An Interview with Graham McBride

Graham McBride is an artist from London.

Here he talks to Artists Info about his work as an artist.

Please describe your artwork style

Essentially, I would describe myself as an expressionist painter, while my work does vary from being rather figurative to being quite abstract. I don’t agree an artist should have one distinctly defined approach to their work as I think that can be quite restrictive, constraining and limiting. I like to approach a work by choosing what best suits how to express what I see or feel or want to express.

What is your background?

Most unusual for an artist I’m sure. I grew up in the isolated western plains of Queensland Australia, later moving to the tropical sugar country on the coast. I became a metal tradesman then studied environmental science and applied engineering. This led onto my co-forming a successful new technology business; that was until I allowed my urge to produce artwork take the upper hand.

How long have you been an artist?

Artistic expression always ticked along in the background for some years until it slowly took on a more dominant part of my life about 10 years ago. Along the way I selectively chose short-term specialised courses to build up my skills.

Who or what are your biggest influences?

Some years ago I went on a painting trip into the inland of Australia with the late Clifton Pugh, a significant Australian artist, who was highly encouraging for me. I often reflect upon that experience. I don’t think there has been one artist who I have said “that’s what I am on about!”. It’s more of being significantly influenced by aspects of a series of artists ranging from van Gogh; Hoffman; de Kooning; Fred Williams and others

Where do you create your work?

Right now in my studio in inner London looking out onto and across City Road Basin. I like the sense of space about me and having a separation from the dense urban infrastructure. Before moving to London I had a studio where I lived on the Mornington Peninsula east of Melbourne, looking out onto Port Philip Bay. I have liked doing plein air work but urban London doesn’t draw that urge out in me.

What do you feel is the role of the artist in society?

That’s not an easy question to answer with one idea. I am deeply concerned by what is happening to our world, to our environments; and in this we need to broaden our daily perspectives and how we respond. I feel art probes at different connections to the world about us-from beauty to raw reality-and in doing so it can focus people on different realities. It can bring us back  to ourselves through enhancing sensitivity and reflectivity. I feel an artist’s role is to express their own sensitivity as much as they are able, in the hope it enhances these characteristics in others.

What techniques/mediums do you use?

Various. I use acrylics when I want to express or work quickly. Oils can come on top of acrylic, or from the start, even as washes building up to impasto work. Pigments and textures play a big part in my work.

Any current or up-coming exhibitions?

I have just reached an arrangement with a large apartment block bordering City Road Basin in London, to exhibit my works in the foyer and throughout the public areas. The idea is I can use it as a rotating exhibition of my work. This is a very exciting prospect. I will hang the works in January/February once the building redecorations are complete.

Where do you find your ideas for your work?

Nature mostly. Travel plays a big part in my life. I take photographs and sketch when travelling and bring this information back into the studio and use this as an inspiration. However much of my work comes from what I see on the canvas in front of me. I feel there is an intuitive/visual/imaginative dynamic going on as I explore and respond. I read a great deal and I feel this plays a big part by heightening my social, environmental, cultural and political awareness. I hope some of that comes out in my work.

Is there any artwork you are most proud of?

Probably it would be the first series I did, rather than an individual piece. The series was called ‘The Tree of Knowledge’ and was based around a tree at Barcauldine in western Queensland which we as a family would drive past and reflect upon when I was a kid. It was the tree under which shearers organised ‘The Great Shearers Strike’ in the late 1800’s to protest against appalling work conditions. This event heralded the beginning of better conditions for the working man across the country. Each painting in the series became more and more abstract, until the last was totally abstract.

How do you know when as artwork is finished?

There is no definitive answer to this question either. Sometimes a realisation can come to me and can hit me very quickly and unexpectedly-saying “don’t do anymore. It’s finished”. Other times I have to sit and ponder and analyse until I can see what is required or needed. Then again some paintings can sit for ages. That’s a part of the adventure of painting I think.

Is there an element of art you enjoy working with most? Why?

There is so much in producing/creating a painting: from the bursts of energy; through some often tough indecisive stuff along the way; having to destroy bits that I love; the totally unexpected; the moment when the painting knows where it is going… If I have to say something, it would be the beginning when the first colours or shapes appear on the canvas.

See more of Graham McBride’s work here: www.grahammcbrideart.com

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