The Interview: Tobit Roche
The artist Tobit Roche, known for his bold, mesmerising abstract landscapes, shows regularly in London, New York, India and here in the West Country and his avid fan base includes high profile collectors such as Cate Blanchett and David Bowie.
On the eve of his new show Towards Abstraction at the Art Stable in Child Okeford (14 November to 19 December), he talks to Country Calling
This is your fourth solo show at The Art Stable in Child Okeford. Could you tell us a bit about your relationship with the gallery and your connection with the West Country?
I knew Kelly (founder and owner of The Art Stable) from the time she and Tim lived in Brixton when our children were in primary school together. Then when they moved to Dorset I was a frequent visitor, but also going right back to the 80's we were always in the West Country as my wife Nancy grew up in Fordingbridge and her mother lived in Salisbury and we had many friends in the area. As a landscape painter it was only natural that I should paint there, it was familiar to me.When Kelly set up the Art Stable, I was there with pictures ready to exhibit so thatfitted quite nicely with what she wanted to do. We've evolved together since then.You have described yourself as being spellbound by nature, light and weather. Your new show, Towards Abstraction, features a much more abstract interpretation of landscape. Could you tell us about your inspiration for these paintings?
Nature is terribly important to me, in a way it is odd that I still live in Brixton. In my studio I can let my self go and imagine landscapes, skies and the weather much as Turner did, he was an absolute genius, way ahead of his time. This new move towards abstraction was a way of the throwing off the restraints and shackles of specific landscape motifs when all along my paintings were about colour texture and mood and I had been using landscape as a vehicle for this. Why not simply paint colour, texture and find the subject within the paint or let the paint itself be the subject. Some turned into funny narratives with odd titles like Blue Brain and Fried Egg, or The Happy Couple Gone Blue, they have been surprisingly popular which was very incouraging so let's have an exhibition of them. The technical side of years painting landscapes has given me a foundation for launching this venture into abstraction, actually though, they are much more difficult to do than the landscapes.
Pictured below: Blue Circle
Much of your work is made in the studio working from memory and imagination. Could you describe how you begin, what you use as a starting point?I usually start one of the large canvases with several layers of acrylic under paintinusing lavish amounts of what ever colour takes my fancy. Often I will have had an idea of certain colours for several days before I begin, there is no idea of subject at this stage. This is followed by a build up of marks and dripped oil paint using a variety of mediums like stand oil and beeswax, this can go on for several weeks, I will often go in the direction suggested by the marks on the canvas find it doesn't lead anywhere, for example if something starts to look like something, that's really when you need to back off and try to make it not look like something. Eventually after a prolonged period of experimenting and moving the paint around, and overpainting and scraping off I will arrive at stage when the painting has something, a sort of completeness and integrity of its own. This is the most difficult stage, how does one know when this point is reached? The process of manipulating the paint is much looser and freer than when painting a landscape though I'd love to be able to paint landscapes with such abandon.The artist Duncan Grant was a close family friend when you were growing up and you spent a year working alongside him in your early career. Has he been a major influence?
Duncan Grant was very fortunate as he came from a background where he needn't worry too much about money and all his social connections almost ensured his success. I was very fortunate to have known him and though my work bears no resemblance to his it was his life as an artist that inspired me, it set an example of how with discipline and hard work a painter could have a very civilized and rewarding career, though at first the realities were not apparent and a healthy dose of good fortune is always an important ingredient for an artist's career.
Pictured below: Orange Composition