Tuesday, 1 July 2008

Artist of the Week - Clay Sinclair


My paintings aim to be more than just wallpaper. I seek to create work that will engage, stimulate and provoke the viewer. By painting on perspex, my art is vibrant and luminous, but by frequently using text I force the art to be viewed as more than just an ascetic object.

When and where did you first want to do what you do?
I came to art quite late really. It was only when I came to the UK 12 years ago that I started painting with any seriousness. The main reason for that was that my father is a well known New Zealand landscape artist and I guess I had to get to the other side of the world before I felt free enough to explore this side of my creativity.

Was there any one individual who helped you on your way?
Well actually my father. Despite me not taking art seriously until I got as far away as I possibly could from him, he was and is an invaluable tutor. In my youth he taught me how to draw, paint, sculpt and generally be creative. Recently he has been a real help, not just technically, but professionally, as I establish myself as a full-time artist.

When did you go full-time?
My previous career was that of a Civil Engineer. I was good at it, but hated it. I guess I was cursed by being reasonable at mathematics. Anyway, this caused me great depression, because I knew I was doing the wrong job. It came to the point where I could do it no longer, so in 2004 I quit my job and moved my family back to NZ for 6 months of rest, reflection and reassessment. During this time I started painting more regularly and I made the decision to paint purely on perspex. I had been playing with the idea of ’backwards’ painting for the previous 5 or 6 years. I found during this time that there was an interest in my work and I was selling around various NZ galleries. With this encouragement I returned to the UK in 2005 to establish my career over here.

Where do you sell your work?
When I first came back to the UK I started selling at the Bayswater Art Market in London. Initially I thought it more than a little dubious to try selling off the railings of Hyde Park, but I gave it a go. It was a phenomenal success and really set me on my way to confirming what I was doing and how I was doing it. It was a great barometer to see if my crazy ideas would be liked enough for someone to fork out money, and put them on their wall. But my time at the Bayswater finished a year ago, as I wished to be taken more seriously as an artist and imitators were appearing a regular intervals on the railings. So in December 2007 I had my debut solo exhibition in Gallery27, Cork Street, London. It was a great success with good sales and vital exposure to the wider art world.

This year I am building towards another end of year solo show in London and a couple of select group shows including the Brighton Art Fair.

How much do you bend your ‘vision’ to suit the marketplace?
One of the things I learnt at the Bayswater Art Market was that when you try and cater for a ‘market’ it doesn’t work. I think the art buyer can sense when something is contrived and not authentic and maybe even mass produced.
What I found was that the more I was myself, the more successful I was.

Who would you say buys your work?
Mostly people who have a similar view of the world. They are usually quite self aware and have the confidence to laugh at the world and also themselves. I’ve often said that the majority of my clients are the type of people I could imagine being really good friends with, and not just because they give me money.

Where is your studio?
I have a studio within the Ark-T Art Community in Oxford. We moved from London to Oxford 2 years ago, and the Ark-T was one of the major reasons we moved. It has 4 resident artists, a recording studio, community arts projects and a cafĂ© with great food and coffee. It’s the perfect place for a studio. It’s private but if I need a second opinion or just a chat, there’s always someone else around.

One favourite historical artist?
I do have a favourite. Friedensreich Hundertwasser, an Austrian artist who died a few years back. Ironically, even though he lived in NZ for much of his life, I only discovered him when I was walking around Vienna as a wide eyed tourist. I was totally blown away by his Kunst Haus, which he designed to house his paintings. Absolutely fantastic. Trees coming out of windows, undulating floors and his art which just screamed life and vibrancy. I soon became a fan, accumulating books on not just his painting, but also his architecture and philosophy. One of my favourite stories of his is when he was asked to speak at a prestigious art collage in Germany. He walked in and just announced that if there did happen to be any ‘real’ artists in the room, they should leave the art school immediately and be creative themselves without having other peoples ideas forced upon them. Brilliant. I guess he probably wasn’t asked back.

So did you go to art school?
No I didn’t, which is I guess is one of the reasons I like the Hundertwasser story. But as I said before, I probably had something better, a personal tutor in my father. I have a lot of friends who went to art school, and absolutely none of them are making a career out of their creativity so I’m quite happy to have trodden the path I have, to the point where I am now.

Future plans?
Who knows the future? I am loving life at the moment. So I guess I just want to see how far I can take my creativity. Who knows what ideas I will have next? That’s a thought that excites me every time I enter my studio.

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