Question & Answers with Tim Bradford

This weeks Q&A is with London-based artist Tim Bradford. We love his striking paintings and unique style. His work has become known to combine his regular motifs, the connecting and merging of maps, and the beauty of the mundane; beautifully addressing memories and our underlying reasons and values for preserving them. A selection of his work will be exhibited at the Norden Farm Gallery as part of our "Can You See What I See" exhibition.

SG: Where do you get your inspiration from?
TB:On a conscious level it's early childhood memories, fleeting feelings I get while walking in the countryside, recollections of old films and TV programmes. I suppose I'm always trying to tie together the seemingly contradictory feelings of the joy of life and the underlying sadness of times, things or people that are gone.  Over the years I've been continued to be influenced by: Holy well decorationsm Egyptian funerary portraits, Venezuelan rustic art, African barbershop signs, religious icons, surf T-shirts, football cards, crap signs, those blue photos you get in old shop windows.

 SG: Which artists do you admire?
TB: One of my favourite artists is Reg Mombassa, who for many years made great art for the Mambo T-shirt line. I'm a big fan of Grayson Perry's map-based stuff. I've only recently become aware of the work of Pauline Boty, a 60s pop artist - it's amazing stuff. Then there's Cy Twombly, William Blake, Terry Gilliam, Mark Rothko, Frida Kahlo, Jack B. Yeats, Jean-Michel Basquiat. As a teenager I was mad about Picasso, of course.

SG: Can you talk about your ideas and how they evolve?
TB: I'm always working with the tension of painting instinctively while also working within a series of filters -  so I might for example want to recreate the pop-artesque nostalgic feeling of old football bubblegum cards but through a filter of Roman-Egyptian death portraits or African signage art. It’s not about trying to be clever but attempting to explain how old memories can become sacred and enhanced spiritual snapshots.

 SG: How would you describe your work?
TB: I have described it as new wave wang-eyed pop folk art. It sounds like I'm joking but it's quite accurate. The wang-eyed bit refers to the detached retina I had in my left eye. I had an operation  on it a decade ago but since then everything is slightly distorted when I look through that eye. The new wave bit refers to my punk aesthetic of not liking long guitar solos… the visual version would be dry academic style art. Folk art is like punk in a lot of ways - it cuts through to the truth behind the feeling.

 SG: What is a ‘typical’ workday for you like?
TB: There is no typical day. I work in various fields and so can be spending time on a range of things. Interestingly (well, it is to me) I often wrtie about what I want to paint and sketch and doodle what I want to write about. But walking, sketching, writing, drinking lots of coffee. If it's a 'studio' day then I'm in a focused state because time is short.

SG: Is there a specific theme or concept you keep in all of your work or does it change with each series?TB: It's often to do with lost things - lost love, lost landscapes, lost ways of life, lost gods, lost belief that we can change the world for the better. I want there to be a story behind even the most seemingly abstract set of lines or blocks of colour. I have various ongoing projects - the Irrational Portrait Gallery, the Museum of Reconstituted Charity Shop Art, The Patchwork Landscape, The  Botanic Transcendental - the series are inspired by walks I have made over the last few years through the limestone fields in the west of Ireland, across the windswept flatlands of my home county of Lincolnshire, around the cracked pavements near my North London home. This is zen psychogeography, a nature-rooted stance influenced by the poetry of Patrick Kavanagh, William Blake and Spike Milligan and the great Zen poets such as Basho. If they are 'about' anything, the flower paintings are a way of expressing the enduring nature of love and the heartbreaking shortness of life. They become conduits for our spirituality and dreams,  a way of entering another world -  inside ourselves. And for the Patchwork Landscape paintings  I have moved more towards trying to understand the geometric patterns, the borders and atmospheres of particular ‘views’. My current approach is to see the landscape for the perspective of Australian native art, a sacred dreamscape viewed from above. 

SG: Tell us about the materials and techniques of your latest work. Is there a specific process and set up for creating your paintings?
TB: Initially I make watercolour sketches covered with notes, then quickly work up a composition on canvas. I underpaint with acrylics, using my hands and fingers, usually in a mix of yellow, crimson and gold then work quickly over the top and scratch away details and (sometimes) words. 

 SG: Are you a part of any artists groups or organisations that have been beneficial (to your work in general or career as an artist)?
TB: I'm not part of any scene. However, I did get a lot of support from the Ennistymon artists' group when I lived in the west of Ireland. I've also been a member of AIR for quite a long time and also in the Artists' Web.

SG: If you could own one work of art what would it be?
TB: One of the paintings from the Rothko Chapel, Houston.