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Nathan Walsh: 'If you settle on a particular strategy the work can become formulaic and ultimately mundane very quickly'

July 11, 2018

Nathan Walsh is painter based in Wales. 

 

Why did you choose to focus on urban landscapes in your practice? What is it about big cities that fascinate you so much?

 

I find cities endlessly fascinating, they provide unlimited potential for new subject matter. I have felt naturally drawn to the urban landscape for a number of years. The city is in a constant state of flux and seems to offer unlimited possibilities for exploration and experimentation. The act of painting can be seen as an attempt to ‘fix’ this flux and offer a new re-ordered reality. This reality need not be dependent on the laws that govern our own world but establish its own new set of attributes.

 

Can you tell us a bit about your process. How do you develop your paintings? Are they a combination of drawing and photographic elements?

 

Travel is normally the starting point for a painting or body of work. I take photographs and make drawings on site, normally at different times of day and under different lighting conditions. The drawings are small and scruffy but are a direct link to that particular experience. I did make a painting once based on someone else’s photography once but the results were terrible. I believe that the closer you can connect with that initial point in time once you are back in the studio the richer the results are likely to be. I try to have any pre conceived ideas of what I am going to make or how I will make it but tend just to amble around in a fairly haphazard way.

 

When I return to England I sift through the material I have collected and just spend a few days thinking about it and letting the possibilities settle. From this point I will make a series of postcard sized drawings, mapping out how an idea might function. I will pin these drawings up on the studio and just live with them for a while. Over time most of them will get rejected and destroyed. Whats left makes it to the final cut and becomes a larger scale work.

 

Once I have decided on the size of the proposed work (this decision is made based on the size of the painting and the specific subject matter in relation to my own physicality in the  studio). I then start drawing elements in freehand in response to the postcard sized drawing. I don’t use any kind of projection or tracing as it leads to a predetermined outcome. Not that I have anything against artists who do employ such methods, it just doesn’t work for me.

 

I use a series of perspectival drawing systems to draw out my subject. Its a mix of approaches which tends to change from painting to painting which helps keep things open and dynamic. I don’t believe you reach a point as an artist of finding an optimum methodology or process for making work. If you settle on a particular strategy the work can become formulaic and ultimately mundane very quickly.

 Which city do you find most inspiring and why? For example, NYC seems to feature heavily in the urban landscapes that you represent. I am also curious to know whether you think president Trump’s election has changed in any way the ‘vibe’ of the city.

 

NYC features heavily in my upcoming exhibition as its the city I visit most outside the UK. I have been exhibiting my work there solely for the past decade so its made sense to base my work on the area. Over time I have got the know it better and I am finding that I am returning the certain locations.

 

It is a place with potential subject matter on every corner but also comes with the particular problem of having been painted many time before by other artists. Finding something new or finding a different take on a well known location is part of the challenge. Trump is divisive character but his influence lies outside the realm of my work in relation to NYC.

Who are the artists that have influenced your art practice?

 

If you choose to become a contemporary realist painter then I believe its important that you attempt to add something new to the movement. Merely repeating the efforts of the past masters is of no interest to me, whether that’s paying homage to the pioneering Photorealists of the 1970s or making Neoclassical works in the style of Bouguereau.

 

I see my practice as a combination of painting strategies which “samples” various other artists and movements. By mixing different approaches and techniques together the goal is to present a visual language which celebrates the richness of art history without resorting to revivalism.

 

My influences are many and varied, but crucially they are all connected by an engagement with materials. Over the past year I’ve been looking closely at Anselm Kiefer, Al Held, Tapies and Millares. Artists that have been a constant influence over my career include Vuillard, Turner, Sickert, Whistler, Charles Charles Sheeler and Canaletto.

 

What are you plans for the future? Can you tell us about the exhibition you are currently preparing for?

 

I am currently finishing paintings for an solo exhibition which opens at the Bernarducci gallery in New York this September. This will be the largest collection of my paintings on show for the past five years and will be an opportunity for myself and others to assess how the work has evolved over that period. The next painting I would like to make is also occupying my thoughts, I’d like to do something which connects an inner and outer space and involves actual and invented elements. All this should be enough to keep me busy.

Nathan's solo exhibition opens on 6th September 2018 at the Bernarducci Gallery 525 West 25th Street, NYC, and more information on Nathan's work can be found on his website



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