Artist Interview | Kevin Low


Art Scotland / Article 863 Views

Kevin Low is an artist living and working in Glasgow, his new exhibition Women & Men is currently on show at the Union Gallery in Edinburgh.

What drives your passion – when did you know that art is what you wanted to do?
It’s an obsession. It’s something I have to do, or I get sick. I hesitate to say that because I think that’s how most artists feel. I don’t have a choice. That makes it sound like it’s a chore, like being bullied by the subconscious, but nah, it’s a bloody thrill, every time. There is nothing better in the world than creating stuff.

As a kid, I grew up on a farm. I expected to become a cattleman, I really did. It was a very small world. I think it was pop music that gave me that first buzz in my gut, that invitation to step away from the ‘real world’. Mr David Bowie, I owe you a lot.

What do you make and what are the ideas behind it?
I paint, I’m a recent convert to oils. I’ve always seen them in the past as frightening, uncontrollable things. I now see them as magical, something with the right degree of shove and pull can speak to people.

This Exhibition, ‘Women & Men’, has been created after a couple of years away from showing work. I think they call it ‘a period of experimentation and reappraisal’. I was becoming frustrated. Wasn’t getting that thing in the pit of my stomach. I took time to think, to experiment.

I’m a figurative artist. I painted a lot, and a burned a lot of stuff. In the end, I decided really to return to the basics, a figure and a room, take the props away, everything but flesh, and maybe a bed. My digital work had become more and more Rococo, every leaf a flourish, every branch a blossom. I loved it, but I wanted more. This all sounds like I’m describing some kind of relationship rocky patch. I love you but…

A painting can only be an invitation. It can’t tell you anything, the room. To succeed a painting must have an atmosphere. That’s the artist job. Then the viewer takes over, they make the decisions, what’s happening, where are we, is there a sound, traffic passing, it’s the middle of the night, if I could see is there fear or love in his eyes.

What inspires you?
Music. Everything thing from Purcell to Lana Del Rey to Tom Jones, the 60’s stuff – oh and Tom Waites, the later noisy clattering albums, and the Tiger Lillies – ooft, if you haven’t heard them go search them out right now.

Where do you work? What is your average working day?
I work from home in Glasgow’s south side, I have a fairly normal working day, Monday to Friday, I have a wife who I like to spend time with. I start around 9 doing the easy stuff, preparing boards, or thinking about preparing boards or trawling through eBay, which I regard as research and my family regards as a drain on the family finances. I have a need to surround myself with stuff, something I think that’s one for the psychiatrists’ couch. I recently bought three violins, I do not play the violin, but they were a bargain and they’re beautiful things.

I work on several paintings at the same time, four or five would not be unusual. I can’t see where to go with one, so I move over to the next. It’s really important to be surrounded by the work. I have shelves all around the studio so they are constantly there in the corner of my eye. I have a belief that If you keep looking, and keep asking them where to go, eventually they will give in and tell you. Sometimes it’s just a thumb dragged edge to the to the board of ochre. Sometimes though you’re pulled back to something that requires a leap of confidence, where you need a wide, boof -boof -boof across the surface with a rag. It’s exciting, not consciously controlled.

In what way does being Scottish influence your work?
That’s an interesting one. Being Scottish is very important. My work smells of small town east coast Scotland to me, the Angus countryside where I’m originally from dominated earlier digital work, town steeples punctuated several of the paintings, naming the towns. With this new work, the influence is harder to detect by looking, unless you can scan my brain. The current work smells of Brechin bedsits, the small windowed rooms of cotter houses stuck in perpetual winters. A sad nostalgia, you could call it, that’s how the country has influenced me.

Kevin’s lastest exhibition continues at the Union Gallery until 9 September 2017

Kevin Low, Woman and Man on a Blue Bed

Kevin Low, Woman with Purple Skirt and Cigarette

Kevin Low, Untitled

Kevin Low, Pale Legs

Feature image: Kevin Low, Sisters (IV)