"We should all be unified by the fact that we are all on the same slide, slipping down to a gloomy finale, so let's enjoy the view and look at the fun stuff."
- Alan Fears
Nottinghamshire-based artist, Alan Fears, gifts us with bright, punchy paintings that opens our eyes to the comedy of life. Alan’s work has led to him being shortlisted for The John Moores Painting Prize in 2018, a feature on the front cover of Paris Review’s 2019 summer issue and his paintings exhibited at the Royal Academy of Arts. We had the pleasure of asking him a few questions about his work…
You began painting back in the 80s and then ‘left the art thing behind for 20 years.' What drew you to start painting again?
It was unfinished business. I crashed out of some art courses in my teens and spent my twenties and thirties working for money. As middle age crept in, I knew I had to tidy up that particular interest. As a child, I always had a flair for drawing, so I felt that I had to try and paint before I ran out of time or motivation.
What attracts you to painting figures as opposed to abstract painting?
I have flirted with abstract painting over the years, but we never really got on. Whenever I tried it, I always felt that I was only trying to be a proper painter. The only useful thing that I found in abstract painting was the art of the mistake. Embracing the errors. It is still a trick I use today. Painting or drawing people is my most natural instinct. It's what I used to do as a child, and it feels like the most honest thing to paint now.
Do you have any artistic influences? - How did you arrive at your idiosyncratic style?
I have a small world of influences. I like Pop Art for the simplicity of the message, the direct compositions and the saturation of colour. I also like outsider art, naive art and fan art, so successful painters such as Peter Blake, Matisse, Dubuffet, Basquiat, Hockney, and Katz seem to straddle both of these worlds and that's where I try to position my work.
Humour seems a central part of your work. How do you go about incorporating it into your paintings?
I see humans as silly creatures, so there will often be something about a composition that I find endearing or ridiculous. As a painting develops, a title or phrase will appear to me, and from there I just follow the image to some sort of wonky conclusion. Generally, I find it difficult to take myself or anyone else seriously, so I think my lack of seriousness makes the picture funny or funny looking.
Your work contains a variety of musical references and outside painting you also write and record music. How does your creative process differ with music as opposed to art? And do you find one to hold more potential in being able to express oneself?
I have been making music for twenty-five years, it really is a teenage dream that should have ended a long time ago. However, the songwriting process of randomly connecting some chords together, shaping a melody and stumbling across a title or phrase isn't that different to my painting method. For me, painting is a direct route to expressing whatever is left of myself. Music can be limiting, and it's open to misinterpretation. It's much easier to look at a message than listen to a message.
You mentioned in a previous interview that you love and hate humans simultaneously. What is it about humans that shaped this outlook?
Seriousness. When humans get uptight, they ruin the party for everyone else. We should all be unified by the fact that we are all on the same slide, slipping down to a gloomy finale, so let's enjoy the view and look at the fun stuff. Serious people stop other people from being free, and that isn't a positive contribution. My work is trying to remind the miserable to be cheerful, and I include myself in that.
How do you hope your art might affect your viewer?
Happy people respond well to my work. The miserable ones are suspicious and judgemental. My hope is that the unhappy humans will look at one of my pictures, tear up their rule books and reach for the skies.
Finally, any messages or words of wisdom for the people, especially young artists, reading this?
There are no magic formulas or shortcuts to anything. Everyone starts out as average and they work really hard to improve from average to acceptable. Greatness doesn't exist, it's only a matter of opinion, so don't bother aiming for that nonsense.
You can enjoy more of Alan's work on his website: http://www.alanfears.com/