“It’s all about the brush I’m using,” Jez Prior told me when I went to ask him about the title of his latest exhibition. “When I think about all the work I’ve done over the years I found that the style of the work is often dictated by the brushes that I’m using, just as much as the type of paint that I use.” Always good to talk with, Jez and I are hanging out in his studio off Baker St. while preparing for an upcoming exhibition.
Thirty years a sound engineer…He has painted in oil but now works in acrylic.
“There is a massive difference between painting in oil paint and acrylic paint. The biggest difference is that of drying time, so when you work in acrylic what ever you do you know it’s going to be dry in about 20 minutes. You can paint over it really quickly but it also means that if you want to blend colours together you’ve got to do that quite quickly. With oil paint, for instance, you can put two oil colours together and you can blend them together three days later. You can look at it for three days before you decide to actually blend them together in the first place. In a way that makes oil painting much more flexible than acrylic”.
So why paint in acrylic?
“Most of the time I’m in too much of a rush to be to be able to successfully paint in oil. So I paint in acrylic most of the time and I’ve had to learn about the fast drying aspect of it. The other thing is, I’m not trying to portray reality anyway. As an abstract painter I’m kind of looking for things to come from the canvas that I work on more than me dictating what goes onto the canvas. So, if you’re painting realistically you’re translating what’s in front of your eyes onto canvas and I’m trying to drag something out from inside myself and have that on the canvas so the experience of painting is completely different than being a realistic painter.
The process becomes experiential where the inspiration comes from the painting itself rather than having a pre determined outcome.
As one of my favourite contemporary artists, who’s work is the inspiration for the laex project, I do like to listen to him talk about where it comes from…
“With oil you do a lot of under painting, where you cover the work that went before until you get it right, covering up the mistakes and adjusting. I wanted to get to a point where I wasn’t doing that any more, where the action of painting isn’t disguised. So, now I’m at a point where every brush stoke is important therefore the brush is extremely important and I’d say I’ve become a little obsessed about brushes because it’s part of the experience. A new brush is a new experience. Its one of the most important components in a painters tool box.
“My grandfather was a painter, a part time painter. He died in the late 80s and he had very little to pass on to me. My inheritance from my grandfather was a signwriters brush and a couple of tubes of paint, having had this inheritance of a long brush that he used to paint rigging on sail boats, I started experimenting with this brush, finding that I was able to draw with it, I could use it to make linear splashes and create a lovely straight edge. Since then, I have purchased many brushes and really enjoy the new synthetic materials that contemporary brushes are made from. No one teaches you how to use a brush but it’s part of your learning experience as a painter.
“I’ve just been to art school and the principal thing I learned from that was to find a ‘thing’ that is yours – a way of creating art that is yours, no one else’s. If you’re going to make it as an artist you have to have a thing that is yours. I struggle with that, because all my paintings are quite different from each other but the thing that holds my whole practice together is the adventures I go on, with all the different ways of making marks on a surface and the variety that can be found with the use of a brush.”