ARTIST Q&A

Alexander James Gordon

London, UK

Type of artwork you're most likely to produce?

An abstract oil painting using a palette knife inspired by a local landscape.

What is your favourite piece of art you have created?

Either ‘Turning’ or ‘This is the One’ as they were breakthrough pieces for me in terms of scale.

If you weren't an artist what other career would you be in?

As I was an art teacher for many years I would still be in the classroom aiming to inspire others.

If you could buy one piece of artwork what would it be?

Anything by Mark Rothko but if I had to select just one it would be– ‘Violet, Green and Red’ 1951.

What inspires you?

Feelings and emotions alongside colours in nature and the sky.

Delving a little deeper

Why do you do what you do?

I was an art teacher in London for 20 years and thoroughly enjoyed discussing and creating art with my pupils.

However the teaching profession does not allow time for much else and I always wanted to dedicate more of my time to my own practice. The jump to follow my boyhood dream and dedicate my time to my artwork was daunting but a leap that I am so thankful and excited to have taken as I have loved all the new experiences of life as an artist.

I still work part time in a performing arts school and so have found the perfect balance of life as an artist whilst still supporting pupils. This balance of my time allows me to walk in the surrounding countryside to find inspiration and importantly time in front of the canvas expressing myself.

Can you tell us about your artistic background/education

I come from a creative family, my father was an architect, my grandmother worked in fashion and some of my aunts and uncles are painters, designers and actors.

My time at school was mainly spent in the art department which was a challenge in a highly academic school that encouraged us to focus on the more academic subjects, but I found pure pleasure in the bubble of the art studio.

With my A Levels completed I spent the best educational year of my life at Wimbledon School of Art enjoying the freedom of expression in a foundation course, where I was encouraged to explore all aspects of art. I was torn at the end of the course between following a fine art or graphic design path.

I chose to study graphic design at the University of Salford as the new wave of computer graphics in the early 1990’s was an exciting world to explore. But I never truly felt comfortable putting my paint brushes and palette knives away.

After my degree and a short spell working as an assistant to an interior designer I realised making art and encouraging others to do so every day was my passion and entering the teaching profession was the perfect fit. I studied my PGCE at the Institute of Education in London which led me into 20 years of teaching art, a time and experience I will never forget.

I have always painted along my journey and am now so happy to have found time away from the classroom enables me to focus more on my work.

Do you work in silence or do you prefer a distraction?

I never work in complete silence. I am lucky that the space in which I create has a large folding door which on a good day I will leave open to listen to the sounds of the garden, the rustling leaves and bird song. As my work is inspired by the great outdoors these sounds sit perfectly within my creative process.

I will also have music playing that suits the piece I am working on. David Bowie or the Velvet Underground are my favourite artists to paint to. I often find myself dancing whilst painting and find this enables me add some movement to my work.

How do you choose the subject matter for your works?

I am an abstract landscape painter and as part of my creative process a painting can takes weeks and sometimes months to develop and build in my thoughts.

The initial spark of a new piece is often started by a moment in time, often a colour found on a walk noticing a small object like a leaf, moss on the woodland floor or a piece bark, the colour of the sky, a formation of a cloud, or a feeling that I wish to explore and express further. As an abstract artist I will then play with the possibilities of a colour palette and the basic structure of the composition and keep turning this over and over in my head until I am in a position to start applying paint to canvas.

When I physically start the new piece my thoughts and ideas take a new direction and I explore the various possibilities as the piece takes shape. I allow myself the freedom of expression whilst painting so not to be trapped by a preconceived fixed outcome and so each piece takes on its own journey and finding the finishing point is always a challenge.

The title of the piece is either the start point or sometimes the title is found when I am painting or it may come much later during the drying phase.

Has your practice changed over time?

The changes in my practice are relatively small, as I have always been a painter. However some of the most noticeable changes were when I solely worked using a set of palette knives and I no longer work with brushes. Another big marker was when I moved to work only with oil paint due to the intensity of colour within the oils.

Whilst I worked in central London as an art teacher my inspiration came from urban landscapes and now that I have moved towards Hertfordshire rural landscapes dominate my practice.

The other developments that I have recently been exploring is using a wider range of colour palettes within each piece. I still have my favourite colours that I am naturally drawn too but I have been pushing myself to be bolder with colour selection at the start of the piece.

Who are your favourite contemporary or historical artists and why?

The colour field paintings of Mark Rothko capture me like no other artwork. I can sit for hours in front of his work completely absorbed by his colour palette.

I also love trying to visualise an artist at work by studying each brushstroke you can see in the work so I am often drawn to artist who show more texture in the piece.

I am not a portrait painter but for his use of colour I am in awe of Chuck Close and his gridded portraits.

I follow various landscape artists on Instagram and am always amazed at the range of interpretations of a common theme

If you could describe your work in less than 5 words, what would they be?

Evocative, vivid, abstract, bold

What is the best advice given to you as an artist?

Keep exploring as every mark is a new beginning.