TA: You have two parallel careers as an artist and a musician in a band. Can you tell us when did you decide to become an artist and a musician and how you juggle both careers.
NG:I’m not sure I ever made a concrete decision to become either an artist or a musician. It’s just something I have been interested in since starting school in Bristol. I enjoy the collaborative aspect of playing in ‘My Sad Captains’. A lot of the experiences I have and things I see while traveling and playing with the band get woven back into the paintings.
TA: Do both art forms, music and painting, inform each other equally?
NG: Yes I think they do. I often equate the atmosphere of my paintings to a peculiar drone or ambient noise. I like musicians who enable the sounds they are working with to decay and disintegrate over time (artists like William Basinski and Tim Hecker). They somehow capture this process in the music. I look to do the same thing with the source material I am working from. To hint at an image, but then through the process of painting let that image disintegrate and collapse to reveal something else.
TA: Which artists or art movements have inspired you?
NG: At the moment I’m reading some W G. Sebald novels that are an inspiration. I also really enjoyed the Edvard Munch show at the Tate and have been thinking about his paintings a lot. Last October I went to Mexico and loved seeing the Diego Rivera Murals in the flesh. In particular, I liked ‘Dream of a Sunday Afternoon in Alameda Park’, a wonderful mixture of the imagined and the real.
TA: Your paintings are carefully structured and often based on little maquettes you create and on detailed drawings. Can you tell us about this creative process?
NG: For this new body of work I have been making small rudimentary maquettes from balsa wood and glue. I took the initial images from stills of the Wim Wenders film ‘Wings of Desire’. I made these models in the same manner that I draw, without any prior ideas concerning form or what I might use them for later. When I started to sketch from them I found you could conceal a lot of detail about the figures and just bring out a certain amount of patterning and nuanced texture. They became ghosts, echoes of the recognisable human forms they had once been. It has developed into a particular method for constructing a cast of characters that could inhabit the inter-zonal spaces that I painted.
TA: Looking at your paintings I get the feeling there are elements that were there on the canvas initially that were then taken away and painted over? Am I correct? Are you giving your audience as many questions as you are giving them answers?
NG: I’m interested in the idea of palimpsest, a destructive act that ends up revealing something unexpected. I have the paintings lying around the studio for quite a large amount of time. I apply and remove thin semi translucent layers slowly letting images dissolve and reappear. Eventually something emerges on the canvass that has some correlation with the source material I am working from. I then work into these patterns and shapes alluding to the semblance of an image.
TA: Since some of your works are quite minimal, in colour and density, and features large empty spaces, when and how do you know that the painting is “Done”?
NG: That is a tricky one. I’m never completely sure. It has something to do with unearthing the potential of an image without fully describing it. Pointing the viewer in the right direction, but allowing enough space in the painting for the viewer to take wrong turns. Allowing space for the memories and thoughts and specific interpretations we all carry with us to surface in the paintings. Jasper Sharp who wrote the essay that will accompany my upcoming show at Josh Lilley gallery said something in reference to the unfinished nature of the paintings that made me laugh, but also was close to the bone, ‘They can be sunk, but never scuttled, left to sit somewhere beneath the surface’.
TA: Josh Lilley gallery, a dynamic and promising young London gallery, represents you. Can you tell us about the collaboration with Josh and whether there’s an interaction with other artists shown at the gallery.
NG: Working with Josh for the last couple of years since I graduated has been a pleasure. We are both of a similar age and on the same page in the way we think about art. I like working with a younger gallery that encourages you to take chances and approaches showing your work a bit differently. We have organized gigs in the gallery to accompany the openings and are looking at a few different projects for the upcoming ‘Tin Drum’ exhibition in October.
Nick Goss, ‘Tin Drum’, until 23rd November 2012 http://joshlilleygallery.com/