Q & A with artistic genius Paul Wright

National Portrait Gallery and BP Portrait prized artist

What are the major themes you pursue in your work? 

I am predominantly interested in the human head. I try to explore new ways to describe each of my subjects, and through this process I hope to present the face in a direct and challenging way. If I am successful, then the final image should walk a line between likeness and abstraction. Inevitably, regardless of my subject, I see them all as a form of self portraiture.

 

What was the best advice given to you as an artist?  

The best piece of advice that I have been given was to be patient. Also, that a life making paintings would be a long game, and that I may not find my voice for many years.

 

Prefer to work with music or in silence? 

I have music on in the studio, although I can’t currently work with words/singing, so it generally has to be classical music. A few months ago I was listening to documentaries and films which seemed to help my concentration, a little like having someone at the back of the room keeping me company. The need for a variety of music has to be tailored to what I am trying to get from each painting.

 

If you could only have one piece of art in your life, what would it be? 

If I can choose two then it would be Door to the River by Willem de Kooning and Cornelis Van Der Geest by Anthony van Dyck. I have always felt that the van Dyck’s portrait is the most compact and intense painting in the National Gallery. It seems to me to be such a complete image; it makes the viewer think about who the sitter was, and the painting has such a sadness that makes us wonder what the artist was thinking and feeling at the time. De Kooning is still my favorite painter, and someone who I always look to for help. There is an incredible integrity within his work and the Door to the River suggests so many things to the viewer. The marks are fluid and direct, and the work has great intensity; each and every mark seems to have a purpose!

 

Who are your favorite writers?

My favourite writers are Primo Levi and Peter Ackroyd amongst others. I have just been reading the Picasso biography by John Richardson. I am mostly interested in biographies and memoirs rather than novels.

June 2, 2021