An Interview With Harry Simmonds

19th Dec 2019

An Interview With Harry Simmonds

Paintings By Harry Simmonds

Harry Simmonds makes monochromatic abstractions of the models who sit for him.. He graduated with a first class degree in 2000 and has exhibited widely in the UK and abroad.

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If you had a quote, proverb or a mantra printed on your shirt or tattooed on your skin,what would it say?

Probably ‘Ars longa, vita brevis’, a latin translation of a quote by Hippocrates. It literally means; ‘Life is brief, art is long’ but has various interpretations; that it takes a long time to acquire and perfect one's expertise, or that whilst men are mortal, art lives on.

What’s the best thing about being an artist?

The thrill that one gets from finishing a work.

What were you interested in when you were a child and how did that lead you down the path to where you are now?

I was always creative (I enjoyed acting and writing songs when I was younger) but I didn’t begin to start painting until I was 16 or 17 and it was by accident; I had planned to study graphic design and knew that I would need some examples of ‘Fine Art’ in order to get a place on the one year foundation course, so began to make drawings of still life scenes and to look at the work of the post-impressionists. Eventually I realised that my passion was with art.

Please tell us about the painting featured in your 1st image:

It’s a self-portrait, made, like all my paintings, from life (using a mirror).

How long was the process from the idea to the finished painting?

I always work on several different paintings at the same time and I take it in turn to work on each one. That way, if I’m feeling stuck while working on a particular piece, I can work on some others and go back to the original one afresh. The painting is part of a series of 5 or 6 paintings that were all completed over a period of around 6 weeks. 

What are some of the functional aspects and rational thinking behind decisions like the size, colours, materials, techniques and mediums?

I work in black and white partly because it allows me to work with an immediacy that wouldn’t be possible if I were mixing colours on a palette. This in turn allows me to concentrate on the mark-making process. In terms of scale, I enjoy depicting the head in such a way that it is larger or smaller than real life. When depicted larger than life it gives the subject a certain kind of presence. It also changes the physical relationship I have with the painting when I am making it; a tiny painting requires lots of delicate movements with the fingers whereas a large painting uses the entire body. I use ink and acrylic because I like the fact that it dries quickly and I paint on paper because I like the way it reacts to the ink/paint and the fact that I can quickly change the dimensions of the painting by cropping it or taping an additional piece of paper next to it. It also allows me to use a collage technique . 

What are your favourite tools, or equipment that you use to create your work?

I use all kinds of things to make marks like brushes, sponges or rags. I like to use washing-up brushes to spray the paint on. And I like to work with the painting on the floor and to flick it on. 

Often our greatest strength is also our greatest weakness, what is yours and how does it affect your work?

Some people think I’m too hard on myself. I’m rarely happy with what I produce and usually end a working day by cursing myself! But ultimately I think that in order to achieve anything of any worth, one has to set oneself high standards.

Why do you think art is important to you or the world?

Good art says something about life. Something that the viewer can relate to. Art conveys and at the same time provokes emotion. It allows us to use our imagination and as a result to look at the world and our own lives differently. I think that great art makes us feel less alone in the world. 

If you could time travel to visit any time when would it be and why?

I’ve always fantasised about visiting Elizabethan London and I think it would be fascinating to see what the city looked like before it was destroyed by The Great Fire. But I think that any period where new and exciting things were happening in terms of art would also be interesting such as Florence during the Renaissance or Paris when Impressionism was emerging. 

Are there any particular artists, people or paintings that have greatly influenced or inspired you in your life or work?

There are a plethora of artists whose work I admire such as Giotto, Bruegel, Titian, Carravaggio, Turner, Goya, Rodin, Manet, De Kooning, Franz Kline, Cy Twombly, Frank Auerbach, Anselm Kiefer. But I had to pick just one artist whose work has provided me with constant inspiration it would probably be Rembrant. 

Are prints available of your work, and if so where can they be viewed or purchased?

Prints of my paintings are currently available to buy through https://mineheart.com

Where can people find out more about what you, purchase your work, and what’s the best way to get in touch?

Prints of my work and certain paintings can be brought through the Mineheart website and further information about future exhibitions can be viewed on my website www.harrysimmonds.com

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