David Green: being present
There is a profound stillness and soft moodiness to David Green's paintings which prompt a gentle reflective state in the viewer. Consistently exploring time, space and light in his work, David seems most focussed on allowing himself the pureness of immersion in the process of creating over any expectation of how a finished piece will be. David's work and life are guided by the beautiful reminder to immerse oneself in the present contained in the James Salter quote “there is always more, but this moment is the best". It is the gift of presence which David offers the viewer through his paintings.
Michelle Saleeba: Why art?
David Green: Painting is something I have always done, always been drawn to. It was never a conscious choice, just something that was part of me. Earliest memories are attending art classes, probably around 8 or 9 years old, I can still smell the oil paints and mediums, remember the first touch of the oil paint on my palette, remember the hall we were in… it’s the only thing in my whole life that has truly made any sense and I have never really stopped painting since then…
MS: Have there been any formative experiences, or lessons along the way that have impacted on your art making?
DG: I’ve had many teachers along the way, but the one who stands out for me is Paul Uhlmann, a wonderful Perth artist who really inspired in me a love of the whole painting experience, from start to finished works – putting down layers of paint and really enjoying just moving paint around and the whole painting process. I think that’s when I realized that while there is much joy in creating a beautiful painting, it's really immersing yourself in the creative process, regardless of how it turns out, that matters.
MS: What is the inspiration behind your current body of work?
DG: I have been painting landscapes for many years, inspired mostly from my travels around the central highlands of Tasmania. Beautiful landscapes that I will probably keep returning to for inspiration for my paintings in the future. Recently however, I have started to move towards creating a body of work that is more local, I have started painting the places that I pass through everyday, the streets and urban landscapes around Fremantle. I have the same desire to feel the light and sense of space and time, I want to paint the places I know best and search for the beauty in everyday scenes that I sometimes forget to appreciate.
MS: Tell us about your choice of medium/s, why do you work with them?
DG: I paint with both acrylics and oils. I use oils for outdoors and smaller pieces, I love the feel of oil however acrylic work best for me when I am doing larger pieces with lots of layers. I have painted with oils all my life, acrylic have been more recent, just the last few years, a large oil landscape painting used to take months to complete, I guess I’m getting a bit too impatient to work on paintings that slowly.
MS: What does a typical day of creative work look like for you?
DG: Well I have a full time job, not involved with the arts at all, so I don't often have a creative day, more finding a couple of hours to indulge. When I am working on a painting I will usually take the time before I go to work to reflect on my paintings in process and be super critical of what I have done, taking time out between painting sessions helps me to keep my distance from what I am creating and I'm not afraid to drastically change where the painting is going if I'm not completely happy with it. I often paint over my paintings multiple times, sometimes with intention, other times more playfully, being attentive to anything that works unexpectedly. My painting process is a combination of design and play. I try not to be restrained in what I do and not get too attached to my pieces. I may go to bed thinking I have painted something amazing but when I wake up the next morning and have another look, I realise it is rubbish and paint over it.
MS: Who or what are the strongest influences on your art?
DG: Clarice Beckett is my biggest influence. When you look at her work there is little in common, on the surface, to what I do, however what I love about her work and life is that she was uncompromising in her art practice. She painted how she wanted and was steadfast in her unpopular tonalist approach and associated herself with Max Meldrum, who was not a popular part of the then Melbourne art scene. Ridiculed by critics Clarice continued to create beautiful art, her way, which now has finally achieved rightful critical acceptance in the art world. Her work is timeless and is an example of someone following their personal creative journey and not giving in to any external pressure to please others.
I find that uncompromising approach more inspiring than any particular artist or piece of work. Art is about the process, not the final result.
MS: What do you aim to say through your art? Are there any consistent themes or stories in your work?
DG: My art is deeply personal and there is a constant theme running through every piece I do. It reflects how I see life and my place in it and I acknowledge that doesn’t necessarily mean anything to anyone else. So I don’t express these themes explicitly and I don’t really want to. I am happy if people view my art and it resonates with them, and that may be for completely different reasons than myself, and that’s ok.
I turn away from art that overtly tries to state a message, we are all on our own journeys and just because I paint that doesn’t elevate my role in making any statements. We need to work these things out for ourselves in our own ways.
MS: What’s essential to you being able to produce art?
DG: For me I need to have something in mind to start the creative process, an image, photograph or memory. But that’s just to get things moving and once I get into a creative mode I try and discard all that and let the painting take me where it needs to go.
MS: What role do you see artists and the arts having in society?
DG: To simply remind ourselves and each other to appreciate how much beauty there is everywhere, everyday.
MS: Does your own work make any social commentary?
DG: No. I have nothing to say that hasn’t already been said or that we don’t already know. Each to their own, however I don’t want to preach to anyone, I would like to create a quiet space for reflection and contemplation around my work, nothing more.
I guess I have a strong belief that history repeats and as a society we generally don’t seem to learn from past mistakes and experiences. I think it’s important to reflect on, and acknowledge our insignificance. Possibly there is something in that that I try to capture in my art – but that’s as far I will go on that.
MS: It’s said that creative expression and arts engagement are fundamentally tied to our sense of vitality and wellbeing. Does that resonate with you?
DG: Well that is absolutely true for me. For me it’s is the one thing, maybe the only thing that I can do with complete honesty. I have to make a choice to paint firstly for myself and this allows me to stand by my work and feel completely joyful of the process and result. My paintings represent me and who I am. For whatever reason, most other things I do outside of art involve compromises, sometimes intentional and for good reason, sometimes not. Art is the only honest thing I do, I would be lost without it.
12. Do you have any exciting news to share about your art practice?
Not really, I am excited every time I pick up a brush, I hope I will be excited by what happens next, we will have to wait and see on that one.
MS: What’s the most memorable response you’ve had to your artwork?
DG: I am so grateful and overjoyed whenever anyone engages with my artwork. As I have said before I believe that it is important to not be influenced with how others respond to your artwork (good or bad), but I admit it is really joyful to hear that your art touches someone else and that they choose to put a piece of your work up in their home. Every time that happens is memorable and something I cherish. The other day someone said that my work speaks to them in a way that was similar to how I feel. That was memorable.