Michael Simpson: Odyssey of a Painter
“I’ll tell you what I did feel when I was a younger man: I felt kind of sexy. It has something to do with the sensuality of painting.” British Michael Simpson invited us into his studio space, where he shared the story of his journey as a painter.
“It was like a cultural backwater, where I lived. There wasn’t even a book in the house … The family was in a sense culturally impoverished.” Simpson grew up alone with his mother, and when his uncle took him to his first football match at the age of seven, what caught Simpson’s attention was not the game but the colours and shapes: “From that point on I drew and painted … That was how I began to work with painting, and it didn’t stop. It just grew in intensity, and that’s how I began my odyssey as a painter.”
“When you look at a painting the first thing you must see is the painting itself and then the image later. If that happens then the painting is half-way to working.” Simpson feels that a painting must always “move beyond its subject,” and hence the mechanics of a painting – such as the use of colour and the creation of the form – is crucial: “It’s like constructing a building.” Moreover, he finds that the term ‘art’ is quite worn out: “I don’t think that painters ever think about art, when they make a serious painting. What they’re doing is solving a problem, or problems.”
Michael Simpson (b. 1940) is a British painter. He has been working on a series of large-scale paintings relating to the same atheist theme since 1989: ‘Bench paintings’. Although this work – which originates in his intense interest in the infamy of religious history and in particular to the renegade medieval philosopher Giordano Bruno – is contemporary, its main influences originate from 15th century Venetian and early Flemish painting. Simpson’s first solo show was at Piccadilly Gallery in 1964, and he has since exhibited continuously including solo shows at Arnolfini in Bristol, David Risley Gallery in Copenhagen and Serpentine Gallery in London. He lives and works in Bradford-on-Avon, Wiltshire in England.
Michael Simpson was interviewed by Roxanne Bagheshirin Lærkesen in his studio space – a former gasworks – and also filmed at Spike Island – an international centre for the development of contemporary art and design – in England, February 2016. Please note that the painting shown in the background in Simpson’s studio is an unfinished work by the painter.
Camera: Kyle Stevenson
Produced and edited by: Roxanne Bagheshirin Lærkesen
Cover photo: ‘Leper Squint’ (16), 2014, by Michael Simpson
Copyright: Louisiana Channel, Louisiana Museum of Modern Art, 2016
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