21 March 2011

Vincent Hawkins


Can you briefly describe what you do?

I paint and draw with acrylic on canvas, cardboard and paper, and recently have begun making 3 dimensional pieces. I work in an improvisational way, never knowing from the outset how anything will turn out. At the moment I am pursuing a line of enquiry that goes against how I have set about working before.  A little dissatisfied with way the canvas "frames" or "windows", I am becoming more interested in the forms I produce as objects in their own right, bringing them into the immediate environment. It may be more a sculptor's sensibility but I still see it as painting. 

What drives you to make work?

 "What is painting?" would be one answer to that question. I seem to be not able to stop making work. Perhaps it comes out of the fact that it’s an activity on one's own terms, the one thing you might be able to control in life. It doesn't really matter if nobody likes what you do; it’s more the development of a "dialogue" and therein lays its success if that is what is happening, as I see it.

 There is a passage in the catalogue from the Late Braque exhibition that was on at  The Royal Academy at the end of the 90's  which has been quite influential for me; "The painted space can receive everything at once; past, present, future.  It can dilate and unroll into infinitesimal mental convolutions, or, alternatively, it can withdraw into the barest description". It suggests you can approach painting from opposite ends. I thought it was insightful and it appealed to me for its strength of possibilities to explore further. So what were, for me, rather image laden paintings of a couple of years ago, began to change and be more pared back, reducing.... to the point of liberating forms out of the paintings and into the world.

Can you tell me something of your day-to-day working practices?

I am working with primed cardboard boxes, on to which I draw, then cut out forms, and paint with acrylic colour, then pinning them to the studio wall with thumb tacks - adding and subtracting as I go along. This is how a piece develops. I may cut them up and repaint them. Play is part of the process, it’s where you discover through a kind of excavation. I move the forms around and reconfigure them, if needed. It is like drawing with physical forms in order to build structures: A very open and satisfying way of working. I am also looking around for other materials to use so it is not confined to cardboard, only. I enjoy the weights and measures of forms, colours and the different kinds of "energies" in painting, its state of flux, where they haven't committed themselves to description yet.

How long have you been working in that way? 

 The card board pieces have been a recent thing, within the last few months. I had been experimenting with folded drawings, and this has developed out of it. It links back to collage work I was making a few years ago, another part of what seems a continuous cycle of stuff returning having picked up further detritus along the way. There is something of the fragility in the cardboard that appeals. The impermanent, falling away, failing, deteriorating.

Which artists have had the greatest affect on your work?

Richard Diebenkorn, Kurt Schwitters, Guston, Motherwell and Peter Kinley, Roger Hilton, Paul Nash. Titian, Goya. Picasso. Tom Nozkowski, there are many.
There are two paintings in The Picasso Museum in Paris, head studies from 1907, from the time of Les Demoiselles d'Avignon, that have been pivotal by seeing close up. There is evidence in the respective paintings of previous workings, he just re-used the canvases, I suspect, and painted anew over what was there. Whited over and used again. This under-painting, for me acts as a kind of armature onto which the newer forms are attached like a palimpsest . It reminded me of what I enjoyed about collage that it’s possible to still keep what you have seemingly destroyed for further inclusion in the work. Seeing these pieces helped to resolve some technical problems for me, to do with opacity and translucency, of editing and inclusion of motif, what to keep - what to let go of; ideas which I feel I have absorbed as a result. 

What, outside visual art, informs your practice?

Difficult to say as so much is visual. I am not that well read, but I enjoy poetry… it’s something that is helpful to me along with music. Some people have said how they think there is a sense of lyricism and musicality in my work. I do actually enjoy the ballet and modern dance, I find it quite inspirational. I am sure it’s to do with form, rhythm, movement, energy.
How would you like people to engage with your work?

They should bring something of their own experiences to art. I reject having everything worked out for you, pretending there are "answers".
Uncertainty and doubt are painting's life blood. Art is not science, although science may be part of it. It’s the realm of the perceptions and you need different antennae when looking at or "reading" paintings.

 Have you seen anything recently that has made an impression?

 Writer Jeanette Winterson from an article in The Guardian Newspaper in 2002, which I saw only recently - She wrote about Art and its relationship to the corporate world. There are some real goodies in the piece. How these two worlds are diametrically opposed, she said "it may be that capitalism will be as successful with art as it has been with religion, absorbing it to the point of neutrality." 

Do you have anything exciting on the horizon?

 A group show in May which I am looking forward to and I am scheduled to curate a drawing show next February at the Herbert Reed Gallery in Canterbury, all being well! And I have begun a kind of art on paper exchange, swapping art for art, which actually is something else Jeanette Winterson says in the article about the importance of the energy of art for art. If money ceased to exist, people would still make art.


  1. Intriguing and thoughtful interview. Thanks for sharing your process, Vincent.

  2. Really key points raised here about painting and the process of making work, the sense of the throwaway and the re-evaluation of ideas. Thanks and keep it going Vincent and (standard) Interview!

  3. Thanks for this Vincent, I can identify with a lot of what you have said. Its nice when other people put it in words.

  4. I enjoyed this interview very much. I'm always interested in the process of how things are made and what serves as inspiration for the work. I will share it with my painting friends.