With a solo exhibition at London's famous gallery@oxo (29th July - 14th August) on the Embankment between the Saatchi Gallery and Tate Modern, Russell's unique style of painting and artwork is rapidly moving from private collectors into the mainstream. From fighter to artist his roots are some what untraditional for the art world.
Descendant of the famous composer James Scott Skinner, Russell was born on an RAF base in Lincolnshire, England in 1979 and by the age of 18 had moved house 12 times across three different counties. Following school, his path misdirected from art until a moment of clarity propelled a massive ‘you turn' towards his life as an artist and the visual world. Following this return an almost self taught foundation year ensued where he knew his style would need time without influence to develop into a personal and unique visual language. He moved to South London and found work as trainee photographer to provide time and finances while he grew his style as a painter. In 2006 he built and set up his own photographic studio which he confesses
was always a ‘means to an end' for buying that extra time to develop as an artist and learn the valuable business skills that artists need in today's market.
But at the start of 2010 his work finally hit its own visual stride and subsequently the private sales and commissions began to grow. So the business was rapidly sold as the way was finally paved for him to become a full time professional artist.
How do you create the pieces?' - It's almost the opposite to a lot of other artists. Simliar to Henry Moore and Paul Kley's way of working. Most people have a pre conceived visual for their end result before they start working. I work the opposite and simply make sure I have no thought in mind when I start painting. I actually clear all thoughts from mind and then just set to work. What the finished piece will look like or say is always a mystery to me. It's a liberating and beautiful way to work that suits me perfectly and feels very right. The work is built around permitting the paint and hand to work without any pre thought or direction, applying limited control that is strengthened as the picture nears conclusion. It's almost like setting it all free to wander from the artist in any direction it so chooses.”
What would you class your subject matter as? - “There's no other place that the work can come from apart from deep within myself and my psyche. So I'd answer ‘me' as the subject matter. It's a personal exploration of the subconscious. What else can it be? As I consciously make sure that no thought goes on as I paint. Which sounds easy but it's similar to when you're trying to fall asleep, and you know you have to be up early the next morning. As you're trying to get to sleep all of those thoughts keep jumping into your mind, and you just have to push them out as quickly as possible to get to sleep. Most people exercise this at night but I do it when I paint. The artwork that emerges is nearly always abstract landscapes with figures which I sometimes apply free association text to. The style is consistently the same though and very much uniquely mine”
What mediums do you use? - “Paint has, and will always be my main love as an art form. It has a beautiful life of its own and an amazing ability to transform and move outside of the artist if you let it. I work in acrylic, masonry and/or oil paint depending on the surface. At the moment the only colour I use is black for my own reasons but I feel the colour will subtly be creeping back in over the next few months. I also create and sell a lot of sketch work, this is just pen on paper and done to keep my style fluid and free from control.”
What's your art background? - “From a young age art always was something that I could do and it provided a haven through schooling as the other subjects felt like work but art never did, it was almost like meditation amidst the chaos. I didn't think of studying it or pursuing a career in the arts after school as the stereo typical view of the struggling artist came to mind and it was always seen as too unstable. So after leaving school I did very little art work and foolishly followed a career in psychology. This was very short lived and rapidly changed when a friend showed me around our university art department. It was a massive moment of clarity and fear for me as the particular smell of oils, primed canvas' and turps hit me I realized I'd neglected something I loved, and no matter what I was now going to pursue it, even if that meant being a poor artist. So I withdrew from Loughborough University and enrolled in a brief foundation year in 1999. The foundation year I found didn't really help my artwork and it's direction, although I got graded well in it.To be fair to my art school nothing could have changed that because at that point in time I needed to explore all of the technology that was rapidly becoming accessible to everyday users, I embarked on a full exploration on tasting as many different visual outputs as possible to make sure I wouldn't go in the wrong direction again. That lead me into photography which provided a freedom of time to paint and a comfortable life style while I worked on my artwork and painting.”
Do you still work as a professional photographer now? - “No, is the simplest answer. I spent so many years using it and prostituting what is actually a beautiful art form for money. I feel I abused and sold photography out, I prostituted it to provide funds for my true love which is, and will always be painting. It bought me time and freedom to develop my style and self as an artist. So now I'm here I intend to focus every ounce of my attention on being an artist and painting.
But never say never! There are still a few personal projects that sit in my mind to explore from when I was working as a photographer and photography would be the only medium for those. But right now and for a good good while it is all about my number one love.
How often do you paint or draw? - As often as possible. I get pent up and pretty grumpy if I don't. It took me a good while to learn this about myself and when I wasn't feeding the artist inside of me all of that energy was being misdirected. This is how I got into competition fighting. I have to always feed that part of me. These days its a lot more balanced without the fighting. I still train but my main exercise outlet is surfing, which is much more me. But with the artwork I can go a week at max probably without drawing or painting, but then I start to get a twitchy hand and craving. Its about balance! To live my life but feed the necessity of the artist at the same time too.
VIDEO LINK OF WORK BEING CREATED (see www.russellscottskinner.com)
What other artists inspire you? - “I love artists who have their very own visual language that is different. But my favourite painting of all time has to be one of Francis Bacon's studies he did from Van Goghs (The Painter on the Road to Tarascon). That painting haunts me and if I ever could, I'd buy it in a second. But because of where it sits I guess one day I'm just going to have to replicate it full size for myself.”
Upcoming SOLO EXHIBITION
'Distracting The Colour'
29th July – 14th August 2011
Oxo Tower Wharf,
London SE1 9PH
Russell Scott-Skinner will be painting daily in the gallery for a two and a half week period.
Visit www.russellscottskinner.com for further details
Link to BBC feature on artwork and upcoming exhibition
View All Russell Scott-skinner Artwork