What is your earliest memory of making art?
At the age of four I can remember drawing battleships with guns bristling all over. I thought with so many guns they would be very good at fighting other ships. I could never hurt anything larger than an ant, true violence has always sickened me. Nonetheless, I had the best complement of toy guns and soldiers in the neighbourhood.
The first painting I can remember (which I still have somewhere) is a portrait I painted at the age of five. It was of the boy sitting next to me at school. His name was Howard. Everyone in the class was given the task of painting a friend and all the other kids painted full length pictures. They laughed at mine because I only painted Howard’s head and shoulders. I told them that was what proper portraits looked like but they disagreed. To them, it had to be all of the figure. I had painted him in profile and I can remember trying to capture the curve of his upper lip. I knew it was about analytical observation for me… even though I wouldn’t have understood those words. I am still proud of that painting.
Do you listen to music when you are creating works? If so, what is on high rotation?
I always have music on in the studio. My tastes are very varied. Some days I play predominantly classical, on others it could be reggae, jazz, world or even House. I play a lot of minimalist music from Steve Reich to The Necks, but then again I recently had a thing for Duffy, she has such a nostalgic 60′s feel and a good voice.
When preparing for your last exhibition, did you create works around a theme or did the links between the works reveal themselves later on?
Both. I started with a theme, well more a feeling, but when I had all the works under way I realised there was this other narrative about gravity and flight. In every work there is some reference to flight or weightlessness yet the bodies are not ethereal but material with both weight and substance.
Describe the space in which you create your works (studio, lounge room etc):
I paint in a very large light space surrounded by collections of stuff. There are dusty shelves loaded with things I’ve found interesting…from bird skulls and wings to tea cups and spoons. On the other hand the creative process itself is an ongoing process with me… it happens wherever I am while thinking or imagining. I don’t think there are many bits of time where it is actually asleep.
Do you have a favourite piece or favourite pieces? If so, which piece/s and why?
In any exhibition there are usually a few that are more successful for me. These works feel to me like I’ve gotten to grips with some problem or other and cracked it, but that doesn’t mean they are my best works. I have noticed over the years that the works that endure and grow are frequently other works. In other words, I think artists are just a part of the process and only partially in touch with what is going on.
Left: James Guppy, ‘Clothed in Clouds’ 2006, acrylic on linen, 180 x 180cm
Centre: James Guppy, ‘Death and the Maiden’ 2010, acrylic on linen, 183 x 122cm
Right: James Guppy, ‘Judith Reminiscing’ 2008, acrylic on linen, 106.5 x 71cm
What has been, for you, a defining moment in your career as an artist?
I don’t know really. I guess there have been a few. Perhaps they equate with moments when I felt there was some outside impetus given to my art making….being given my first mural commission in 1974, being given my first solo exhibition in 1989. Both were times when another person gave me a chance, an opportunity, to fly.
What did you eat for breakfast?
Lava bread and bacon