Name: Richard J Oliver
College: University of the West of England and the University Institute Cardiff
Favorite Color: white
Favorite Book: The science of mind
Favorite Movie: Ex machina
Favorite Food: Pizza
Favorite Quote: ‘Here let me help you” said the monkey to the fish as he put him safely up a tree.
Why are you an artist, and when did you first become one?
I am an artist partly because I don’t know how to work for anyone else, and partly because it seemed to come naturally to me at an early age and it is perhaps the only thing I am good at. I think the universe expresses itself through us and we all have a unique service to provide for our fellow life forms so in a sense I have always been expressing myself, even before I was aware that art was likely my calling the universe must have had the intent that I should express my own form of the Artist archetype.
Can we talk a bit about your process at the beginning of a project? How do you conceive of it?
How do you build it in your mind before you start? It varies from work to work. Sometimes in a flash of intuition and clarity I see a fully developed image which I then have to go through the futile exercise of trying to recreate the phantom image that was created in the ever exaggerating frontal lobe. Sometimes I stare forever at an image and listen to what it tells me should be happening, I put myself in the shoes of the character and try to feel their feelings and the narrative comes from this place and other times I follow a route of serendipity trusting that my eyes and gut instinct will see the right image that resonates with me and plants a seed.
What’s the best advice anyone gave you?
Don’t seek happiness especially from outside events, money and the stuff money can buy, happiness is a result and the cause is always Love. Money can bring you pleasure but pleasure is short lived and doesn’t in any way help you grow, Gratification is different from pleasure because gratification adds to your life vitue and often comes from challenges rather than the easy routes. Simply Love yourself, express love to others and love everything you do, and love will return two fold, happiness and joy will come naturally.
Do you suffer for your art?
I only suffer from the unrestrained passion of creating and sampling the fruits of this creating. What a blessing.
How would you define yourself as an artist?
I am less a human having a spiritual experience and becoming more a spiritual being having a human experience.
What inspires you to work?
Firstly when I am fulfilling my purpose and maximising my potential it can hardly be called Work. But I am inspired to create because when I let the energy of life work through my hand I am in total harmony, flow and bliss, secondly if I can make something that resonates with just one other person in a positive way and deepen their joy then I am participating in a miracle. That is enough inspiration for me for sure.
You seem to use a lot of symbols in your work. Do your works tell stories or are they simply decorative elements of the project?
Do i? Well, lets clear something up, A single painting can not tell a story, it can only imply something. By Aristotles definition of narrative, to qualify as narrative an event needs to have both cause and effect, for example a beginning a middle and end. There is simply no way that I know of to make all three exist in a still representational image. Even if you had a figure in mid flight, you could argue that there is a narrative there, they took off from some point are in motion and therefore must land, but of course under further scrutiny you will see that cause and effect are assumptions made in the mind of the viewer. With all this said, my paintings could be considered Implied Narrative. My work has developed and yes in the past I used elements and props to make an image ambiguous and interesting, I did this because it seemed everyone else was doing it and it must be right, right? But since then I have discover that it is important to only include elements that strengthen the emotion that I wish to convey and better still which I wish to evoke in the viewer. Many tools including geometrical ratios and composition lead the viewer around the work and hopefully to an extent one can control the expression of the desired emotion but to be honest, with me it is hit and miss. Mainly because saying something is all good and well, but having something to say worth hearing is a different matter.
What famous artists have influenced you, and how?
I am currently a big fan of Bouguereau because he was able to make timeless beautiful paintings with the simplest pose and the minimal content. To me they are like well crafted poems that say everything to evoke in me the intended emotion but using the simplest descriptive language. Also, I love that he decided to step outside the academy arts and make genre paintings that appealed to the private audience, the true and honest folk.
What other interests do you have outside of art?
I love to run. I love to run naturally, for I believe there is huge therapeutic value to running. It is a pure form of joyous expression that for some reason we left behind when we were children. Life is energetic and what better way to tune in to the joy of living than to let your body run free, in touch with raw nature. I run in the mountains with my companion German Shepard and together we bound around in uninhibited instinctual joy, letting go of all cares and worries, being totally present and putting faith and trust back into the life that feeds us all unconditionally. I also like to read.
You seem to be very aware of the history of works. Where do you see films, photo exhibitions, art perfomances today?
To be honest I barely connect with current film, photographic or performance art. I am easily influenced and therefore I like to try and provide my mind with the minimal distractions. Also, many works of art and media are born of fear and spread negativity even if they are trying to battle negativity. Whatever your attention is on is what you will bring into your life as experience so I try to be disciplined and keep my attention on the things I wish to see and experience more of, in a way tending to my own garden and not worrying too much about others. It is challenging in todays day and age with the ease and accessibility of the shallow and the dramatic. All this eventually does is disable our ability to see the subtitles of life and for me this is the only access to the vast un-manifested power and intelligence from where everything comes.
How would your life change if you were no longer allowed to create art?
Why and how could this ever happen? Even in our dark history man managed to find a way. Some of our greatest and most revered historical thinkers and philosophers were executed for expressing themselves. If this is the ways it should be, then so be it. To give an example of the power of creation in mankind, Viktor Frankl, whilst in a death camp, at the most desperate and hopeless situation a man can find himself in, was able to find purpose by being creative in the eye of the mind. That can never be taken away, proven by Frankl who I feel is an absolute authority.
What are your next projects?
I have just cancelled a solo exhibition because I felt like the pressure to make X number of paintings by a specific date is detrimental to the work itself. It’s putting the cart before the horse. I decided that I would paint each work, one at a time and give them all the time and the attention they need, when I feel I have enough great work worth showing, I will have a show. My art is not a means to an end, like becoming rich or famous, Painting in itself is the end and when I am making it and sharing it I am at my happiest. I make an intent daily to not let my life story get in the way of my real experience of life. Metaphorically speaking, in the past I have been guilty of collecting and staring at the map to the detriment of experiencing the territory. Now however, the map is just a guide and on the journey it isn’t important where I get to or where I came from, it is important only how I choose to be.