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Interviews

Kevin Sinnott Interview



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Welsh painter Kevin Sinnott is one of Britain’s leading figurative artists. His latest exhibition is at Martin Tinney Gallery this October.

This is your eighth solo show at Martin Tinney Gallery. Is there a particular theme running through these new paintings?

It's been 32 months since my last exhibition and as a result there has been more than one theme that has preoccupied me. One of the earlier themes was the coastline of the Vale of Glamorgan. During the summer of 2010, in both morning and evening light, I would drive to Southerndown and park, climb a little, set myself up, maybe tweet my arrival, and enter a zone of at once ecstasy and intimidation. At a later stage, back in the studio, figures would be added and large paintings planned. However, before a series of paintings had taken shape and anything much resolved I was distracted because of a family involvement in the fashion world I have been attending London Fashion Week for a couple of years.

Now a fashion show lasts no more than 20 minutes. It is intensely and uncompromisingly beautiful, and while the London 'fine art' world has more or less abandoned any aesthetic criteria, very exciting. It was still in my head while back home in the Garw when I saw a very glamorous mother with a baby on hip in Pontycymmer Co-op. A body of improvised drawings and oil sketches quickly took shape of super model mums, and the Vale Coast series had to wait. These then are the two vying themes in my current show.

You didn’t grow up in an artistic home. Where and when did your passion for painting begin?

Oh, at home. I was drawing all the time. I just didn't know it was art. You're right; it wasn't a particularly artistic home, but very lively with lots of debate and argument.

At what point in your life did you want to become a painter?

Once I had left school with no qualifications, I was fifteen and I started to dread my future. Youth clubs in conjunction with the LEAs were very active in South Wales at the time and for a while they offered art and music classes. You could meet interested characters that blew in. I think I must have started thinking about "becoming" a painter around then.

Do you ever question your ability as an artist?

Not my ability, but that's just a mechanical thing. I question the importance and role of painting and my contribution to a changing scene.

You once said that as an artist you only had so many good paintings in you. How many do you feel you have felt?

I always feel the last painting is the best and the last. Whether there are anymore where that came from is to do with the process I have of mining images out of the depth of my subconscious. I have been lucky in the past when the seam has been a rich one. I think the seams will always be there, but whether I will get too tired to find or mine them is the question.

You’ve been back living in Wales for over fifteen years. How do you think your work would differ if you were still living in London?

A fascinating question, but impossible to answer. Certain themes might well have sustained and there was a seamless transition initially with the 'Beach" and 'Fallen Men' paintings which were gathered together to make up the show 'Shore Lines' - my first exhibition in London after returning to Wales. Then again, I could never have come up to the surface with "Running Away with the Hairdresser", "Lost Romantic" and "Into the Future", if I hadn't left London.

Do you think the contemporary arts scene in Wales is publicised enough? How can we improve its exposure?

A major advance in the promotion of art in Wales has just taken place by the opening of the new wing in the National Museum and in which a good representation of home grown artists can be seen in a serious light and not just as the favourites of a handful of celebrities in our tabloid only press. Generally the use of popular celebrities to promote serious art should be kept to a minimum, as indeed we see in 'Cardiff Singer of the World'.

How do we keep the arts flourishing in a time of austerity?

The arts will always flourish in times of austerity: my most precious paintings were made while I was a postman.

What do you like to do when you're away from the canvas?

That's another tough one: my favourite room in the house is my studio. The grandchildren, cinema, opera, pop, ballet, fashion, restaurants, walking, social-networking, travel and my kindle.

You’re a big rugby fan. How have you been coping with the early mornings watching the Rugby World Cup in New Zealand? Any predictions on how far you think Wales will progress in the tournament?

I actually like the early mornings. It means you can get your sport's viewing in before the working day has started. It is beginning to dawn that it doesn't need a miracle for Wales to beat the Southern Hemisphere sides. It's still a mighty task and, no doubt, the rub of the green and a bit of luck wouldn't go a miss, but with our confidence inspired instinctive flair, it is far from vain to say we could win it. A betting friend of mine in the Valley stands to win a fortune on a bet too complicated for me to understand.

Michael Took was asking the questions.