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An Interview with the Artist Euan Roberts
August 25, 2017
Euan Roberts is a London based artist whose figurative paintings and illustrations have been recently causing on a stir on the capital’s art scene. Full of dynamism and punching with spirit, his works reference youth culture, personal experience, and a fight for free expression. Motifs of skulls, palm trees, boxing gloves and cacti speak of a style inherited from multi-cultural surroundings and create works that feel like modern day Jean Michel-Basquiat paintings. Their naïve style expresses confidence, wit and guts. Originally from Brighton, Euan has been working in London for several years and recently took part in Lawrence Alkin Gallery’s summer show MIX. Candid Magazine’s art editor Harry Seymour sat down with Euan to discuss his work.
Harry Seymour: How did you get started as an artist
Euan Roberts: My earliest memory as an artist was drawing on the underside of our kitchen table and my mum telling me off. As no one could see it they just left it there. Also when I was eleven I was caught by the police and taken home for drawing a camel in a hot air balloon on a wall in our local park. My graffiti career was short lived.
HS: Did you study to become an artist?
ER: I studied Illustration at Manchester School of Art but didn’t begin painting until a few years later living in London. I’m completely self-taught as a painter.
HS: Where does your inspiration come from?
ER: I’m inspired by the world around me. The people and history of Soho influenced a lot of the early paintings. For nearly two years I lived in a guardian property on Greek Street so lots of the inhabitants and visitors in that square mile worked their way into the pictures. I try to distil everything I see onto the canvas. I think it’s important to work for inspiration as an artist so I try and soak up as much varied information as possible.
HS: So you work is autobiographical?
ER: There is certainly a lot of personal stuff in the paintings. I have Bajan and Scottish heritage, so I guess being a product of a cultural mix plays out in the work. I think black people get under represented in a lot of Western Art, so I’m very conscious about that in my paintings. I’m also really obsessed with branding; Nike ticks and Stone Island patches crop up a lot. I find it fascinating how people can react and treat others differently because of these little things. I see these brands as graphic devices to use, a kind of short hand form of communication to the viewer to make them think about the people they’re looking at.
HS: What artists do you look up to?
ER: Henry Taylor, Gauguin, Sarah Lucas, Bäst, Danny Fox, Phillip Guston, Daisy Parris, Laurie Vincent, Hetty Douglas, Turner, Wes Lang, Misaki Kawai, Bacon, Cy Twombly, Basquiat, Grayson Perry, Dan Baldwin, Erin Riley, Pablo Malik, Mile Khan and Rhys Brown. Anyone doing it for the sheer love of it.
HS: Where did your love of colour come from?
ER: When I was doing illustration my work was quite tight and always monochrome so I think the colour now comes from it being blocked back then. I was never sure how to naturally add colour to my drawings so when I started painting it was just a case of mixing colours that I liked and getting them down on the canvas. I’m obsessed with colour now.
HS: What’s an average day like in your studio?
ER: I tend to work in short bursts of intense activity. I rarely returned to a picture outside of its original session. I think you lose some of the magic. I remember reading somewhere that making good art is like sculpting melted wax, as time goes on and it cools it becomes brittle and less malleable. So I tend to strike quickly and move on. I put some music on and just move my hands until I laugh or cry, or sometime both, then rinse and repeat.
HS: What would you like people to take away from your work?
ER: I just want people to feel something. They could love or hate it; I’d rather have the polarities than make “nice” pictures. Paintings are pretty ill equipped to compete with peoples diminishing attention spans, so I’m happy to have people really look at the work in the flesh. Of course people buying my paintings is a beautiful thing, it’s cheesy as hell but they’ll have a bit of me, that moment and I love the idea of this thing that I’ve made going on a journey.
HS: What’s been your biggest accomplishment to date?
ER: I sold a painting to an artist I really admire, that was a great feeling.
HS: And what have you got planned for the future?
ER: I’ve got designs on so much stuff but I think it’s important not to get carried away. There are a couple of prints in the process of getting done, which I’m really excited about. I’ve been working a lot with collages that will inform new paintings. I want to try my hand at ceramics too and I’ve co-written a children’s book so I’ll illustrating that.
HS: What challenges do you think face artists these days?
ER: I think actually being able to survive and make work is a huge challenge. Living in places like London can be so difficult financially, so having the time, space and energy to pursue the uphill battle can seem quite daunting. But at the same time artists in the past have managed to manifest work during really tough times so I think it’s important to use these challenges to fuel the creative fire.
HS: Are there any exhibitions you have you enjoyed recently?
ER: I really enjoyed seeing Laurie Vincent’s exhibition with Loose London. There’s this generation of artists who are getting recognition through Instagram of which I guess I am a part of and forming these new networks of creativity. For me it’s great and also really important to see their work in the flesh away from the 0’s and 1’s of the ‘gram. Laurie had some really subtle, small works on paper hung with barbed wire that looked brilliant alongside these huge colourful canvases.
Follow Euan Roberts on Instgram here