There is something really warm and engaging about Gavin’s prints and paintings, and we found out that his work very much reflects the person behind the art. Here are his answers to our little Q&A. Hope you enjoy getting drawn into his world as much as we did ...
Please tell us a bit about yourself, and the journey you took to become an artist.
I was always good at art. From as early as I can remember I have drawn. My favourite books were visual. I loved The Beano. I was obsessed with superheroes and comic books. Even with my favourite childhood author, Roald Dahl, it probably was Quentin Blake's artwork that initially drew me in. In many ways art taught me to read.
Studying Fine Art at Middlesex university was probably a no brainer. I was technically very strong, and my main strength of figurative painting and illustration led me to working many years as an illustrator. I was put off Fine Art for a while as I found that it was overthought. Most of the work I enjoyed had a visual effect on me, as well as a narrative behind it. I felt for a while that the idea was seen as important as the result, and that the art world was full of intellectuals, some with little actual ability. I think the Art world has broadened again and fields which were looked down on have rightfully gained the credit they were long overdue.
For the past 3 years I have been a member of London's Print Club. This serves as a great creative work space, and a hub where to maintain and expand connections with other artists, as well as experiment with techniques, and push boundaries of what screen-prints can be. With them I have exhibited at the Affordable Arts fair for the past 3 years and was one of 20 artists chosen to exhibit at Somerset House as part of their Summer Screen Season with Film 4.
My screen- prints often depict colourful, nostalgic images. Iconic designs which are humorous ornamentation and invite an opening for conversation.
My ongoing dedication has led to various interviews surrounding my work, and I have been featured in The Times by the art critic, Nancy Durrant, as part of her great Art gift guide. This has been both motivating and a great platform for me.
What helped you to get to where you are today? Are there any people, events, or experiences that encouraged you or influenced you to do what it is that you do?
George Perez was my childhood art hero. An american comic book artist who can draw anything, from any angle. His story telling ability is unrivalled. Best know for his work on Teen Titans, Wonder Woman and Crisis on Infinite Earths. Without a doubt George was my main influence as a teenager.
Once I got further into art, I fell in love with Jenny Saville, Manet, Monet, Lautrec ... masters of painting and movement with light and textures.
I was lucky enough to visit Derek Jarman’s cottage and see his work studio untouched. I remember that it was a haunting experience. I was drawn especially to his experiences as a gay man. Jarman’s writing and film work is particularly strong but you can’t help but feel the anger in his paintings. Such a talent.
What was the first piece of art that moved you? What was it about it that grabbed you?
I remember seeing Bill Viola’s ‘The Messenger’ At Durham Cathedral many years ago when I was about 16 or 17. It’s a piece of video art of a figure drowning and theorising through the water and then he breaks the surface. It was just amazing. The setting was obviously haunting and the whole piece felt sacred. What grabbed me most was the blues and turquoises of the water and the shadowy figure coming into view. It was silence except when he broke the surface and took a huge breath. There’s so much to write about what is now a classic. Life, birth, religion. It was staggering. I have yet to see a piece of video art that comes close.
Where do you get your inspiration from? Any tips for fellow artists who are having a bit of a dry spell?
I am a keen doodler, and I find that my best ideas often spring when I’m mid run, or in a coffee shop.
Artist block is very frustrating, but I find not to draw for a few days useful. I attempt to surround myself with other art forms, like music. I am also an actor, so I love theatre, which is always somewhere I am drawn to. I find that seeing another art form brings a bit of artistic adrenaline, without the same pressure as a gallery. Bizarrely, I don’t generally visit galleries if I am having a creative block. I find that seeing other people doing what I can’t seem to do at that time depressing. However after a few days reading, relaxing, embracing other art forms, then I do think it’s important to just keep drawing or painting. It will probably be dreadful for a while, but then it will click and before you know it you have an interesting piece. I often work best at night.
Where do you work best from? Do you have any habits, or a routine, that help you harness your creativity?
When coming up with designs, I tend to work best alone. I have shared painting studios when working on my larger canvases, and in particular I find that just to keep painting is the key.
With the artwork I take into screen-prints, I will do the original at home. I think I try to not worry and think too much about a piece. Mistakes are always part of my process. I try not to be too precious with art.
What is your current favourite piece in your own body of work? Why does it hold a special place in your heart?
Quite a tricky question, as I love certain pieces for certain reasons. I suppose, in many ways, my favourite is probably "Burlesque", as it was one of those pieces which was so easy. Just a quick ink wash done in about 5 minutes. I have often tried to replicate it but this one was the first of the series, and the image flows really well. It has proved very popular when I brought it into a screen-print. The satin shine on the ink really added an element of lustre.
What was the latest piece of art that you bought yourself? If you could choose four pieces of work from the Artsnug collection, what would they be?
I don’t really buy art bizarrely. As an artist I swap pieces from time to time with other creatives. The last piece I think was a CYMK screen-print by Craig Keenan, who is also a member of Printclub London. He best known for his beautiful Cyanotypes. I would definitely recommend anyone to check out his work.
As for four pieces from the Artsnug collection, that is very difficult as there are so many lovely pieces. The four that spring to mind are:
Andrew J Miller - Pink Light - Andrew’s work is just beautiful. There is something very haunting about "Pink Light". I have been lucky enough to see some of his pieces up close and they are so striking. His gold work is brilliant also, but I’m especially drawn to the muted colours and the imagery in this piece.
Cassandra Yap - Meow Blush Edition - Cassandra’s work is so clever. Intricate and iconic I think. No one really does work like hers. It’s erotic and humorous, with an eye for design. The space she leaves is just as interesting as what she prints. It allows her work to breathe. Brilliant.
Clare Halifax - Criss Cross Palm - I know Clare’s work quite well, and the level of detail and accuracy is incredible in many of her pieces. She is so technically skilled. This piece is simpler, and again, I really enjoy the space around the plant. Very fresh and contemporary. It really draws your eye to it.
Tiff Horwick - Black Cat - Tiff makes drawing animals look easy. It certainly isn’t. With simple brush work, and often a limited palette, she captures the form and character of animals so well. There’s a warmth and humour in her work.