It's a Manchester thing...

May 2013: Interview given by Stephen Riley for Arts in Britain

Answering a series of questions on my work and motivations...
Was contacted by Stuart Russell, who is an artist, photographer and writer ( - this link may now be closed. see interview below). He's putting together a project and asked me a few questions for that. These are they, with my answers:

Circles seem to play a key role throughout your work, why are they so significant to you?
There are many ways of approaching this. For one thing, I’m a fan of Robert Ryman. I love that idea of setting up a question or force-growing ideas through the exploration of a simple set of possibilities; in his case, white paint and/or surfaces, with little else. He got white; I got the circle. It’s also a response to art history and the question of what one can do with so much already done; what should one paint, and how? The circle, therefore, became a site for exploration; a place where I can do anything, but where integration takes place through the repetition of the same shape, regardless of what’s in it.

What influences your creativity?
Things I see; sometimes unimportant things; things dreamt or half remembered; unexplained arrivals in half-sleep; backgrounds.... Architectural space and surfaces seem to matter a lot. But often the source is something I've already done but might have done differently: one piece of work suggests another.

Is your work personal or universal?
Both, I guess. I do it because I want to, but I can’t escape the world and what’s in it, and nothing I do can escape connotations known to everyone else.

Do you like chaos or complete calm when you are creating?
Calm. I need peace and quiet. Noise drives me crazy.

In three words, what is art to you?
Can’t – answer – that! (at least, not in three words). If you want more, it's what separates us from the animals; it's what separates us from the need to do useful things; things that matter or earn money. Art's usefulness is its uselessness, because that gives us freedom.