This is an interview I did with Lucienne Simpson who does amazing paintings taken from photographs.
What was the inspiration behind your final pieces?
I’ve always made paintings from photographs. Painting and photography have a continually difficult relationship because, in a way, they both do the same thing; represent reality. My work pivots between the photo’s instantaneous, reproducible nature and painting’s laborious manual method. The seemingly ‘ordinary’ snapshots are infused with atmosphere through painterly-ness, and the work then functions on its sincerity and simplicity.
What made you choose the images?
I use Google to find photos. They must be typically photographic, including focussed and blurred areas. I prefer ones which don’t look digital; I like the imperfections you get from an analogue camera. Second hand images [are] neutral and somewhat authorless; in painting them, they gain a status and I validate them as art.
It was brave of you to create pieces on a small scale, was size an important consideration for you?
It was a natural progression. I was painting on canvas before, at a larger scale, but the end result looked too grainy, and the 3-dimensionality of the stretcher ruined the illusion. The logical, next step was to use a smoother surface, and work at the same size as the original image. I’d managed to trick people into thinking that they were real photos, so continued to work similarly from that point.
Your work shows great skill, is this important to you? What do you think of the trend in contemporary art that prioritises conveying a message or a concept over showing technical skill?
This was always the issue that kept cropping up during my time at University. I felt that I had to justify why I wanted to go down the seemingly old fashioned route of painting whilst everyone else was making more conceptual work. My mind-frame was focused on the idea that it’s problematic to simply paint a picture in contemporary art, which I can now see is a quite an irrational and negative viewpoint.
What have you been doing since University?
I spent a good 6 months unemployed, which [gave] me a lot of time to catch up on the long list of commissions I’d gained following the degree show.
I’ve recently found a job as a painting assistant in an artist’s studio, which is incredibly lucky considering how few and far between creative jobs are at the moment.
How have you adapted to creating someone else's vision?
It can be quite strange spending so much time on a painting, making sure it’s as good as you can make it, then it not being yours. But that feeling didn’t last too long, and you soon differentiate between work and your own personal practice. I think I now spend more time painting – both in and out of work – than I did when I was unemployed!
Which artists do you admire?
There was an exhibition at the Hayward Gallery in London, ‘The Painting of Modern Life’, which I constantly refer to. The participating artists confronted the mass-produced pictures of today, and used painting to focus on how the making and reading of images is an important activity in modern life. They examined the relationship between painting and photography and presented the idea that the process of translation becomes a reason to paint, which is closely linked to my own practice.