Artist Profile - - CONTENTS - by Owen Craven

Bradd West­more­land has de­vel­oped a prac­tice that is deeply rooted in rou­tine. His con­sis­tent method of sketch­ing, writ­ing and life draw­ing is the foun­da­tion of his art-mak­ing. ARTIST PRO­FILE vis­ited West­more­land in his North­cote, Mel­bourne stu­dio to learn more about the in­tri­ca­cies of his prac­tice, his in­spi­ra­tions and mo­ti­va­tions.

IN YOUR WORK I SEE A MIX­TURE OF WHIMSY, ex­pres­sion­ism, ab­strac­tion, land­scape. Tell me how you see your art; what is it that you in­ves­ti­gate or try to por­tray in your paint­ings?

I guess you could say they are paint­ings about paint­ing. It’s about us­ing the ac­tual ma­te­ri­als; I love oil paint, the brushes, the can­vas. I love all the tan­gi­ble pos­si­bil­i­ties, the mal­leable qual­i­ties of the ac­tual ma­te­ri­als – they’re al­ways chang­ing and un­pre­dictable at times. In terms of the ac­tual im­ages, I can only say they come from each other. A cur­rent paint­ing prob­a­bly re­lates to some­thing that hap­pened pre­vi­ously and that’s how they keep evolv­ing in a sense.

You have a strong stu­dio prac­tice that re­lies on rou­tine. How does this fuel your work?

Daily rou­tine is the foun­da­tion of my prac­tice. I rely on rou­tine to keep up some sort of mo­men­tum – you can’t just hang around and wait for some­thing to land on you. I like the idea of in­spi­ra­tion com­ing out of work it­self. And that’s im­por­tant for me men­tally, to keep busy and not dwell on the work I’ve al­ready made.

Draw­ing is a big part of your prac­tice as well. Are sketches or draw­ings a frame­work for your paint­ings?

Not usu­ally, no. And if I do start with the draw­ing be­fore the paint­ing then it gen­er­ally shifts quite a bit in the ac­tual paint­ing, any­way. Most of the time I start a paint­ing di­rectly on the can­vas and I take it from there and the draw­ings hap­pen in con­junc­tion with the oil paint­ing.

In start­ing a new paint­ing, what is the an­chor point or launch pad?

You could say the two or three hours of start­ing a paint­ing is the fun part. I lit­er­ally just start put­ting paint on the can­vas. Of­ten it will be a drawn im­age with the brush – some­thing to work on the foun­da­tions of the im­age and then I try to work with that to a point, or some­times I have to work against it if it’s not work­ing. It’s all this idea of hop­ing to get into it, hop­ing that you’re not think­ing about what you’re do­ing and that it be­comes a more in­tu­itive process. That comes from reg­u­lar work, reg­u­lar prac­tice in the stu­dio. It’s not like rid­ing a bike where if you’ve had a break you can just hop on and ride again – I don’t think paint­ing is like that, art is not like that. You’ve got to work at it to get go­ing.

The role of the fig­ure in your paint­ings. It seems it is used as a com­po­si­tional de­vice, as op­posed to telling a nar­ra­tive?

Yes, ex­actly. My work is about other paint­ings. And by that I’m im­ply­ing it refers in­di­rectly to art his­tory, not just my paint­ing. My prac­tice re­lates to a lot of other paint­ing that I look at, and that goes way back to early Re­nais­sance through to what’s hap­pen­ing now. The fig­ure comes out of my in­ter­est in art his­tory. My all-time favourite painter is Matisse. And his use of colour and the fig­ure and the in­te­rior and the land­scape, I’m just in awe of it all. He was ex­per­i­men­tal and had a mas­sive in­flu­ence on art in gen­eral, and it’s still in­flu­enc­ing me to­day!

I’m in­trigued by the breadth of colour in your work. The paint­ings in this stu­dio have a dis­tinct and var­ied palette. How do you ap­proach or think about colour?

The ac­tual paint that I use is very rich in pig­ment – it’s Michael Hard­ings paint. He’s an old-fash­ioned paint­maker who calls him­self a “colour man”. It’s very pure pig­ment and there’s not much filler in there and as soon as you put it on the can­vas it is in­tense and pure. I tend to use pri­mary and sec­ondary colours and not so many of the ter­tiary colours. And the mix­ing of colour hap­pens on the can­vas, not on the palette so much, which means the colour re­mains pure and bright. I don’t know what it is but I’ve al­ways used colour to ex­press my paint­ings. I don’t recog­nise the colour as bright or bold though. For me, it’s about the com­po­si­tion with the fig­ure or the land­scape. It’s about try­ing to use colour as a way to de­scribe space or form or light in the paint­ings.

It feels like you have an affin­ity to the pure­ness of your ma­te­ri­als – can­vas, paint, colour – and that once you put brush to can­vas, you’re on this quest the en­ter a trance-like state.

That’s the ideal state to be in but it’s very brief and if it hap­pens at all it passes very quickly; at­tempt­ing to al­low the paint­ing do its thing and to let it hap­pen, hop­ing it just flows re­ally. And that is the per­fect anal­ogy for oil paint be­cause it just flows and breathes and shifts and changes, which is part of its beauty. I do love the ma­te­ri­als. I keep it sim­ple and rudi­men­tary in fact. It’s all pretty ba­sic and that is what I love about the his­tory of oil paint­ing. None of it has re­ally changed for a very long time. Stylis­ti­cally, paint­ing has changed over the cen­turies but the act of paint­ing is still very sim­i­lar to the way we work is much the same.

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