boredom more than anything. When my depression reaches stranglehold pitch, which it seems to do on an increasingly frequent basis, I try and just get involved in painting or drawing something, anything really, and within a short while I am usually again absorbed in creating and listening to the painting instead of my self. I always, however, find I return to a sense of disbelief in myself and of failure once again to reach whatever I had felt inside. It’s a cycle that never seems to change. I wish it would. Its painful.

+7 ::: How have you handled the business side of being an artist?

Badly. That’s why I am still broke after 45 years of being an artist.

+8 ::: Where do you see yourself in 10 years?

Hopefully still painting and not dead. I would like to think that the work will get better, though that may be too much to ask for.

+9 ::: What's the best and worst parts of being a full time, working artist?

The best part is feeling alive making paintings and the worst part is needing to make paintings to feel alive. In that I mean, when I am painting there are moments that I am actually truly happy. Brief and sporadic as they may be, for those moments I am really one with the universe and not totally dominated by self. But those experiences are highly addictive and have been keeping me obsessed for 45 yrs. It has led me to living a very hard life that is filled with anxiety and fear financially and that most ordinary people cannot even imagine and would not tolerate. It seems to be the lot of artists through the ages. Quite why or what it achieves for us mystifies me.

+10 ::: What advice would you give to an artist just starting out?

Don’t give up your day job. Lack of money is the worst part of any artist’s career and having another form of income is the best thing an artist could have. I wished now that I had trained as a plumber or an electrician when I was a teenager, as well as art. I would have had choices that are no longer available for me.

Believe in your dreams above all. Without them there is no art.



More artist information can be found at the website of the artist.. Geoffrey Laurence
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