For our third interview with artists taking part in the forthcoming Talented Art Fair in March, we meet Pop Artist Nicholas Moore at his glittery and Lego-covered London studio to talk about his life, work and influences.
In just a few words, who are you and what do you do?
I am Nicholas Moore. I paint, print and stick things down. I also have a tendency to write incomprehensible stuff on my paintings. I am very influenced by music, mythology and the stars (the celestial kind not those found on YouTube).
Where are you from?
I am a Londoner through and through. I was born round the corner from The Angel - there used to be a maternity hospital on Liverpool Road. We had a brief stay in Battersea then moved to Soho where I spent most of my childhood. Both my parents worked in the fashion industry, though my mother was also a record reviewer for a while. My father is still working at 83 and it will be his 84th birthday during the show!
Did you grow up in a very artistic environment?
I guess I had an artistic upbringing but you don't think that at the time. Also I think that growing up in the Soho of the 60s was a huge influence on me, surrounded by sex, food and museums. Below the house we had a succession of businesses including a music/record shop, a strip club, a ticket office, Irene’s sweet shop, which I now realise was an early sex shop, and in the basement “Uncle Ted” a guy who made custom amps for bands and performers. And at home, through a corridor, was my Dad’s photography studio.
What is your background?
I studied Zoology at Bristol University. I should not have listened to the advice of my parents’ friends and should have listened to my school’s headmaster who was insistent that I should go to art school. But although studying zoology most probably set me back many years in my artistic development, I don't really regret it.
After leaving college I got on with my first love of painting (really my second as at first I wanted to be an astronaut!). First I tried to be a wildlife illustrator but gave up when I started to get into exhibitions like the RA summer show and a couple of others. I was half-heartedly looking for an art college to go to, whilst doing some printmaking classes, when I went on holiday to Greece and met the artist John Craxton. I ended up living and working with him for 9 years. That was my main training.
How would you describe your work?
Japanese Byzantine Pop with just a hint of Kitsch!
Who and what was your biggest influence?
Elizabeth Suter: she was a well-known fashion illustrator and deputy head of fashion at Central St Martin’s. She often went to Paris during Fashion Week with my parents and as a kid I would sometimes go with them. While my parents worked at the catwalk shows, Elizabeth would take me to museums. I particularly remember going with her to see Bonnard and being mesmerised by the colours. She also taught me how to paint with soap! Layering colours then scraping through. That and “Vision On”, the BBC’s children show from the 60’s/70’s, gave me a taste for crafty painting.
John Craxton was of course a huge influence on me in many ways. You can’t live with such an artist and not be influenced by him, both personally and artistically. Though this could work both ways: he was constantly squashing my love for all things pop, he was not a big fan of American art in general, unlike me. However we both shared a love for Greece, both ancient and modern.
And music. It’s very important to me. It was very much part of our house when I was growing up. It still plays a very important role in my life now and keeps on inspiring me.
Can you name your favourite artists/art works and why?
I can’t emphasise enough how much I love Matisse. One of my favourite paintings of his would have to be “Open Window, Collioure” from 1905. Colour, colour, colour! He transforms the normal into the transcendent. Collioure was also where I went as a small child on a couple of summer holidays, giving me my first taste of the Mediterranean.
I have loved Titian’s “Bacchus and Ariadne” for years (it is at the National Gallery) Bacchus suspended in the air is marvellous, as are his followers, poor Ariadne twice dumped by those pesky Greeks, and that sky. I am a sucker for mythological scenes in general.
And then there are the two Blakes, William and Peter: I especially love William Blake’s “The Ancient of Days” and Peter Blake’s “The Toy Shop” which used to fascinate me as a child and had an obvious influence on me.
What makes you get up and work?
My nagging partner
You have shown your work around the world, from the US to Greece and Korea. When was the last time you exhibited in London? Are you excited to show new work in your hometown?
The last time I showed any amount of work in the UK was shockingly 1999! So of course I am very excited but somewhat nervous.
What can we expect to see at Talented Art Fair?
A stripped down version of the show I just had in New York. That show was called “The Cabinet Of The Last Lighthouse Keeper” so this is his Pantry! Mostly small mixed media works on panel closely related to this invented character.
I may also include some of my Wall of Friends pieces which are part of an on-going series of portraits made on a linocut base which is then worked on in different ways making them somewhere between a multiple and a monotype. The idea being that at my death, all of these works will be brought together somewhere as a show to celebrate my friends.
Talented Art Fair
17-19 March 2017 – The Old Truman Brewery, London E1