Potter and teacher turned painter Mick Cartwright is an abstract painter who uses a technique of collage – layering torn, coloured paper onto painted backgrounds using paper stencils to define the more significant shapes. He is interested in exploring ideas about the ambiguity and illusion of suggested depth on the flat surface of paintings. This has led him to combine ideas about colour, pattern and surface with autobiographically inspired shapes into ever larger compositions on canvas or linen. He tells us more
I don’t think it suddenly dawned on me that a new career as a painter beckoned, there were a lot of circumstances that contributed to my decision over a considerable passage of time.
The most significant was returning to study on a part-time Fine Art IMP programme at Exeter College of Art and Design with John Danvers the painter, as tutor. I’ve always maintained both a professional and personal interest in contemporary art and the opportunity to examine, through discussion, the development of modern art on a more critical/intellectual level was highly interesting and inspirational. Basically it made me believe ‘anything is possible’.
I have always drawn and made images of one form or another.
When I was a potter I worked in the ‘traditional revivalist’ ie Leach style (I worked at St Ives for two years), but eventually concluded that I was essentially a skilful craftsman rather than an imaginative designer.
As a painter I still admire traditional painting skills and never cease to be amazed at how many highly competent, traditional artists still maintain a livelihood producing art that, intellectually at least remains unchanged since that of the late 19th and early 20th century.
I still make traditional drawings and paintings, they are part of who I am, but they do not challenge me creatively or intellectually and are almost a secret vice.
My current work has evolved quite organically from experimental processes related to landscape themes using torn, coloured paper stuck down and worked onto with further applications of paint producing ‘impressionistic’ images. I became somewhat obsessed with the process itself and the effects of layering colours and torn rather than cut or painted edges. Unlike my previous practise of making images in direct response to observation I now make images based on thoughts and process.
The subject has become the ‘idea’ of actually making a painting. I didn’t think much at all when I made a pot, it was purely a series of pragmatic decisions. I now think more than I paint – ‘what shapes fit where?’, ‘what colour/s work?’, ‘where do I go with the next painting?’ My process is rather painstaking, tearing and cutting sometimes tiny pieces of paper on quite a large scale so I have quite a lot of time to think. Pot making for me was constant physical rather than mental engagement.
One of your hardest questions is about the art I most identify with. I love all art sometimes without much discernment or critical analysis. I have an odd romantic attachment to 1950s London artists. David Hockney stated his desire to escape the dull austerity of the post war London art scene for the light and colour of West Coast America whereas I love the greys and drab reds and yellows associated with this time and place. Michael Andrews, Patrick George and Frank Aubarch are particular favourites.
My work has been influenced by Bridget Riley, Sean Scully and Gilbert and George (paintings) along with the work of Fiona Rae and Agnes Martin. I think Pop artists in particular are fascinated by and play with the power of artifice. The illusion of representation is embedded in the very nature of painting however Bridget Riley’s work, in particular, successfully and creatively examines the phenomenon of visual illusion.
My most recent work has an autobiographical theme and representational shapes have crept into the compositions thus opening up a whole new field of possibilities. The work can appear quite formal and pre conceived whereas in reality I begin with only a small seed of an idea and the work grows as a sequence of very spontaneous and intuitive decisions. Just like opening a pottery kiln I need to be surprised by the finished piece.
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