David Willis is a Canadian painter, who's work is full of movement and vibrant colours. He shares with us his thoughts behind his work and process.
Can you describe your studio routine?
Starting off is always the hardest part, so often I start with mundane things like tidying the space and looking again more closely at recently made work. After that the hardest part is throwing myself into start painting something new, so I break down the white surface as quickly as possible. Once I have at least one painting in progress It's easier to paint and respond to the direction the image is going.
If you could collaborate with any other artist in the world, who would it be?
I'm a fan of the German painter Albert Oehlen. I'd love to watch, learn and pick his brain about how he constructs his compositions. He has elements of both abstraction and figuration in his work, so learning how he negotiates the pictorial space he creates could be very useful to feed into my own painting.
How much of your work is intuitively executed versus planned out?
I used to work from computer drawings I made using basic drawing software. But over the last few years I've moved towards a more intuitive physical response to the image, often painting over old paintings to use the traces of their physical history to influence the new work. Although not planned-out as such, I usually have a rough idea about how I imagine the pictorial space might read, and a colour combination, or large physical gesture that will provide the platform for further 'intuitive' marks to develop from.
Your technique of dragging a brush to create these unique ribbons of colour is quite unique. Is there one tool that works best for this?
Thank you, but I think it's more to do with the paint mixture, using mediums to creating a honey-like texture that is viscous but translucent. The colour behind the ribbon brush mark (usually white as it heightens the colour) is important as it influences the colours as they blend within the brushstroke.
You state that this work is a political statement against the accelerating climate change caused by human activity. Can you explain this?
My aim is for my work to be a visual palette cleanser for any passer by on the street - from the mundanity of our modern lives. Allowing the viewer to transport themselves away from their office building to a space of joy and beauty. To mimic and highlight the authentic experience one can have with nature. To have a truly authentic, and wondrous experience of Mother Nature is becoming rarer and rarer. There are so few untouched landscapes left on the planet that it may become only possible to envisage these habitats through art and music. I hope that my painting will help viewers to realise what still remains needs to be more greatly valued, and as such every person needs to take greater responsibility for their own impact on the environment. But also the collective responsibility of citizens and governments to vote more proactively to change policies towards a more balanced sustainable future.
Some of your work features a solid or ombre background while others have more texture. Do you view these as different bodies of work or different themes of an idea?
No I don't view them as separate bodies of work, it's about how to make the image read as a receding space. Having a gradated background, or a more textured surface can both create the illusion of pictorial depth. If ever the paintings seem to be becoming to formulaic I often try to break them up and use a slightly different approach. This both keeps things challenging for me and allows room for new discoveries.