Gordon Caldwell and Neo-Pop-Art!

Was there a pivotal moment that made you follow your path as an artist?

I am 64 at the time of writing. Looking back, there have been several pivotal periods in my life that have significantly influenced my development as an artist:

A number of significant 'moments' coalesced during my 5th year in secondary school.

I am half Dutch and during my early teenage years, I visited museums and art galleries all over Holland, this gave me a lifelong love of the artists of the Dutch 17th century Golden Age - Vermeer, Rembrandt, Frans Hals etc.

At Newcastle University (Newcastle is my home-town in the NE of England), I saw exhibitions by e.g. John Heartfield (anti Nazi collagist), Kurt Schwitters (Merz/Dadaist), Richard Hamilton (influential UK Pop Artist) and Victor Passmore (Formal Abstractionist), that have stayed long in my memory

My passion for art stems from these experiences and from getting to know an art teacher who became an influential hero of mine.

Through all of the above experiences, I determined to become an art teacher myself.

I had a long and successful career in education and made a number of what I regard as interesting artworks over a 40 year period... to anyone other than me, these works might look disparate in subject, style, size and medium.

In 2014, my personal circumstances and the right kind image manipulating making technology enabled me to make artworks full-time. I don't have an exact date as to when this happened, I just became aware that through an inner compulsion and drive I was making visual works all day and every day. Four years on, I have made 800+ works. Not all are what I would be happy to exhibit BUT what I have made and what has developed, over time, has positively surprised me. I continue to make 'every day', even when on holiday.

What is the process of making your work?

I have made digital paintings F/T since 2014. These artworks are made by importing first hand and sourced pictorial elements into a multi-layered virtual painting. During the development of an individual piece, layers may be accessed and manipulated by breaking through, combining them. Further enancemnts are made by utilizing a specific range of filter effects. Subsequently all the layers are 'flattened' into a single Master work. I continually strive to arrive at my own pictorial language. A language that can also be accessed by the viewer.

Describe your work in two words

'Digital Painting' - that wasn't easy to arrive at, I wanted a paragraph not 2 words.

What is your favorite art movement?

Neo-Pop-Art (I think that best describes what I make)... it combines Pop Art approaches and subject matter with Dadaist thinking and the use of representational/recognizable and, at times, appropriated imagery. There are other artists working today, whose work I would describe as Neo-Pop.

What is your least favorite art movement?

It seems to me that there is good and less good art that can be attributed to any art movement. However, the sickly sentimental and sweet elements apparent in the work of some Impressionist works, some of the cold and strict strands of Pop-Art, some of the ultra extreme elements of Minimalism, some angry and aggressive aspects Expressionism etc... are my least favorites.

How has your process changed over time?

My interests have remained consistent. It is my use of image making materials, tools and techniques that have changed. In my youth, I made artworks by drawing and painting. Albeit, that I now work digitally with image manipulating tools. I believe that my digital work would not look as it does if I hadn't had the years of drawing and painting experience I have had, not to mention the 3 decades of teaching others to observe and record through drawing and the study of visual dynamics.

What themes do you pursue? And what themes do you want to pursue in the future?

My subject matter might be described as autobiographical in so far that much of it stems from memories of real events or e.g. oblique, subtle or more obvious references to specific paintings and artists in art history, a kind of Art About Art.

Other themes like dreams, war, politics, time travel, history, culture and religion have a part to play in my work too... as does my own sense of humour. I like posing questions and provoking reflective thought... hinting at certain narratives but not directing conclusive outcomes or interpretations.

I don't want to make work that is overly slick and polished. I aim to make digital paintings that have something of my handling and mark-making in them. When looking at my work, I enjoy hearing viewers ask: "Is it a painting or a print?"

Do you have any advice for young artists?

Yes, if you are an artist, you must be making and thinking about art every day. Making a living out of selling your art is very difficult - personal integrity and hard work, should be your prime focus.

Could you talk about the training you receive for becoming an artist? Do you think the training exert a deep influence on your creative activities?

On reflection, my art education experiences as a student in school or at university were not of the 'art training' kind. My skills in working with image making media have all been acquired through my own efforts and the extremely good fortune I've had in meeting and engaging with some very special artists, teachers and line managers who have given me so much of their time and encouragement.

My 10 years as a lecturer in an Art College enabled me to acquire the knowledge, understanding and analytical skills that I have in forming and developing my ideas, applying critical evaluation and realizing convincing outcomes.

In short, I think I have been extremely lucky in meeting some very special people in my life.

Do you think there is a close relationship between your living circumstance and your artworks? If so, how do you think the circumstance influence your works?

I am very fortunate to have been very happily married to my best friend for 38 years - she is also an artist and understands the compulsions that drive me to make images - I have lived in the house of my dreams for 31 years and want to die in it but not for a while yet.

So, yes, '..there is a close relationship between my living circumstance and my artworks'.

How do you know when it is time to completely stop working on one artwork? Are you satisfied with your creation when you leave off it?

Because of my working methods and my ongoing development, I can and often do return to works I have thought were finished.

Satisfied? There are works of mine I like and some I rate more highly than the majority of others. To be satisfied, feels like something that might happen at the end of an event or process. I haven't arrived there and hope I never do.

My working process is such that during the course of making visual work, I save significant incremental stages of it. This serves at least 2 purposes.:

If I go too far in any direction that turns out to be weak of failing, I can go back to an earlier stage to go forward again.

I have often found that some months or years after working on a particular piece, I go back to a saved earlier stage and use it as the basis of an entirely new work.

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