Published on May 29th, 2014 | by Niall Norbury0
Rdg Artists: Carl Beazley
Completely self-taught, Carl Beazley’s art consists of bizarre and surreal portraits which have made him one of the most recognisable artists in Reading. We spoke with Carl about how he got into art and his best experiences…
How would you describe your art?
Experimental, unpredictable but not quite there yet! I think people see it as quite dark but I like to view it as a progression towards the unknown, which for me is exciting.
How did you first get into art, and how has your style developed?
I always loved art at school but didn’t take it seriously enough at the time. When it came to leaving, my head just wasn’t in the right place to go to University. It wasn’t a great time for me. I ended up cleaning the school as a job and I got stuck in a bit of a rut. It took me a few years to snap out of it. I started by painting in the corner of my Kitchen table a couple of years ago but I knew I had to go bigger. The garage in the house was a bit of a tip so I decided to clear it all out, paint the walls white and put a bit of carpet down so that I would have a little home studio/gallery space. It’s worked out quite nicely and I spend around 2 – 3 hours in there every night after work.
As I didn’t go to Uni, I’ve had to learn from trial and error. I think sometimes if you study techniques too much you can sometimes fall into the trap of doing things a certain way, so I think sometimes it’s good to have no training to discover your own technique. I focus mainly on portraiture because faces fascinate me. Every face is different and unique. I’m really not into landscapes. I’m sure a lot of people disagree with me on this, but to me, a tree is a tree. It doesn’t have a soul or a personality like a human being does.
I try not to make my paintings look too realistic. These days, where everyone has a decent camera on their phone I feel its slightly pointless to produce hyper realistic paintings that look exactly like a photo, because if it looks exactly like the photo, then what’s the point? I think that’s more reproduction than art. That’s why I try to distort faces in an attempt to find some hidden personality or feeling. Basically I’m looking to capture something that a a camera can’t.
What do you try to achieve in your work?
I want to create an atmosphere. I want the effect of my paintings to be very instant, almost shocking. For me a great piece of art is when something gets embedded in your head and stays there. Sometimes they have meanings and sometimes they don’t. I think people get way too caught up with finding a meaning behind a painting. In a lot of my favourite art, I haven’t got a clue what’s going on but they have a certain feel. I think mystery and curiosity can be very powerful.
My sole aim is to keep pushing the boundaries in an attempt to stumble on something completely new and original. Ideally, I’d like it if half the people who see my work love it and half despise it. I think there’s nothing worse than creating art that generates the same reaction from everyone. Most of the reaction I have had has been positive but I genuinely love it when people say they think it’s horrible or disgusting….. not that I’m aiming for that!
I want to keep constantly surprising people. I think a lot of artists get caught up in producing series of work and they become complacent and predictable. It’s always hard to break away from that worry of what people will think. I’m constantly worried about coming across as pretentious and I’m worried that if I completely let go and go mad, people will see me as self righteous, which I’m avidly trying to avoid. For some reason I’ve got it into my head that I need to earn the right to go a bit mad and abstract, which I know is completely ridiculous but I don’t think people will take you seriously if start off by throwing painting everywhere. I’m trying to gain a bigger audience and gain their respect before hitting them with something completely wild. I’ll probably lose a lot of people’s attention when I do it but I’m hoping a few might stick around.
My brain is constantly craving something new. I get obsessed with things and then disregard them in an instant. I love seeking out fresh stuff. I like rummaging around in the search of that hidden treasure out there somewhere. I’m really fascinated by contradictions. It is always seen as a negative thing if you contradict yourself but I am constantly doing it. I think I’ve probably contradicted myself a fair few times in this interview already! I’m fully aware that I’m only at the very early stages of this artistic journey and I have a hell of a lot of experimenting and searching to do before I’ll be totally happy. In fact I don’t think I’ll ever be content with my work, which is a good thing because it keeps you going! In a weird way, I’m content in not being content.
Have you got any interesting stories regarding your work?
Well, Reading’s own Ricky Gervias has commented on and shared an experimental painting I did of him which was a nice feeling. I also did a couple of paintings of a band called White Denim. I met them after a gig in a bar, showed them a couple of my paintings and asked them if I could take a few photos to do some portraits inspired by their music. Luckily, they were extremely nice and said yes. I feel really awkward doing that sort of thing but I told myself I needed to get out there and communicate with people. I think starting out you need to push yourself and your art on people which is never easy, especially for someone who can be quite self-conscious. It’s paid off though as I emailed one of them the finished result and he loved it (or so he said) and he has just given me some tickets to their sold out London show, which is a nice bonus.
I also had an audition recently for a T.V series, and although it came to nothing in the end, it was a very surreal and exciting experience, something I’ll never forget. That was the point when I thought, I’m definitely making progress towards my dream, but as of today, I haven’t made a single penny from my art, so I’ve got a great deal of work to do if I am to make a living from it one day.
Are there any Reading-based artists you admire?
A friend was showing me work by a guy called Michael Carlton who does a lot of interior art on walls. I quite like the idea of murals and instead of buying a painting by an artist, hiring out an artist to come and paint directly onto the walls. I think he’s painted the walls in RISC Global Cafe.
Also, he’s not Reading based, but there’s a great video artist from Reading called Chris Cunningham. I don’t think he gets celebrated enough as one of Reading’s great exports. I kind of like the way he’s had this hugely successful career, working with the likes of Bjork and Madonna, yet most people in Reading probably wouldn’t have even heard of him. I like the idea of going under the radar but having quit a big cult following.
Who are your influences?
I could go on about my influences for hours! Painting-wise, I think Picasso and Bacon. But it’s not just painters, I get influenced by any creative medium. Just yesterday, I saw a film called “Enter the Void” by a French director called Gasper Noe. It really hit me and got me thinking creatively straight away. The Danish film director Lars Von Trier is definitely one of my heroes. He comes up with these radical controversial ideas but I always feel they have that human connection to them. I think he is very misunderstood. A lot of people get the impression these guys are stirring up controversy for the sake of it but it’s just the fact that they are throwing people outside their comfort zone and challenge them to think differently. A lot of people accept and embrace what’s familiar to them and tend to repel and dismiss anything out of the ordinary.
Thom Yorke is a very good example. How Radiohead have changed over the years and adapted is quite incredible. All these people will miss the mark occasionally and can be pretty inconsistent at times, but if you want to make something original, I feel that is the only way. Mistakes are probably the most vital part of making art. I personally, seem to play it safe in every other aspect of my life so art gives me an opportunity to take some risks for once.
I think if you’re a creative person you can’t help but explore other outputs. One day I’d love to make a concept album or even a film. I admire the way Steve Mcqueen won the Turner Prize and then turned his back on the art world and now has an Oscar to his name. I think that’s great.
But it’s not the actual art I get influenced by most but the person behind it and their attitudes towards creativity. I love watching interviews with these big characters like Francis Bacon and Lars Von Trier and the funny thing is, you soon realise they are more honest and down to earth than those who on the surface seem more normal. They also come across as extremely vulnerable because they give you 100% of them with no compromise. I respect that so much. But I do think sometimes people can get too caught up in their influences and end up producing bad imitations, which is something I want to steer well clear of. That’s why I admire people like Bacon. His hero was Picasso but he didn’t want to paint like Picasso, he hated the thought of his paintings looking like Picasso’s. He wanted to be an innovator like Picasso and have the impact that Picasso did, and I think most people would agree that he succeeded in doing that.
What do you think of the art scene in Reading? Would you like to see it change in any way?
I’d definitely love to see more open art going on. I’ll be taking part in Reading Arts Week again this year which gives all artists an opportunity but it only happens once a year. There seems to be quite a lot going on if you’re into crafty type art or watercolour landscapes, etc. but nothing much for the alternative artist. I’d like to think there’s more of us out there hiding in our garages or basements producing unique stuff and it would be nice to get out and get some light once in a while.
Before I got into the art thing, I always had the view that the art world is very “cliquey” and to tell you the truth I think my opinion hasn’t changed much. Maybe it’s just the type of person I am and I’m not putting myself about enough but I always feel a little out of place in any situation with other artists. I get quite paranoid that everyone is thinking “he shouldn’t be here….”. I think it’s a shame that art has this very upper class tag attached because ironically, it’s the one thing that anyone from any background can do, you just need to have that creative vision.
I’m really exited about The Reading Gallery’s plans to have a permanent space in Reading to showcase their collection (which includes Van Gogh, Picasso and Rembrandt) alongside local Reading Artists. I’m hoping that when they find a suitable location they might allow me to have a little space on one of their walls. Even if it’s just for 5 minutes, to have one of my pieces next to a Picasso would be a dream come true for me.
I think there are two types of art. Practical art and challenging art. Practical art sells well to the masses and serves its purpose by looking nice on a wall. Challenging art you probably wouldn’t want hanging in your living room but it’s more likely to get people discussing, thinking or feeling. If you want to make a steady living from art you need to go the practical route, but that’s just not me. I want my art to change the way people think, not just change the ambience of a room, and if that means it doesn’t sell well, then so be it. I’m happy experimenting.