BOUQUET is to be debuted next week at LN-CC - how does this differ from your usual exhibitions?
In past solo exhibitions, I've shown a variety of work together, side by side, sharing the space, verging on chaotic, sometimes conflicting. With 'Bouquet', the show is paintings, all from the same series. Narrowed down, concentrated. It feels more solid.
Where do you find your creative inspiration?
It's often discussed whether we find inspiration, or if it finds us. A philosopher that I'm a fan of, believes that it's simply a case of ensuring that you're consciously open or mentally awaiting, for any form of inspiration, at all times, in order to know when to bite down on the hook, as it comes floating by. I feel like that's the beauty of making art. You don't know where the next bit of bait is going to come from, to keep your stomach free from the rumble.
Books have helped a lot over the years. I've never been to school, but I'll read an artist book cover to cover, sometimes taking a week or weeks. Pour some tea and imagine that the master is there, talking in front of me.
However, for the duration that I've been working on this particular body of paintings, influencing factors or inspirations have come from a series of events and situations that have occurred, along with the emotions surrounding. But not necessarily related other than that they've been filtered through me. They've changed from day to day, the canvas serving as some form of a mirror or sponge, absorbing the atmosphere or mood, followed naturally by the conclusion. When it felt right to stop. One event, for example, is that my next door neighbour got almost beaten to death by somebody with a hammer outside our local pub. He spent a couple of months in a coma and pulled through but his face isn't the same. When I saw him again for the first time, it got me wondering about the venerability of flesh and bone. Manipulation of physical mass and the way it displaces space. Irreversible changes. Risk takers. All and nothing. Music, the way it can only be played once and how it can never be played again exactly the same. On my Mum's side, the families travellers. Move, stop, move. I started to paint faces, trauma. They'd welcome me into the studio in the morning and say goodnight as I left in the evening or early hours. Colour became desirable. Flowers at the supermarket and petrol station started looking like animals at the zoo. Diesel perfume, bunched up but bearing it. Sometimes I'd see faces in the petals. Cheeks crushed, eye socks hollow, muted lips, calling out. As I worked, rectangles began to fill. No room at the inn. Bouquet's share the same triangular shape found in the space/time diagram of general relativity. Square cells, building blocks. When there's nowhere to go, if there's space at the top, there's somewhere to grow. Three plants by my bed, greeting the new leaves as they appear, invaders into foreign lands. They don't need to speak, being is both seeing and saying. Violence, the spice of life, from the start... 100 million sperm cells, head butt racing, for the finish line, where the flag waves insemination. At the same time as all this way going on, a romance came knocking, out of the blue from somewhere unexpected. Decisions, decisions. To paint or not to paint. Instinct over rationality!
Your art has progressively become more dynamic, talk us through that evolvement?
These works have taught me the complexity of simplicity. The more you dig, the deeper you get.
Dark comedy and realism are entwined within your work, how do you feel that audience react to this?
I spent most of my younger years romanticising ideas like Goya painting the inside walls of this house, for nobody to look at but himself, because they were images that he wanted to see. As a result, I spent most of my 20s printing photos in a darkroom or huffing ink fumes in a string of dingy studios, working for no other reason but in order to please myself. Caring but not sharing. I'm attracted to figures that accept the hand that they've been dealt and just get on with it. I'd hope that that's how my work comes across. Honest, without any bullshit.
Can you talk us through the techniques you use to create your art?
I've been using a paint brush like it's a silkscreen with a squeegee. Using a silkscreen with a squeegee-like it's a paintbrush. And using a photocopier like it's a paintbrush being used as a silkscreen with a squeegee. Forcing myself to say yes, when I felt like saying no, and vice versa. Finding comfort in places I hadn't found it before.
What are your thoughts on modern day art industry compared with ten years ago?
It's not something that I care about. Like I mentioned briefly above, I just try to make the most with what's at hand. Art has nothing to do with an industry or institution. As Ad Reinhardt once said, "Art is art. Everything else is everything else."
Will, we see a kind of political statement in your art?
If there is, it's that there isn't. And if there isn't, somewhere there is. Words can't speak what thoughts think.
Have you worked on any interesting collaborations? Is this important in your work?
Everything feels like a collaboration. Whether it's with the space that I'm working in, the machines that I might be using, a current situation that I'm in, or the mental state produced in at a present moment. Even if it's not a painting, I've always felt like that was a painterly tendency that could be applied. Working with the unexpected, that might not have been a direct product of your hand or intention and then moving from one place or idea to another. It's important for me to accept each step as if it were both in and out of my control, in order to view art possibly as some form of metaphysical energy that comes and go. Just like life and love.
What’s next for Kingsley Ifill?
Solo show at V1 Gallery, Copenhagen in June.