interview with Ian Norris
in the studio… with Ian Norris
interview was the winter of 2017 painters TUBES magazine issue #1
The local train from Manchester to Preston arrived on time, it was 10.30am and within a few minutes Ian appeared in front of me. Although we had only spoken via email, Face Book profiles enable easy face recognition with real life meet ups. Ian had kindly offered to pick me up in what he called his mobile studio (a medium sized van).
Before too long we approached his home having first drove past a wonderful old building next to a church, which Ian had pointed to the bay windowed on the top floor as being his ‘next’ studio. “It’s larger than the one I have at present, that will enable me to ‘up the size’ of canvas.“
He said in response to our tentative driving-chat about ‘size’ of work and how a larger canvas enables a greater physical and perhaps deeper psychological involvement whilst painting. The advantage of being a painter, when interviewing another painter is that it doesn’t take any time at all to be on the same wavelength, especially when it comes to creating real Art. And so with little time was wasted on the ‘getting to know each other’ normal polite discourse could get right down to the important stuff, which we did, even as the kettle was boiling for a welcomed cup of tea. I’d noticed that Ian has a number of other artists work that he admires dotted about on the walls of his home.
“…I tend not to put my own work up on the walls at home, just in case I’m tempted to take them down again and change them.” A situation most Artists would recognise as something that we can be all guilty of, You can destroy the original vitality of a work by post-mortem changes, and maybe the record of how you were as an artist, when you created it, I said.
He suggested we walk down the garden path to his studio and I took my cup of tea with me. The studio is a converted out house, from a size point of view it was reasonable. The light was good and he had organised the space efficiently into areas of working, viewing his own work and being able to read and seek answers from his large collection of Art books. These covered the era of Art and Artists, that he much admires. I commented on the ‘tidiness’ of the space to which he smiled and told me he had ‘a tidy up’ before I arrived, at which point we both gave a knowing laugh.
These first paragraphs sets the tone for the three hour interesting discussion that covered the last few years of Ian’s work which began with a brave decision to give up his ‘day job’ and paint on a full time basis. A decision that his partner wasn’t totally convinced was such a good idea. “It takes courage to be an Artist”. Knowledge of that famous artist statement must have forefront in mind as Ian courageously gave up a lucrative guaranteed income and pitched his lot into his Art. Thus began his own personal journey into what may be called the “agony of creative enjoyment” It’s perverse how creating something wonderful can be, at times be agonising, like giving birth to a child I imagine.
Ian is almost a classicist in the way he prepares his subject matter. Study, then even more study with exacting sketches, made (usually) in charcoal on paper. Perhaps this is his ‘getting to know the subject’ period in intimate detail, which to me is obviously the objective. A practice that, theoretically at least, allows the painter the freedom to make something that goes beyond reality and enters the realm of new visions, which by transcribing the subject inwardly and using pigments on a flat surface Ian creates works of Art rather than simple representations of an existing environment. Why do that when we have superb digital cameras to do that job quite adequately.
Ian paints in oil, a choice that I personally prefer and I feel is the medium that fully satisfies the inner ‘need of the Artist’, more so than does say acrylic or polymer paints. Perhaps it’s a fluidity or rather flexibility of the colour that certain painters prefer oil over other mediums, it is certainly takes far more time to fully master (and dry) than acrylics or polymers. A mastery of oil paint that Ian’s work shows he has in abundance.
Ian has worked diligently as painter of note and that combined with his natural talent has gained recognition from organisations such as the Manchester Art Academy.
He also re-educated himself in formal art and gained a degree from University. Even so, he is grounded enough to understand that institutionalised recognition and Art Degree’s do not make a great painter or indeed are even necessary to become one. It’s the work that counts and the painters own personal measurement of a paintings visual success that matters most. Like many of the excellent artists, ones that I know or have met in the past, Ian is his own most vocal, visceral and art intellectual critic which is why I think his work is so interesting and authentic. It’s a critical state of mind that becomes clearer to understand in one a particular series of work that we talked about in some detail. Not only in the work itself but what lay behind it…