James Green Artist interview with Art Reveal Magazine

04 Dec 2018   |  Journal

Artist interview

I was recently approached by Art Reveal Magazine for an artist interview. A good opportunity for me to have a rant. Check it out below.

Briefly describe the work you do

I’m generally considered a portrait artist of (contemporary) sorts but I don’t really like being boxed into a category… My work’s about money mainly, whilst visually exploring the everyday person (and that includes me by the way).

Self portrait of somebody else by James Green Artist

A lot of it comes from frustration at the way we’ve confused things over time. I don’t see many positives in our current monetary dependent system. If money didn’t exist, it would be more possible for us to collectively work towards good causes as priority, rather than personal gain; and the knock-on effects of that. It’s that 1% bollocks. Maybe you should do an artist interview with Hirst?

My current project’s titled ‘SPOSE’ (self-portrait of somebody else) and through that, I try to create the everyday person through every portrait. I don’t actually want them to look like any one person in particular – it’s more my way of documenting our contemporary society and the concerns I have around that e.g an over-complicated hierarchical system (motivated predominantly by money), with an overwhelming disconnect between work and real life. It’s my intention for each portrait to be viewed as both a self portrait and a portrait of the everyday person. Take it as you see it. Make your own perception on who it is.

The approach has to be relatively immediate where possible. The quicker I create things I’m happy with, the more accomplished I believe them to be. That way they feel organic and authentic along the line of what I’m trying to do.

I always make sure I have everything to hand prior to working so that I can grab whichever tool (and colour) feels right at that specific moment, blocking out methodic thought, personal conversation and personal debate so that the resulting interpretation is personal to that moment alone and entirely a one-off. I’m only satisfied when the outcome couldn’t ever be replicated by myself, or anyone else.

Who or what has a lasting influence on your art practice?

People. I’m fascinated (and often baffled) by the majority individual within contemporary society – the everyday person. The decisions we make/the decisions we don’t. Take commuters for example… When do you see a commuter smiling? I often sit on a train scribbling these people; intrigued by the fact that 9.9/10 wish they were going anywhere else other than work.

Work. I view work as a crucial and fundamental aspect of our existence however I believe that its purpose is often distracted by a misguided version of value (typically monetary). Why is its purpose predominantly directed towards making a ‘living’, rather than towards positively contributing to society and caring for our beautiful planet, and the people and animals within it. Doesn’t feel like rocket science to fix it. We were never supposed to be sat at a desk with the world continuing to spin outside the office.

Money/business. It’s my opinion that we’ve overcomplicated the world to the point that nothing is worth doing unless it offers financial gain. Money doesn’t even need to exist for a person to survive; yet there are thousands of unfortunate individuals who sleep in gutters rain or shine. I question a system that favours, even celebrates, the fortunate and neglects the less-so. I wonder why ‘we commoners’ allow it to happen.

100 elephants are killed every single day for their tusks. Without money, that doesn’t happen. Madness! There’s a better system out there.

How would you describe the art scene in your area?

I recently moved my studio from London back to my hometown, Stroud (Gloucestershire). Although it’s a relatively quirky town, the art-specific scene is pretty sparse – but that doesn’t really matter to me. A little while back, I consciously stopped spending time trying to get into ‘the scene’/looking at other artists work so that I could focus on creating art that comes entirely from myself. I simply need to express myself, and that comes from me alone. I’m more productive now than ever and I believe my work’s becoming more and more unique (and authentic) as a result.

When the chips are down by James Green Artist

Distancing myself from the work of other artists, I now primarily learn from my own (old and new) paintings in the studio – and images from the archives. This ensures that my work and style constantly evolves with nothing but an authentic and personal perspective – in terms of subject matter, mark making, colour palette, composition – etc etc.

That’s not to say that I’m not interested in the work of others (quite the contrary) – more that I try to separate that from my own practice to avoid subconscious borrowing.

In your opinion what does art mean in contemporary culture?

It’s a global voice. It’s importance and significance is underestimated in my opinion; and often swept aside by those with power (who unfortunately often happen to be people who aren’t qualified to make decisions around its cultural stake and value). For example, council leaders possess the decision as to what street art remains and which gets removed. Unfortunately art often ends up in the hands of those who don’t understand it. Rarely do you find a teenager strolling through a hostile gallery – leaving work in the outdoors as a key source for creative influence outside of school. I’m a big fan of street art due to its integrity in creation. Sheer passion.

I believe that art in its truest form has the power to change the world (for the better). It can be used as a visual language to bring awareness to issues within society and offer a visual voice to which anyone can understand regardless of language. With unsettling social landscapes like Brexit (zzzzzzzz), art can provide an alternative language that can help pull our colourful multicultural society together – rather than instigating a divide. Great Britain without art is pretty grey from my point of view.

I’m sure there’s an opportunity for a more positive collaboration between art and business. If business collaborated with art in a more socially positive manner (besides an additional means of profit for private firms), it could be truly influential on a better version of the world of tomorrow – where love, health, and our environment prevail over ego, power and money. Artists are generally very inquisitive people who often spend their entire career (and retrospective of work) examining and analysing (and imagining a world without) issues they feel strongly about – e.g poverty. A society with less questions leaves less answers to these problems. I believe that the world needs uncomplicating and art could prove instrumental in that – with power in the right place.

What is the best book you’ve recently read?

Kurt Cobain – Journals. It’s a collection of direct scans from his notebooks. The closest I can get to getting into the mind of his genius.

Name three artists you admire

In this order, and all for similar reasons:

Auerbach, Bacon, Picasso. They each ignore/ignored rules and challenged genres. They can/could all drink too.

What are your future plans?

I’m probably the most unplanned person on earth. I just know that for as long as I can, I’ll paint with, above all, a primary focus on challenging the contemporary rather than making money. I could start painting pretty landscapes tomorrow and probably triple my income – however I’d have to stop calling myself an artist straight away. It’s about the long-term game for me. I believe that I can achieve something much more important in the long run by continuing to create with integrity.

I hope to one day be able to use my work to do my bit towards fighting poverty – a social issue that really doesn’t need to exist. If I can use my work to help make a real positive difference – that would be the ultimate achievement for me – no matter how big or small. I have some ideas around that in draft.

I’m also really interested in how my work would translate into sculpture. I have at least a thousand drawings dotted around the studio and when looking over them from time to time, I always wonder how to bring them to life. I don’t think that artists should limit themselves to a canvas. I also hope that the audience is much more open minded these days too and it’s our job to continue to challenge.

Self portrait of somebody else by James Green Artist