Based in Kingston upon Thames, Russell John is an artist that works from his ‘small and hectic’ studio directing his focus towards abstract painting and mono-print. Having recently exhibited a grid of 9 mono-prints at his solo show at the Mills Centre Galler I caught up with him to find more about his inspiration and deep focus on process.
“Making mono-prints started as a way of forcing myself into making work which was both fast and final and I had very limited control over, a kind of antidote to most of the paintings I make which often take months at a time, painting, scraping things back and painting again. You can’t treat paper in the same way as you’d treat a canvas or some board if you want to retain any kind of freshness. So most of the mono-prints I make take just a few minutes and then, like it or not, there’s no changing them.
I try to control chance just enough, trying to steer a chaos of bits of paper and paint, unintentional drips and definite paint strokes, then it all gets changed in the pressing as well. Using both water and oil based ink and paints makes it even more difficult to keep track. If I spend the whole day making them, it’ll usually take me a few hours to warm up to the technique, I’ll make 2 or 3 that I like, and then I’ll start to get complacent and I’ll lose it. There are a lot of failures but they can become something else, some collage or part of an under painting. A form of mono-print is also often the starting point for my paintings on canvas or board too, but in this instance they become a kind of necessary obstacle, something to fight against.”
With process such an important part of Russell’s visuals I was curious to see if process was his driving force, however I learnt his work and inspiration is informed by a recycling like outlook on his work re-purposing and re-using his own and found imagery, he explained;
“I’m definitely inspired by my processes but the starting point for me is almost always an image. I collect and categorise printed images that I collect from newspapers, magazines and film screenshots cropping and editing them as I go. I’m attracted to the most clear, concise, sometimes dumb, often everyday, images that I can find. My processes tend to abstract the imagery so much that I like to start with something which resists abstraction.
There are a lot of failures but they can become something else, some collage or part of an under painting. A form of mono-print is also often the starting point for my paintings on canvas or board too, but in this instance they become a kind of necessary obstacle, something to fight against. Paintings will often start out with a very clear representation, of a figure or an environment, then my constant working of it will start to change it into something different, sometimes that different thing will be strong enough to hold its own and become something finished, sometimes I’ll have to revisit the initial image I used as a starting point and steer things back that way. Wanting to retain the freshness in the mono-prints means that rather than working on the same image repeatedly, I start with an image or print and try to steer it through the next few I make. They could be viewed as a linear progression, but I like each image to be able to stand alone.”