Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Humphrey Ocean Interview

One of my favorite contemporary painters, Humphrey Ocean's take on what is essential to his work:

"I paint what I know. I'm not interested in the grand tour. The things that I paint make their mark, make me feel something, and it's that feeling I'm trying to paint. I like to paint where human beings have been,

where they've done something to a place."

Someone can walk past a portrait and recognise that person, but if it's like something about that person, that tiny thing that is absolutely them, whatever it is, then that's a terrific thing.

Each time I paint, I open up and take in all of what I see. I let all the shipping come in and hope the right thing comes into the harbour and parks up, and that's when I know I've got the little thing I want. I can't even try to explain what I'm looking for, but I know when I haven't got it and I know when I have."

And here is a nice little excerpt from Nick Hornby's article on Ocean and what painting is all about:

"When I went to visit Ocean, I had just finished reading The Eclipse of Art, in his conclusion, Spalding promises that when the shadow of conceptualism passes, we will be dazzled by the imaginative light of the artists working in our backyard.

I put this to Ocean, but he is having none of it, of course: he has a nice life, his paintings are sought by collectors, and in any case he finds the current climate much healthier than the Eighties, "when everything was so referential, and everyone was walking around with Gogol sticking out of their pockets. Not that there's anything wrong with Gogol." In any case, Ocean is perfectly content to let history sort it all out. "I mean, people don't look at a Rembrandt and think, 'Well, I don't know what to make of that.' And they're not interested just because he's old, either. You look at a Rembrandt and your knees shake. That's what it's about."


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