Saturday, February 17, 2007

Art Space Talk: Charles Williams

I recently interviewed artist Charles Williams. Mr. Williams is an original member of the Stuckist art group (London). His work is inspired as much by the Simpsons as by the Anglo-French tradition. Charles studied at the Maidstone College of Art and Royal Academy Schools.

Q. When did you first discover that art would be an important part of your adult life?

A. "When I was about 18. I got kicked out of a Teacher Training degree, due to not ever turning up for anything, and realised there was something I badly needed to do, other than lying around getting stoned all day and wishing I wasn't such crap with girls."

Q. You are a founding member of the original Stuckist art group. How did you meet Charles Thomson, Billy Childish, and the others?

A. "I bumped into Charles Thomson in Safeways in MAidstone a lot when I was still at the Academy Schools. Billy I had seen perform a few times. He was a cult figure. He still is a bit of a cult. "

Q. You attended the Royal Academy of Art, London, where in 1992 you won the top prize for painting as well as the prize for anatomical drawing. How did your studies at the Royal Academy of Art shape the direction of your work? Or did it hold you back?

A. "You can regret things or you can embrace things. I try to embrace things."

Q. In 1996 you were elected to the New English Art Club (NEAC). You now serve as a committee member. Can you tell us a little about NEAC?

A. "The NEAC is an exhibiting society of artists which has an extremely distinguished history and a not so distinguished past. I am as embarrassed by being a member of the NEAC as I am by being a Stuckist."

Q. Your art was featured at the Stuckists Punk Victorian, at the Walker Art Gallery, during the 2004 Liverpool Biennial. Can you recall any of your thoughts going into the exhibit?

A. "Not really, the dealer I had at the time dealt with the whole thing, and I was sidelined. I do remember thinking that I'd much prefer to have been in the John Moore's exhibition, which was running concurrently."

Q. I've read that your work is inspired by the Simpsons as much as it is by the Anglo-French tradition of Sickert and Degas. How do you make all of these influences come together in your work?

A. "By dint of hard work and pure talent."

Q. You've been known to say that "An artist has few choices in these times." Can you go into detail about your observation?

A. "When the hell did I say that? Absolutely rubbish. Artists have every choice. You can do what you want, just don't expect any money. As my mother used to say to me."

Q. It has been said that your paintings are a 'love-letter to the human race'. Can you shed more light on your goals as a painter? What do you wish to convey with your images?

A. "My goal as a painter and as a man is to remain an enthusiatic and discerning consumer."

Q. What is your personal view of conceptual art? How do you feel about the work of say... Damien Hirst or Tracey Emin?

A. "I have nothing against either of them, any more. They are my generation, and to be honest, they're both a bit old hat nowadays. I knew Tracey Emin at college, and I thought she had special needs. I mean that in the nicest way."

Q. On average, how long does it take you to create a piece?

A. "There is no average. Could be a day, could be six months, could be two or three years."

Q. Can you share some more of your philosophy about art and artistic creation?

A. "Creativity is about trusting yourself and trying no to be embarrassed by what you produce. Your enemy is censorship, either yours or anyone else's."

Q. Do you have any 'studio rituals'? As in, do you listen to certain types of music while working? What helps to get you in the mood for working?

A. "I listen to Radio 4. I used to insist on total silence in the studio, but I ended up talking to myself all day, and I got sick and tired of hearing the kind of crap I was coming out with, so Radio 4's middle class liberal do gooding condescension has replaced the drone of my own personality. Which is good, although my studio mates do get to hear rather too much of my ghastly right wing views when it all gets too much and I scream at Jenny Murray or that dreadful illiterate that presents You and Yours. Sorry."

Q. Why did you choose the medium(s) that you use?

A. "Oil painting seems to come naturally to me. I have been painting for twenty years though."

Q.Where can we see more of your art?

A. ",,"

Q. What trends do you see in the 'art world'?

A. "I don't get pout enough to tell you much on this one."

Q. Any tips for emerging artists?

A. "Don't do it unless you have to."

Q. Has your work ever been censored? If so, how did you deal with it?

A. "It does get censored sometimes, but I just persist."

Q. What was the toughest point in your career as an artist? Have you ever hit rock-bottom?

A. "My first one man show sold one picture, for which I got £700. I had spent £3000 on framing. That was hard."

Q. In one sentence... why do you create art?

A. "Because I must."

Q. What can you tell our readers about the art scene in your area?

A. "I live in Hackney. It's the centre of the Artistic Universe, but noone talks to me about it. Good thing really, because the kind of work you see in the chic little exclusive galleries that you can only get into by prior appointment or if you are Pete Docherty is utter utter shite."

Q. Is there anything else you would like to say about your art or the 'art world'?

A. "My work is my life. That and curling."
I hope that you have enjoyed my interview with Charles Williams. Feel free to critique or discuss his work.
Take care, Stay true,
Brian Sherwin

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