EAST Magazine Editorial

Q - Please tell us what appeals about your home surroundings in Suffolk (how this influences your work)

A - Much of my inspiration is drawn from my previous travels and surroundings. From the gentle landscapes of our current home in Suffolk to the striking juxtaposition of technology and nature that is particularly prevalent in Asia, where I lived for 8 years. It is these experiences that give rise to the coexistence of colour and shape in my work. Having lived in Hong Kong, a city that never sleeps, to now living in Suffolk, the two places are almost opposites. However, I find the peace of Suffolk and the slower pace helps me to relax which in turn allows me to be creative. I have to be in the right mood to create art, its not something I can just bash out, I have to plug in, be inspired, get in the zone and all those other cliche’s.

Suffolk is a lovely county, the nicest Ive lived in so far, but its not the art capital of the world, although it’s home to some famous artist past and present, it’s not got the same cutting edge vibe that perhaps some of the major cities have, but this works for me because it’s the rock and stability I need to be able to create and do what I do. Perhaps if I were in London my eyes and brain might be subjected to more diverse influences but Im not sure I would be able to switch off my brain enough to create my art. For me, being able to “switch off” is key, I can get inspired by a lot of things and don’t need to be surrounded by the hip and trendy, its more important for me to feel I have a stable base where I can relax and be creative and then go on reconnaissance trips to get inspired if needed.

Q - You also say that living in Asia for 8 years has had a strong influence, please tell us about this.

A- Living in Hong Kong from the age of 20- 29 (92 – 2000) was an amazing experience! This transient city has a vibe like no other Ive felt, its electric. I was exposed to so much and lucky enough to have met some wacky, intelligent and interesting people, each with a story and to be able to mix in circles I wouldn’t normally. As a young guy finding his feet this city was ideal for exploring as it was vibrant and energetic – a melting pot of cultures and people from different backgrounds who enriched my experience . Although at this time I was a qualified hairdressing instructor working for the largest hairdressing academy in Asia as the creative director, I knew I wasn’t going to be in hair for my whole life. Sure, being on stage every day giving demos to international hairdressers was fun and glamorous but I could see through it and wanted to do something else, I just didn’t know what. At that time I had no idea I was going to be doing what I do now – digital art, but I can see how it all links together and how each experience has helped me get where I am today, even when it was crappy, it’s all experience.

I was always amazed at the speed in which the Chinese can knock up a building. You can walk past a building on your way to work and see noticeable changes to it on your return home in the afternoon. They use bamboo scaffolding which always scared the B-jesus out of me, but I guess they know what they’re doing. The speed and energy put in to the architecture impressed me – the skyline can change from month to month, it evolves.
Hong Kong has a lot of good and bad areas, like any city I suppose, I was drawn to both. I was fascinated as an onlooker by the slums and drug areas of HK because although it was scary and dark, sinister, it was also exciting and had the most “life” in some ways. I think some of my work reflects this. Some pieces seem to be quite dark but there’s a lot of layers, elements and things going on, maybe its manifested this way. I am a firm believer that all of our experiences, good and bad have a way of coming to the surface. This can be expressed in a multitude of ways and quite possibly different for every individual. For me, I express myself with my art and try not to constrict myself to what I think is “nice” or appealing, I just create what works for me, how I feel at the time, its quite cathartic in some ways, even if it gives the viewer a completely different feeling to my own.

Q- How has your work evolved ­ what media were you using before digital?

A – I suppose the first creative medium was hair. I don’t mean in a conventional salon setting where you’re doing perms and blow dries but being a hairdressing instructor giving demos to other hairdressers on “the latest techniques” and fashion allowed me to treat hair as a creative 3d medium in which to play and explore.
On a digital front, my work is always evolving. When I look back at some of my earlier work it makes me cringe a little. Not that it’s bad per se, its just Ive moved on. Im learning new techniques to add to my pallet. Im getting more interested with digital photography. In fact, my recent work has been derived from digital photography which I have manipulated. I find this medium very exciting because the possibilities are endless, not just of what I can take a pic of, but all the different camera settings I can use to alter the reality of the picture. Some of my best pieces, in my opinion, have been “happy accidents”. For example, Ive stuck my camera out the window over a bridge and not even looked through the lens and got a creative, almost abstract shot which I can use with other images and layers to create the final piece. Sometimes if things are too contrived they lose their magic. It’s the almost accidental images that more often that not work out to be the best images to start with.

When I first started out, I had no idea about stock photography or the art world, I was a complete noob. I just got back from HK and was staying in rented accommodation. I was wondering what I wanted to do next. I was sent a freebie promotional magazine from a stock image agency which had the most amazing stock imagery. I was blown away by the creativity and colour, the abstraction but sense of purpose. I knew this is what I wanted to do. I began playing around with PhotoShop for a while until someone I was showing my computer to saw a few pieces and thought they were good. I thought they were just being polite but after a few more people made similar comments I decided to look in to how to become a stock illustrator, a digital artist. I sent a few pieces to the top 5 international stock image companies and was blown away when I got accepted and signed by the best of the bunch. From then on I began exploring what was possible and learning about my new career I had just fallen in to.

Q - What makes a successful piece of work?

A – Well, that depends on if you mean financially or otherwise. I have pieces that have been signed to Prime Arts as art or Brand X (Jupiter images) as stock imagery which make me a living from royalties so I guess you can say they are successful pieces. I need to make a living and pay the bills like the next person but a successful piece of work is one I would categories as representing my mood, feeling expression at the time I created it – it successfully works for me.

Q - Please tell us about having your work on the Saatchi Gallery webspace

A- Recently I was very surprised to receive a great email from the Saatchi gallery inviting me to join their web space. I wondered if they got the right email address at first.
“…We at the Saatchi Gallery are pleased to showcase your talented work. Your digital art is quite stunning.

We encourage all Saatchi artists to proudly show off their body of work. If you have any questions, feel free to let me know. Once again, we're thrilled to feature you and your work on our site…”

I signed and sent a few images and then received this: “I am thrilled that the standard is so high from such a variety of artists and hope it will be interesting to gallery owners, exhibition curators and collectors to see such diverse work.

All my best,
Charles Saatchi
Saatchi Gallery

Naturally I feel very privileged to even be found and noticed by the Saatchi Gallery let alone invited to join their web space. Im finding as the years go by and the recognition increases it affords me to be freer in my approach which then in return helps me to let go and really create what I want to create without fear which normally results in better work. And so the loop goes round, the better pieces then get more recognition etc, that’s how it seems anyway. Being self employed means you have to keep an eye on your finances and there can be a trade-off between what works for me and whats commercially successful as stock imagery, art is different in that I always create for myself. I think an artist should always create for love, passion and not out of fear or pressure to create something commercial. That’s not always easy in the real world but Ive realised that I cant create art any other way.

Q - Looking at your work, each gives me a particular sense of sound energy, movement and space; it¹s easy to see why they would be of interest to those with a keen sense of interior design. Who are your own interior design heroes?

A - My aunt, Tracy Kendall (http://www.tracykendall.com/) is a well known designer and the authority on silk screen printing. I have listened to her experiences and come to my own conclusions about the way forward for me and my style of work. Tracy has taught at the Royal London Collage of Art along with having a long list of other accolades to add to her belt. I have heard anecdotes of Madonna owning a piece of her bespoke wall paper which apparently she made Madonna change their entire room design to suit. I also know she is always being asked to have editorials written about her by Elle Décor and the other top prestigious interior design magazines, she’s even been on the Lawrence Louwelin Bowen program on TV which I hope is working for her and not against J I suppose my ego would love to have this kind of recognition, and that’s really all it is, my ego. I would hope that my art would continue to be from me and not because I felt a magazine, TV program or celebrity would prefer it another way. Selling out to money or fame is something that I can only dream of having the choice to make at this point. I would like to think that if I got “in with the media” that I would remain true to myself, this was a literal lesson I learnt in HK, you see how what I said before makes more sense now. It can be a challenge not to let your ego have the better of you when you do art and get recognition for what you do, its only human nature after all but fortunately I have people around me who keep me firmly rooted to reality.

I do think its important if not vital to have aspirations, to be positive and think the best is going to happen, not just to get through the funny game called life but to keep dreaming. Dreaming is one of my favorite past times, I can easily sit for a few hours at my desk just thinking stuff up while listening to some sounds or musing over some thoughts. More often than not they can be seen making an appearance in my art somewhere, albeit sometimes from a more abstract point of view but quite often figuratively –native American Indians, angels, animals, people and sci-fi worlds appear a lot. Not always consciously created, Ive turned a piece upside down or to the side and people have seen these things appear like they were purposefully drawn. Wacky!

Im not sure I have any “heroes” as such for anything, other than being big on Jim Morrison and The Doors when I was younger Ive never really idolized anyone or anything. Nowadays the interior design world has been brought closer to the public by TV and magazines which I suppose is a good thing (there’s a debate in itself). There’s a lot of people on these shows that do have good ideas and an eye for design – presumably this is why they’re hired, I like Lawrences thoughts on art and design. The art and design world is quite pretentious and its very easy to get sucked in to that way of thinking. I think TV designers are polished for the viewing public to suit the masses. My initial design influences and aspirations were from a guy called Nathan Flood who lives in New York and is a digital artist - http://www.fotosearch.com/photos-images/nathan-flood.html He helped create a book called “Geometry and Chaos” and was one of the featured artists in the first stock magazine I saw which inspired me to become a digital artist. His approach to art really got me ticking, the randomness and sense of belonging all rolled in to a single image – something chaotic unyet balanced and ordered. Allowing your mind to create its own picture is one of the reasons why abstract art is so appealing as it allows the viewer to explore their own creativity!
I recently visited the Istanbul Modern which was an eye opener, I came across Gungor Taner’s work whos style of art and design I like a great deal.

Q - Do you work with a sense of the space in which each piece will be seen?

A – I have no idea at the time of creating a piece who will buy one of the limited editions or which space it will occupy or even if it will be seen at all. I rarely get commissions as its not what I do best. To be constricted to creating a piece to suit someone elses living area or gallery doesn’t work well for me, that’s the job of a designer. An artist is different to a designer in my opinion. A designer normally gets a brief in which to work to and must meet their clients criteria. An artist creates what he or she feels or thinks, its an expression of themselves and cant be told how to feel or express themselves. My best pieces have been happy accidents as I said before and therefore I cant be given tight guidelines. Sure Im happy to do work to a certain style perhaps or colour but nothing too specific, its too restrictive and would be compromising. The client wouldn’t be getting my best work. It works best for the client to simply give examples of my pieces they like or perhaps broad topics with a colour pallet. Most of my art work is abstract anyway.

Q - What would you say is your own Œhome style¹? Please tell us about a few favorite home pieces/furniture/items of interest that you own.

A – Our current house is a 15th century listed barn conversion. Its got a lot of character and is quite charming I suppose. The Americans would like it, put it that way. I do like period homes and furniture and enjoy walking around English heritage stately homes if only to goggle at size of these places. My own taste though is more modern and high-tech. If money were no object I would have a place built which was big enough to have different mood rooms. Perhaps a few rooms designed in the traditional English/French, Italian style while others ultra modern, clean and minimalist. I cant predict how Im going to feel from day to day so why live in a house with just one mood or style. Id like to be able to walk from room to room soaking up the energy of each space.

I don’t own much stuff in the way of expensive furniture. However Ive recently bought a villa in Turkey – (www.villacooklin.com) which Ive furnished with a few choice pieces, mostly practical, clean looking furniture and designed to suit a rental market. My most recent purchase was a huge round copper hand carved Turkish table top which Im using as art above the fireplace. Its too good to put your coffee on.