When artists start talking about their work in words that mean nothing to me my face usually displays enough information for them to see I think them a tad pompous. If they don’t pick up on my body language then I just have to tell them verbally. So, what a joy to hear artist Rod Kitson say that he wanted to treat his work like a builder would and price everything up by the square foot. That meant building his huge artworks from individual one foot square canvases, like tiles or bricks, with the finished pieces resulting in veritable works of genius, writes Michael Holland.
Kitson always drew cartoons as a kid so it was no surprise that he eventually went to art school, but this didn’t work out too well and ended after a foundation course. But the love of art never left and at some point in his life he once again took up the brushes. And that was a bonus for all of us.
Another bonus is that in his current exhibition, Machines For Living In, visitors can paint their own one foot square canvas to add to an artwork that will be completed while the show is running, and will be sold at the same price as the artist’s – £120 per sq.ft. How great is that?
While I was there a lady, who said she loves art but has no technical skills, was soon – with Kitson’s assistance – mixing colours and laying on paint with a trowel and brush to produce the exhibition’s first piece of art that has come from the community and not the artist. I have since heard that she went back with her sister where they created another 2 sq. ft of work!
Rod Kitson is a breath of fresh air in the art world, there’s no pretentiousness with him. He lives in his studio above a former pub on the Deptford-Rotherhithe border and treats his work as a job and not a raison d’être. He sees it as a skill learnt and not something people are born with, which I totally agree with. And because he is willing to sit and guide beginners through their initial fear, he wants all budding artists to go in and have a go at creating art with him
If the fear is too strong, still go because the art that you will see there is quite amazing: 3D portraits that change depending on where you stand, the one foot square works that form intricate Persian carpets, a life-size replica of his studio, views from a skylight, and all created by painting one canvas a day for as long as it took each work to complete. And the exhibition will be growing as more and more people go along to add their own unique touch to it.
But do not be fooled by Mr Kitson’s approach, he is no cowboy builder but an artist with something very special about him and about his art.
Machines For Living In is on at 47 Upper Mall, (Next to Boots the Opticians) Surrey Quays Shopping Centre, SE16 7LL 18th – July 31st Times: 11am – 7pm Daily (11-5pm Sundays, 11-3pm July 22nd/23rd). Admission: Free.