2019 : ‘An Interview With Anthony Whishaw, RA’, Bridgeman Images, Artist Of The Month, Aretha Campbell
Anthony Whishaw studied at Chelsea School of Art from 1948 to 1952 (awarded NDD) and the Royal College of Art, London from 1952 to 1955, when he was awarded the ARCA (first class hons), the RCA Travelling Scholarship, an Abbey Minor Scholarship and a Spanish Government Scholarship.
His work deals with explorations of memory and experience. On the edge of representation, varying in intent, scale and depiction, it seeks to reconcile illusion and allusion, the abstract and the figurative, past and present pictorial languages to create unforeseen visual experiences.
Today, Whishaw lives and works in London. Our artist manager, Aretha Campbell, met Whishaw personally in his studio for our interview.
1. What is your earliest memory of an artwork and who was it by?
That's a hard one...I started drawing political cartoons when I was about 16 - I liked their playful nature. Then later when I was at Chelsea College of Art and the Royal College I was very influenced by the Cubist Paintings of Picasso and Braque, as well as Francis Bacon's painting of Pope Innocent X and Velazquez's Las Meninas.
2. Where did you study?
The first part of my life was spent in Brazil where I had no access to art. It wasn't until I came to England aged 9 and I was evacuated to Cornwall that I started drawing and enjoying art at school. I then studied at Chelsea School of Art from 1948 to 1952 and the Royal College of Art, London from 1952 to 1955, when I was awarded the ARCA and several scholarships: the RCA Travelling Scholarship, an Abbey Minor Scholarship and a Spanish Government Scholarship.
3. What is your favourite time of day to be in your studio?
Early in the morning- I get up at 5am. I have 2 studios- one in Kensington, where I also live, and another one in Bethnal Green for my larger paintings. I also like to have a siesta everyday, a hangover from the time when I lived in Spain. I then go back to work.
4. Could you tell me more about the history of your Kensington studio?
The studio was built in the late 1890s when cars didn’t exist but horses did. They were drawn and studied here. In later years the space was used for pottery, sculpture and painting. It was here that my wife, the sculptor Jean Gibson whom I met at the Royal college of Art, worked until we eventually bought the studio together in 1957 after which we shared the space. It was later redesigned by the architect Stephen Gardiner so we could live there with our children.
5. You work in arcylic instead of oil, why is that?
I gave up working in oils at the end of the '60s and had been shaken up by American Abstract Expressionism. I liked how I could work on my canvases on the floor with the quick-drying acrylic paint enabling me to work on multiple paintings at the same time.
6. How did your time living in Spain during the time of Franco effect your work?
My involvement with Spain came from the visual effect of the landscape, the bull fighting and Valasquez's Las Meninas and Goya's Black Paintings...You can see this in my painting Corrida (currently hanging at Tate Britain). It was painted in Madrid during my scholarship there in 1955 and was much inspired by Goya. There is a whole series of works called ‘Pueblos’ that were created during my time living in Anadalucia.
I began The Portrait of Don Pedro Jiminez during this time, and only finished this painting 8 years ago. The influence of Velazquez can be found in my work from the 1980s - this series of work is based on reflections and reverie, doorways, and windows into unknown spaces. Spain has permeated decades of my work, and continues to do so now. I shall be having an exhibition at the Royal Academy of Arts next year which explores the influence of Spain on my work.
7. When were you made an RA?
In 1980 I was made an ARA, and then in 1989 an RA.
8. If you could pick 5 artists, alive or dead to invite for dinner, who would it be?
Goya, Valazquez, Mozart, Bacon, Picasso and Constant Permeke.