ArtChat has recently interviewed James Ainslie, one of five Queensland artists exhibiting at Red Hill Gallery as part of the Light & Air Exhibition from 2 May 2014.AC: The picturesque landscape of South Australia is a strong theme in your work. Do you feel nostalgia for the landscape that you express in the imagery?
JA: I was born and spent the first 48 years of my life in South Australia and lived and travelled throughout the state, from the far north to the southern parts so it is always going to be an integral influence in my creativity. I still love returning to the Flinders Ranges, the Coorong and the red dirt country in the north.
AC: What kind of art do you most identify with? Who are your 3 favourite artists?
JA: I’m eclectic. I started as a surrealist many, many years ago and I have friends and acquaintances who cover the gamut of artistic genre. I am in awe of William Delafield-Cook, Tom Gleghorn (friend and mentor), Fred Williams, Jeffrey Smart, Mark Rothko & the list goes on.
AC: Your artist’s statement says that your interpretations of images are realistic, but “develop more abstractly”. What do you mean by that?
JA: The things that evoke images for me are varied – the landscape, a found object, a memory or a fleeting glimpse of something. The work process takes the form of working drawings/painting studies usually starting with a realistic interpretation which may or may not develop into a finished painting (often totally different to the original idea), but over time, sometimes a year or two down the track I develop a more conceptual approach and images with a more abstract bent begin to form. I can only be a realist for so long and then the need to create differently strikes. The American & Japanese embassies have more abstract pieces .Sometimes I just need to revert to past series such as ‘Fragments Of The Ancients’ which were matter paintings.AC: Your career began almost 40 years ago – what were the kinds of styles and aesthetics that influenced you and inspired you most back then?
JA: As a young painter I had an affinity with Realism and Surrealism because a good friend David Dridan was a leading landscape artist. Later this caused problems at Art School as my teachers were people like Sydney Ball who was and is a hard edge colour field painter. Later Tom Gleghorn entered my artistic life and introduced me to Expressionism and Matter Painting and also gave me knowledge of paint technology which enabled me to explore. I also was lucky enough to meet many of our top artists and visit their studios; sadly many have since died.
JA: Sadly the life of an artist is not a particularly financial one so while I have travelled to most area of Australia, lived for a month each year at Uluru for 8 years as Artist in Residence I haven’t been overseas to see my 2 dream places –Tuscany & Provence.
AC: How would you describe the style and feeling of your collection at Red Hill Gallery in one sentence?
JA: I hope it has a feeling of calm and evokes happy memories for some. The coastal pieces are about that morning moment of peace, with the cool sand beneath the feet and the gentle sound of the sea brushing the shore. AC: Have you had any particularly memorable responses to your work?
JA: I guess winning a few prizes is memorable, but having John Olsen advise a collector to buy one of my pieces was a bit special.
AC: What helps you to get into the creative zone? Do you listen to music while you paint? If so, what kind?
JA: I have no real idea what gets me in a creative zone –I think it is ever present, but often suppressed, so it is usually some small stimulus that drags it to the surface. As for music I am eclectic with this too; it may be classical day or Rolling Stones day or anywhere in between.