Entertainment Guyd Danny Hilton talks to handsome Kiwi-Scot Charlie Anderson about his beginnings in Scotland, massive pieces of work, and finishing off.
Hey Charlie, so where are you from and what do you do?
I’m from Scotland. That’s where I’ve lived most of my life, although I was born in New Zealand and grew up all around the world. And there’s as much English blood in me as Scottish. And I’m a painter.
How did you get started?
I went to art school in Edinburgh, but once I graduated I was ready to do pretty much anything else. I ended up getting a job as artist in residence at a college in Edinburgh. For that year I was given studio space in the corner of a sixth-year classroom and free paint, and was left to do whatever I wanted. That freedom really helped me develop my techniques as a painter and my understanding of what it is to be a practicing artist.
Describe your style.
It’s kind of pop, surrealist, photo realistic, urban painting.
Tell us a bit about the process of creating one of your pieces.
I collect a lot of imagery through magazines, flyers, posters, photos, etc. Often I select images as a reference point to where I am at the time as opposed to a conscious decision to use something in particular. I prefer to use images that are easily accessible, trawling through old newspapers, flyers that have been handed to me, facebook, Google, and so on.
Then I start selecting words and images and cutting them out as stencils or burning them onto silk screens and paint them onto canvas. I use loads of house paint to get a smooth surface. I hate the natural texture of canvas showing through in a painting, and find there is a much richer quality to the paint when it’s applied to a thickly primed canvas, as well as making it much easier for the paint to adhere to. It also allows layers of color to be built up and then sanded back, creating a richer surface and allowing more scope for my own expression when creating a painting. Once I’ve painted an image I’ll paint over parts of it with more house paint, then more imagery, and keep going until the composition becomes fragmented and I’ve decided I’ve taken it far enough.
How do you know when it’s finished?
Ultimately, it’s a very personal moment when I make the decision to stop working on a piece. I think that’s one of the most important parts of being a painter, making that decision and saying a painting is complete. That’s when you’re presenting it as a work of art, and it becomes the vehicle for your whole creative process and message. Because my process is spontaneous I often have very little idea how the final painting will look. There just comes a time when I know it’s resolved.
Is there a piece that stands out as your favorite?
I used to have favorites, but every painting I try and make better than the one before. I always have an attachment to the big ones because of the labor that goes into making them. My biggest was 2.4 meters by 18 meters, and I’ll never forget the feeling of being in the studio all those days and nights working on it; there were times I had to repaint sections because my sweat kept smudging the paint.
Who’s your biggest inspiration?
It’s hard to name just one. For art it would have to be Sigmar Polke. He’s the first artist I came across that inspired me to make art. His paintings made me realise you could make a painting of anything and for any reason. I love the way he was uncompromising in his use of images to make paintings. For me, you can see all of life in his art.
Charlie Anderson’s “No one gets out alive” exhibition is at the MILA Kunstgalerie, Berlin, until December 21, 2012. All artwork images copyright Charlie Anderson. Photo copyright Stephen Busken.