Sunday, March 11, 2007

Art Space Talk: Godfrey Blow

I recently interviewed artist Godfrey Blow. Mr. Blow is an artist who has had many solo exhibitions beginning with his first in London in 1976 and whose work is held by several major and regional galleries, principally in Western Australia. ln addition he has taken part in numerous mixed exhibitions in Western Australia, New South Wales and the United Kingdom. He has also won several prestigious awards in Western Australia.

Mr. Blow was born in North Hykeham, Lincolnshire in 1948. He trained as an artist at Sheffield Hallam University in England and came to Western Australia in 1982. He has painted for over 30 years. Godfrey's art was featured in The Stuckists Punk Victorian exhibit at the Walker Art Gallery during the 2004 Liverpool Biennial.

Brian Sherwin: Godfrey, when did you first discover that art would be an important part of your adult life?

Godfrey Blow: Round about the age of fourteen. We had a free choice during an art lesson at school and I painted a landscape based on an area where I was born (North Hykeham, Lincolnshire) depicting fields, corn etc. I used different shades of yellows, mixing them and I really enjoyed myself. Prior to that I had got poor marks for art. My work was always too messy and I didn’t really look forward to art in high school. Anyway the teacher said how much he liked it, particularly the use of yellows, and how it reminded him of a Van Gogh. Of course at that age I didn’t even know whom this artist was let alone what his work was like. Anyway that evening I went to the local library and got a couple of books out on him. I was at first completely taken back, I thought they were really strange but they fascinated me and after reading the text I began to really identify with the work and Van Gogh has a person. After that art became so important to me and I learnt about other artists and painted and painted and it completely took over my life!

BS: Godfrey, how has society influenced your art? Are there any social implications in your art?

GB: I’ve always felt a bit of an outsider so I suppose I’ve never really related to what the majority of people think or do. I suppose in a way that’s an influence, because I like to be private and hold things in. Partly through suspicion of other people’s motives. On occasions I may use metaphors to express a political or social opinion, such as the war in Iraqi. Perhaps the mood in a picture will be darker and more sinister. I find social political satire or ironic stuff about society deadly dull and besides nobody remembers it years down the track. This is not to say I don’t care or have strong opinions about issues, I do!

BS: Godfrey, on average, how long does it take you to create a piece?

GB: Up to 2/3 months depending on the size. I tend to work on about 3 at the same time, doing a bit here and here, gradually developing each piece. My work is very slow and painstaking, but I enjoy detail and adding bits and pieces until I’m completely satisfied. Some days I ‘ll spend what seems like hours just thinking/ meditating on the next step. It’s like being in a different world or different level of consciousness.

BS: Can you share some of your philosophy about art and artistic creation?

GB: I use natural forms in my work derived from nature. For me this is very important because it gives me a kind of connectedness necessary for producing art. I believe in doing several studies before attempting paint on canvas. For me it’s not just about doing a painting but a complete creation, part of my continuing personal and spiritual development. It’s not about money or being a celebrity, it’s my whole reason for existence. In my own work art is a combination of creativity and technical skill. Without both factors my art wouldn't exist.

BS: Godfrey, has your art ever been published?

GB: My work has been published in The Stuckist Punk Victorian, a catalogue or book to celebrate the first public show of the Stuckists in 2004. My work as also been published in the Who’s Who of Australian Visual Artists and on the front cover of Zahir a science fiction journal, based in America.

BS: What was your most important exhibition? Care to share that experience?

GB: I suppose there are 3 that stand out. My first solo show in London at the Barnet Art Centre, 1976, my first major exhibition in Western Australia at the Undercroft Gallery, University of WA in 1984 and the Stuckist Punk Victorian exhibition in 2004. My very first solo show because it was such a thrill to show all my work in one space! And the solo in Western Australia for a similar reason plus several public collections bought my work. The Stuckist show, because although I didn’t go for the show it was great to participate in an important exhibition of Stuckist paintings. You felt like it was ground breaking and really special.

BS: Godfrey, do you have any 'studio rituals'? As in, do you listen to certain types of music while working? What helps to get you in the mood for working?

GB: I always listen to music when I work. I find it helps with my work and puts me in a reflective mood. I like anything classical really, but Bach is a favourite. I put out all the paints I need for the entire session, I don’t like to stop and start. I find this disturbs the creative flow.

BS: If you could pinpoint the characteristics of people who collect your art, what would they be?

GB: Quite a few Australian public collections have an example of my work. The University of Western Australia has 3 of my works, so I suppose they stand out! My wife’s family has been very supportive over the years. A few friends as well have bought my paintings but also complete strangers, clients of the gallery I am with have also bought work.

BS: Godfrey, discuss one of your pieces. What were you thinking when you created it?

GB: Wounded angel (image above) is one of my most recent paintings. It’s acrylic on Belgian linen on board. One of the issues I have dealt with over the years is death and illness. I think we are reluctant to talk about these important things. Not long ago my wife had breast cancer and it was very traumatic at the time and it only just recently that I’ve felt able in some way to make sense of what happened. But I like to approach themes in different ways and in this instance I chose to combine the image of a woman, with the scars of a mastectomy and a 7th century Celtic cross in Derbyshire, after a recent visit to Eyam in 2004. Also Eyam is famous for the tragedy of the 16th century plague and how the villagers decide to quarantine themselves until the plague has passed. I also read a novel set in the area called "Year of Wonders" by Geraldine Brooks, a wonderful and beautiful work. Given my pagan beliefs I integrated pagan symbols on the cross and in the background I had one quite light side with dark passages on the right. For me light symbolises life, growth and the promise of another summer, creativity, whereas darkness is winter, the void, the unknown. Fro me the painting is about feminie beauty and how we can regard all females as kind of mortal angels. I hope the painting gives a positive message of hope and survival against the odds.

BS: Godfrey, do you have a degree or do you plan to attend school for art? If so, how did it help you as an artist? What can you tell us about the art department that you attended?

GB: I gained a BA Hons Degree in Fine Art from Sheffield Hallam University in 1971 attended Manchester Metro University, where I qualified as a teacher. I don’t think it helped me much as an artist if anything it held back my creative development. It was good from the point of view of mixing with other potential artists and sharing their hopes and aspirations. Even way back then I felt that universities are more destructive than creative and they seem to have got worse over the years.

BS: Godfrey, why did you choose the medium(s) that you use?

GB: I use oils and acrylics mainly but also use charcoal, pen and ink and pencil for drawing. For me painting is the one medium that is the most satisfying to use and the most difficult. There is something about the smell of oil paint and the whole painting thing that is so special, beautiful and wonderful. Each time I go in the studio I feel bonded with my materials and the desire to create. The act of painting combines the physical and emotional sides of my character.

BS: Where can we see more of your art?

GB: The Art Gallery of Western Australia, Artbank Australia, University of Western Australia and the collections of the cities of Bunbury, Albany and Fremantle are a few of the collections that have a piece of mine in their collections. Also if you are in Western Australia pop into my studio!

BS: Are you represented by a gallery? Do you have any upcoming exhibits?

GB: I’m represented by Stafford Studios, Cottesloe, Western Australia. I had a solo show there in 2006 and plan on having another in about a couple of years time. Later this year I‘m taking part in a mixed show at the Gallery Gora in Montreal."

BS: Godfrey, what trends do you see in the 'art world'?

GB: The renaissance of painting through groups such as the Stuckists I think will gradually come to the forefront. That’s very positive!

BS: Do you have any advice for emerging artists?

GB: Yes, don’t listen to university lecturers! Work hard and focus on what is important – the art.

BS: Godfrey, what was the toughest point in your career as an artist? Have you ever hit rock-bottom?

GB: Sometimes I feel that people do not really understand or have a clue what my work is about and this is always tough, makes you feel really isolated and alone. This happens quite a bit. I have quite a few shows where I feel like I’m on another planet, judging by people’s reactions, and I suppose I regard that as rock bottom.

BS: In one sentence... why do you create art?

GB: Without art I would starve inside and life would have no meaning.

BS: Godfrey, what can you tell our readers about the art scene in your area?

GB: Although Perth, Western Australia is much smaller than London there are quite a number of commercial and public galleries here. The interest in the arts in Perth is strong and compares well with London. Perth is perhaps a little insular and it takes a while for locals to accept anybody new. But many places are probably like this.

BS: Has politics ever entered your art?

GB: No not really, although I have made comments in my own way about things that have happened in the world over the years, in regard to things like Iraqi, the Balkans and other issues. The craziness of the world is certainly there in my work and I suppose this for me is politics!"

BS: Does religion, faith, or the lack thereof play a part in your art?

GB: Religion doesn’t but the importance of the spiritual is foremost in my mind. I find you can be spiritual without being religious.

BS: Finally, is there anything else you would like to say about your art or the 'art world'?

GB: The meaning of everything I have done over the past thirty odd years is in the works and hopefully people will continue to look and explore. And I hope that others enjoy looking as much as I did creating it!
You can learn more about Godfrey Blow by visiting his website-- You can read more of my interviews by visiting the following page-- Godfrey is involved with the beinArt International Surreal Art Collective.
Take care, Stay true
Brian Sherwin


Anonymous said...

Great self portrait Godfrey!

Anonymous said...

Great interview! I really enjoy this forum and I'm very pleased to read about working artists such as Godfrey Blow.

Anonymous said...

Hi. I took the tim to see it all now, and ended with the intervju. I am so glad I did. Your work allways put me in "the Austrailian mode" You manage to get the nature under the skin. Great to learn about YOU as well. Make the paintings even more "takeable" Thanks! Jette