Interview of Stephen Hornsby-Smith by Glane Cadallovic of the Sporting Listener
G- I want to ask you about a departure for you by the use of your own imagery transferred to a Canvas Print.. SP- This won't be one of 'those' interviews will it? These Prints are only a small but recent part of all of my work over the past 30 years! G- So why do Prints feature so highly in the exhibition in Chichester in the Oxmarket in early June? SP- Thanks for the plug by the way. But I'm not so dogmatic or sectarian about these Prints because I want to explore Acrylic paint on the widest media and the widest subject matter/image repertoire. So where better to start but to remove the mask of about the 'production alienation of Prints? Now because I'm using material sometimes since the 1980's, they give me the opportunity to challenge my Oil based beginnings as a Painter. I'm not short-changing the viewer I'm short-circuiting the deterministic barrier that separates the original from the Print, if, crucially if i can say something fresh by movement away from the original; this new narrative occupies the ghost of the original but transforms it into something that I have done positively to both enfranchise the original by affording an original take on it. G- But you mentioned the airbrushing SP- I did no such thing G-..Doesn't that value judgement mean you are creating a new format for 'ones better than the other? Aren't you being elitist where your claims to narrow the gap between the audience and the Artist is just empty of evidence to support that argument? SP- Normally journos say I'm trivializing or making spurious claims that are just superficial? G- Would you ever consider making Prints of acrylic Paintings into Oil Paintings via this elaborate photocopying of your original work? SP-Of course! But let's just be clear about this, I'm remaining with the Paint and collaborating with my previous self rather than this process being an elaborate Photocopy. This is my turf not anybody elses! G- You've often insulted the fashion industry as the 'goon squad ' of sophistry and sloppy indulgence, do you now accept that such medias used by Designers resent having to be universally commercial just as much as you do? SP- Frankly I welcome any venture that doesn't depend on being universally respectable, but I especially identify with sculptors' ability to make a mould and use it for the exact same sculpture multiple times over. You journo's often forget that in your take on me transforming not great relicas( often dull, inaccurate or blurred images) into valuable assets with an integrity of their own, is showing me the way forward, that doesn't rely on having to sell the unfortunate 'artistic orphans' to the lowest or highest bidder! I can always keep the original but I can service, maintain or develop the consequence of having an original to rework. It is undoubtedly an advantage as the very least, whilst offering a new departure from my own work. G- Has there been a new 'eureka ' moment over this 'media dodging' rather than keep Painting for the Purists? SP-I see transformation not regression, I see positivity not negativity! Look, W.H.Auden constantly changed and refreshed all his poetry well after they had been published, I'm trying out a new project that I think could widen my appeal as a Painter if not commercially so. G- Is this switch offering issues of authenticity and ownership here? SP- Absolutely,all I'm seeking to achieve is to boil the bones of a carcus and engage not just ideas of what is authentic,what is ownership but also what is the nature of identity? This is also not a 'revenge' on the more contemporary media, and this is not me needing to re-evaluate my' childhood unresolved trauma issues' that don't exist; and don't forget the trauma of 'not having a trauma' either! G- So which is the original, the original or the new narrative? SP-Look I'm trying to evade a limiting palette, and have found this process of mutual access upgrades both as sources and as mutually supportive upgrade of this particular convergence. It's also great to compete with the early 20's me, and recall the angry hostility to low-brow forms of Art History analysis. Today it is 'bloodshed' tomorrow it could be 'resistance'? Why not? G-But aren't you removing the scars of battle brushwork, a labotomy of the soul not a symbiosis or an aggregation of all that is the sum of! SP- Is there ever any easy way to make Art without personal sacrifice? G- But this is an easy way to produce work? SP- Or the hardest to justify?
Sp- I grant you that you always have to hold your breathe that you don't cock-it-up with all work. It still becomes very planned, but mostly I'll go all Ad Lib with Painting G- All very impressive when you explain it like this, but this needs an explanation to the viewer, which destroys the whole overall message you are trying to bring to your audience,doesn't it/ SP- Sometimes Painter's are the only Artist's who don't give a formalistic journey full of testimony etc I feel that I shouldn't have to justify myself, but I know that there are a number of Journo's who deliberately miss my work because I'll put up a form based fight against intellectual sophistry from the factories of the Art world. Lets face it , the Art world does have an in-built system to protectionistically remove the competition much like your editor then your big boss on site and then there's the owner of your paper to convince you that if you come up with something they don't like( and there are at least 3 to 4 layers of censorship) you will be assigned to cover an opening of a new ice-cream parlour. It is called demotion, and it exists in all of life, even the 'low-life' of Art. G- Are you resigned to being poor? Wouldn't you like to have wealth and a life of ease? SP- I'm too old to know how to enjoy wealth, and I'm too long in the tooth to find out. But I respect all those who can, either through the learning process or through natural inclination. Why Not? G- But still? SP-I'm not looking for trouble, being a contemporary Painter is struggle enough for me G-I notice you've had an exhibition in the David Shepherd Wildlife Gallery(R.I.P David!) , do you see yourself an endangered species yourself? SP-Hey! I'm no caged Tiger, but I do empathize with not having the freedom to roam. G- Do you think you should have been born in a different culture or a different era? SP-I miss both Barcelona and San Francisco, where I once worked. But would that have helped my progress? I'm not running, and I'm not on the run, but I am running out of time G-For you it is an act of will that drives you on, but is there are political element too? SP- Am I tired of answering this question! My parents and siblings see me as a political traitor to their quasi socialism, but they know that I'm a maverick and they support me over all that I do, knowing that I'll bring change where ever I end up! For them change is good, and that is how they can survive my take on life. Well more or less!
G- Did you intend being a lone wolf?
SP- I like people but I like some people more than others. But it is the 'political question' once again. Politics for me is a fixation because of not having control over one's life, and it must be so exhausting having to bare that imaginary debt, that sword of Damacles over you. Me? I'm happy in my own skin and I like what I do that gives me the control I need to enjoy freedom. But I still ask myself questions about 'corruption' and how easily it can spread like a virus;as a rule of thum anybody who muscles-in on someone is corrupt, I don't care what ideology they have. But I'm a graduate of the 1980s where there were no real role models for a bloke, but I find myself just as angry about Left wing corruption as I have done about right-wing. But it is quite isolating being a critic of all ideological corruption when most stop short of their political project, and feel outraged by any one impugning their political purity!
G- So how do you communicate this double-standard?
SP- Thanks for the leading question. Actually as you might have guessed, through my work as an independent Painter, and the demands of being a Painter mainly on canvas but without any classical training, without any background in Art, and without any taint or 'request' from galleries etc to edit my work. I don't slam anyone, I contribute to the debate. Art is a debate, the debate, and the only one worth having if you are interested inoriginal image making.
G- Does this afford you the distance to see objectivity in Art and other matters(namely politics)?
SP- Yes, it also makes clear that as a Painter I'm not in it for the prestige and money, because this finite medium is so unpopular to the industry that passes on its prejudice.
G- Are you not frustrated with this over reaction?
SP- I would call it a compliment! Painting however isn't an antique and it is not a poison either. I just find it odd that so many Artists get them selves involved with the 'Art reality TV' that accompanies the 'great band wagon of Art'. Why is that necessary? All pleasure's and wonders of life shouldn't be circulating around us ,they should be a part of us. We should relish them not endure them? I won't tell people how to live their lives, but I will ask questions when harm is being done.
G- When do you draw the 'moral line' then?
SP- You have to have a cut -off point where you take notice and fair warning of that green light turning to red!
G- I'm assuming that there is no amber or orange for you in Art? So what is your particular cut-off point?
SP- My cut-off point is the same over thelast 30 years of Painting -I define my theoretical and practical limits by the finite nature of the boundaries I paint on. This is both symbolic for the medium and a register for my own pitch that I express life from. I rarely deviate from a combination of abstract and figurative in my Paintings.
G- So both in terms of form and image-creating and a very wide selection of subject-matter that you use gives you your boundaries?
Sp- Not just in terms of landscape but in terms of figure's etc that impinge on me at any given time.
G- Aren't you in danger of burying yourself away in your own work? I mean most Artists want to shout and bellow out screaming about their work, but aren't you just whispering?
SP Some of the best dialogue in some of the best ever flicks from all over the world are absolutely made special by whispers and chance intimacy; why would I want to scream when I can get close-up to express the most valued of emotions that humans can aspire to?