Ian Grose is an artist living and working in Cape Town, whose paintings fall under the genres of portraiture, interiors, still life and landscape. After majoring in English and Art History, Grose completed his post-graduate diploma in painting at the Michaelis School of Fine Art. He had his first solo exhibition at Blank Projects in 2011, the same year that he was awarded the Absa l’Atelier prize. Grose understands himself as a ‘translator of visual material’ – he explores our interpretation of pictures by reconstructing and manipulating existing imagery.
When did you come to the realisation that being an artist was something you wanted to, and could, become?
The initial desire was there since high school, although to be honest that probably had more to do with an image of myself than a real fascination, which developed gradually. As for when it seemed likely I could make a career out of painting, that came somewhere around the end of 2010, when I put up my first body of work and felt I’d made something significant.
How have you gone about pursuing this?
First I spent a few years learning about painting and art history, then I met some practising artists and tried to learn about contemporary art whilst assisting them. Then I took a year at art school trying to apply what I’d learnt to develop a voice. Needless to say I’m still learning.
When people ask you what you “do”, how do you answer?
I say I’m a painter.
What are some of the things, past and present, that influence you?
Tricky question. Apart from a variety of artists from throughout history, I think I’m often influenced by a sensibility that isn’t necessarily confined to my particular medium, or even to art. So I could include a few friends and teachers, lots of writers, cinema, music, a small handful of art writers and theorists. The things that have shaped the way I look at work have inevitably influenced how I make it, and that list is very long. But influence is funny, it often goes under the radar.
What themes seem to occur/reoccur in your work?
Reproduction, the everyday, paradox, self-reflexivity.
What mediums do you work with?
Oil paint. Photography forms a cornerstone of my practice and thinking, although I never exhibit photos.
In what ways have you gained clarity about yourself as an artist and the paintings you make since you began?
I’ve learnt what it means to be honest and how to trust my instincts. Those words never had much meaning for me before. Now I find myself clinging to them like all my work depends on it.
Could you give us some insight regarding your process, and how the physical space you make art in affects this?
Recently, my practice has split into two separate threads. On the one hand I make paintings in my studio, in which I work from photographs I’ve either found or taken myself. I spend lots of time sitting around, looking at books and pictures, sticking references and source imagery on the walls, filtering ideas. The paintings themselves are made relatively quickly, in short bursts. I consider this the ‘main thread’, although last year I started making little paintings from life, mainly in my flat, which has turned into an unexpectedly significant body of work.
What are your biggest challenges to creating art, and how do you deal with them?
Falling out of a rhythm. At some point it’s just about discipline. Setting alarms, showing up every day.
What’s the most rewarding aspect of what you do?
Sometimes I love what I’ve made. That’s the reward.
What are you looking at/reading/listening to?
For a while I’ve been looking at a lesser-known Post-Impressionist, Edouard Vuillard. And today I had another good look at Adrian Ghenie, a contemporary Romanian painter. As for what I’m reading, I’m slowly going through the journals of Anais Nin, and a collection of poems by Timothy Donnelly. At the moment, all this is soundtracked by lots of minimal techno.
And lastly – where to from here? Tell us what you’re currently working on and what you have in mind for the future.
Currently I’m doing a few more of these live portraits for the Joburg art fair. After I’m done with that I’m starting new studio work for a solo show sometime in the middle of next year.
Ian is represented by Stevenson Gallery.
Many of the paintings included are from Ian’s tumblr Small Paintings, which Ian describes as a collection of work ‘painted from life & uploaded as soon as my hands are clean enough.’ – iangrose.tumblr.com