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Stuckist Classics
by Joe Machine

When did you do this painting and how long did it take you?
The painting was done in November 2001, over a period of two days. I completed it while working on two other paintings.

What state of mind were you in at the time? Was there anything significant in your outer life contributing to its creation?
I was in the process of moving from the place that I'd lived in for twelve years and the painting was a reaction to this. I wanted to paint someone I had feelings for. It turned out to be my Grandfather.

What did you paint it on?
Two old wooden boards that I found somewhere. I nailed them together at the back.

Why did you use this, as it has an obvious join in the middle? Is it a rejection of precious 'fine art' values?
I tend to use whatever Ive got to hand. It wasnt a conscious decision. I just did it.

Could you tell us about your relationship with your Grandfather?
I loved him and feared him. He was a fighter and a man of violence. Boxing and violence
was his life. Having said that, my Grandfather was always very kind to me, I was his favourite Grandson. I loved him fiercely.

He seems iron-willed yet also with a degree of fear and in the defensive role seeing off an attacker. Is this how you see him, or, if not, how?
I think that he certainly felt fear when he was fighting. All conflicts must involve the element of fear. If fear isn't present, it's a sign that something is seriously wrong. My memories of my Grandfather allow him to be vulnerable as well as strong.

How much is his character also a part of you?
Very little, although I have found myself in similar situations, both of us have been on the run from the police, both of us grew up around violence. My way of handling this is different from his.

What are your experiences and views on violence (this is obviously a painting which shows a violent confrontation)?
Violence is always ugly, but sometimes necessary. It would be unrealisitic not to acknowledge this. Violence is intrinsic within my family and I've always loathed it. Whenever people think of violence they usually mean the physical kind, it doesnt have to be like that. We are all violent people inside, its a question of how to express it.

A lot of your work shows the dark side of life. Does painting it, perpetuate it or exorcise it?
It's not possible to exorcise your shadow without denying or killing part of yourself. You'd be a mug to do that. Painting should be illustrations of a personal struggle, an attempt by the artist to embrace himself/herself and come to terms with previous behaviour in a way that shows understanding of the self and empathy with subject matter.

If it has a beneficial effect for you, how do you think it will affect others?
Embracing the shadow is not easy. Not everyone is comfortable being faced with behavioural analysis within art. If my work instigates some kind of self confrontation on my own behalf and from the perspective of the observer, then that's a good result. The artist must challenge himself, the observer must do the same.

When you've finished a painting, is it something valuable for you as an object or has the main value of it passed?
A painting is always valuable to me. Anything which evokes feeling has value.

What are your influences on your ideas?
Fear has influenced me the most. My attempts to understand my own fear and the effects of fear upon my behaviour.

What are your influences on your way of painting? How did you evolve your technique and style?
I have very few artistic influences. I dislike galleries and the hollow materialistic aspirations of conventionalism within art. As far as technique goes, when I did my first paintings, I couldn't afford to buy too many colours, so I bought what was necessary and mixed them together to get the colours I wanted. I also watered down alot of paint. Things havent changed much. I'm still painting the same way I did fifteen years ago.

Could you explain your method in this painting? It seems to involve some glazing.
Painting like this was done mainly to save paint, but has ended up as a technique useful for shading and creating shadows and tones. I went through a phase of using acrylic varnish on some of my work, but I got fed up with it. Some of my acrylic paintings look like they are done in oils. I dont know how that happened.

You use a very limited palette. What colours are in it and how did you arrive at them?
I usually use red, yellow, brown, blue, black and white. Again, because I couldn't afford to buy more varied colours, but in the end I didn't need the extra stuff. Anything you can't make out of this isnt really worth having in a painting.

A lot of people have been impressed by this particular painting. Do you think there was anything that you put into this that was different to other paintings?
No, Its a painting about how I saw my Grandfather, and how I still see him. It deals more with the fear of him than anything else.

Would you be happy if this painting became the one that symbolised your art?
It's certainly a very important piece for me painted at a difficult time. If people remember this painting when they think of my work, then Im very happy about that.

Have you done other paintings of your grandfather, and do you plan any more of him?
There are several other paintings of my Grandfather, I did them at different times in my life, but mostly in the same style. To date "My Grandfather will fight you" is one of the two paintings in a fighting style. The others concern my memories of him as a Romany and as a Grandfather. I constanly revisit my past when painting, revisiting the subject of my Grandfather and my relationship with him is inevitable.

More paintings by Joe Machine and biog here