In his conversation with Andrew Stahl from The Slade School of Fine Art, UCL at Daiwa Foundation House on Thursday, Carl Randall explained how his meticulous paintings evolved from a simple sketch. It might originate from some movements or people’s facial expressions that intrigued him, and then he would make a few quick sketches on the move, and consider the composition. Then over time the quick sketches became more serious sketches, and slowly the overall impression deepened. Finally the characters found their ways into the picture. He would consider the light, tone and texture, making one layer after another. He approached his subject as if he were an outsider, so that he could observe and create, make a documentation of the reality, even if his play on the dimension and proportions of figures betray the artificial nature of a painting.
Listening to his talk, one sees that art is never a coincidence. Talent and perceptiveness are key, of course, but the contents and style come from hard work. Randall conceded that he never used photographs to make portraits, even though he had no intention of making a statement against portraits based on photographs. It just did not appeal to him. He would like to be able to meet his model, speak to him or her, and in those three hours he would observe keenly and feel the model’s presence or personality, pin down his impression of him or her, and to adopt the portrait in the larger urban landscape he was working on. Over the ten years he was in Japan, Randall estimated that he had drawn nearly a thousand faces.
He mentioned Edward Hopper as an influence. I have always felt a vague hint of Hopper in his work: the distance between individuals in a familiar yet slightly surreal urban landscape, the unflattering palette of reality, the way time seems to have frozen in the poetic moment, the impossibility to know someone or tell what they feel from just gleaning the surface, and how the mood of an individual seems to enter the colours, the lights, the environment. He said he liked Japan and found it a very calm, orderly city, and though the city is incredibly busy, filled with movements and skyscrapers and neon lights, it is a place where lost things are found.
Stahl asked Randall how he thought about the discipline of the artist. The key, according to Randall, is to treat your work as a job. “You have to get on with it, every single day, otherwise nothing gets done really.”
For more, click here. Exhibition continues at Daiwa Foundation House, 13/14 Cornwall Terrace, Outer Circle, London NW1 4QP until 12 March.