What comes between a young artist and stardom?
25th October, 2010, by Kate Tsouros, Artfetch
Neil Raitt’s exquisite paintings explore a fictional narrative within socially deviant worlds, creating stark contrasts with an idealistic backdrop of picturesque landscapes and mystical forest scenes. Playing with the fantastical, the work redeems a sense of escapism within painting and investigates how the language of representation can challenge the traditions of figuration. Hugely influenced by film and the cultural significance of cinematic history, Raitt perpetuates this relationship with art in the stills–like quality of his painting, sharing ideas of a constructed reality and using scale to populate his work with ornamental–like props. Raitt graduated with a BA in Fine Art from Norwich University College of the Arts in 2009 and is currently completing his MA at the Royal College, London. Artfetch caught up with him to chat about how it’s all going.
What has your experience at the Royal College been like?
It’s a bit of a roller coaster. I think the main influence it has had on me as an artist is in the encouragement to consider the aspects of work that are seemingly less successful. The exposure to such a diverse spectrum of work takes you out of your comfort zone and forces you to consider ideas in a new context. I guess the idea is that you gain an insight into your previously rubbish ideas and grow into the famous artist you were always supposed to be.
You won the Hans Brinker Budget Trophy in 2008 and The Attenborough Prize in 2009 and you’ve been part of various international exhibitions already — what do you think has impacted your career the most so far?
It has been good fun when I have had the opportunity to travel to a new city or spend a length of time in a country very different from my own. I would be hesitant to call what I do a career but for argument’s sake as far as professional life goes I would say the time that I spent in my shed in Norwich in 2008/2009 was the most eventful time so far.
Do you think painting is neglected nowadays in favour of other types of work — installation, new media etc.?
No, I don’t think there’s enough challenges towards painting in the context of what might be considered art. I see the role of painting today as the role that it has always had, which is to challenge our preconceptions of that role. I think it’s in a pretty healthy state, probably too healthy, and sometimes I wonder if I have carved a space out for myself as contemporary painter at all.
You are drawn to film, fantasy, escapism — why do you think that is?
My work deals with childhood and the importance that childhood has on your life. I think I see myself as the child in the fantasy and how the troubling issues of childhood resonate within painting.
Neil Raitt studied his BA Fine Art at Norwich University College of The Arts, where he graduated in 2009. Following that he completed an internship at Salem Art Works in upstate New York before going on to complete a residency at The Hans Brinker Budget Hotel in Amsterdam in December 2010. He has been awarded the Hans Brinker Budget Trophy 2008 and The Attenborough Prize 2009. He now lives and works in London.
“My practice is rooted in the relationship between painting and photography. For instance some works are reminiscent of film stills, evoking a false sense of familiarity with the images. My most recent developments in painting coincide with a growing interest in film genres of art-house and exploitation cinema from the 1970s. A notable influence is the portrayal of South American culture in films such as Amores Perros and Chop Shop. I am concerned with our emotional response to imagery in this vein. My works attempt to replicate a combination of black humour, irony and sadness, with a tone reflective of art house or 1970’s exploitation cinema. This can be seen in the series of altered Brooklyn landscapes, which share a muted, emotional fantasy with narratives about loss, childhood and nostalgia.
An important part of my practice is also a kind of exercise in painting through the lessons of the late television painter Bob Ross. His television show ‘The Joy of Painting’ aired between the late 1970’s and early 1990’s has pioneered the hobby artist aesthetic in North American woodlands and Mighty Mountain oil paintings. As part of my practice, this work represents an element of nostalgia of a generation raised on a mixture of bohemian ideals and cable television. This optimistic philosophy Ross embodies treats painting as a skill anyone can pick up and make beautiful pictures with. Recognised and adopted by artist Ull Hohn, who studied under Richter, he has perfected this specific method of painting coined by Ross as ‘wet on wet’. This quite specific technique of landscape painting has subsequently bled into the awareness of modern and contemporary fine art. For this line that Ross walks between craft and painting, the work can be seen as a symbol of a safe approach that swoons the palette of the humourless as a kind of comment on the struggling artist in pains to make work and says ‘ahh, don’t worry about it’.”