Interview with Future Now Symposium Speaker Dr Alistair Payne, The Glasgow School of Art

Interview with Future Now Symposium Speaker Dr Alistair Payne, The Glasgow School of Art

Future Now: The Aesthetica Art Prize Symposium is an opportunity for you to meet the UK’s leading art organisations, publications and curators. Taking place on 26-27 May at York St John University, the symposium is a place for an exchange of ideas, offering support, talent development and networking opportunities to those working in the sector. Dr Alistair Payne, Head of the School of Fine Art at The Glasgow School of Art will lead a talk on Contemporary Painting: Traversing Conventional Boundaries. This session offers a new perspective on the potential of painting in the modern age, highlighting its current interdisciplinary status. A fine artist and critical author, the exploration of painting’s interdisciplinary potential has influenced Payne’s work throughout his career. We speak to Payne about his research into the evolution of painting today.

A: Painting as a medium in the modern age is changing. What is your opinion on its evolution, both as an educator and as an artist? Are these changes a necessity for its survival in the present day?
AP: Painting is continually changing, it has done so throughout time, however some of the changes in recent times appear, on the surface, to be more significant than at other points in time. This may purely be due to the pressures outwith painting that exert an emphasis on difference that is, perhaps, not particularly significant in the context of the place or even condition of painting now. The question posited also asks about the evolution of painting, a point that is complexly conjectural in my opinion. All things evolve as a matter of course, however that evolution is dependant upon the past, and how it needs to interact with things external to itself, as well as the ever-changing spaces in which it can be perceived. The facticity or thingness of painting being that which makes it itself, however having said that, it is also important to take into account the multiplicitous factors that enforce change and enable difference that allow painting to operate in new and often quite radical ways.

A: Your 2008 publication Painting as an Interdisciplinary Form derives from an investigation into the philosophy of Gilles Deleuze and issues a challenge to the medium-specific limitations of previous formalisms. How has painting become an interdisciplinary form, and is it able to retain its status as ‘painting’ under its new guise?
AP: Interdisciplinarity is a word that is too often used (in the wrong context) in my own opinion, but it does construct an interesting debate around the importance of disciplines/specialisms or mediums that can have very persuasive and potentially attractive outcomes. I hesitate to agree that there may be a new ‘guise’ under which painting can operate now. The systemic attachment to interdisciplinary norms forge complex boundaries in their own right, and not always for the best reasons. It is strange to use the word ‘norms’ alongside interdisciplinarity, however, speaking rather radically, is not disciplinary thinking more progressive at a time in which the force towards all interconnected modes of thought and making hold sway. This is not to say that interdisciplinary thinking is negative in any way, but, rather to position the possibilities within an often (misplaced) entrenched disciplinary position.

A: As a speaker at this month’s Future Now symposium, what are you looking forward to exploring in your presentation?
AP: The presentation, I hope, will explore, or at least open, a discussion around the future spaces of painting. In an ever changing world, how can painting compete against and have residual impact through its ‘exchange’ with an audience, and for that matter who might that future audience be. And, where/how will they engage with painting? The idea that painting may have an exchange value (outside of the commercial) is intriguing to me and I hope to be able to challenge the perceptions of space, place and painting that as yet remain, in many ways, under discussed.

A: You have also exhibited your work throughout the UK and in the USA, and organised painting conferences and exhibitions collaboratively under the title Conversations in Painting. In your opinion, which of these events have been most instrumental to your career as an artist and researcher?
AP: This is a really interesting question and probably the one I find the hardest to answer. I have been lucky enough to have many inspirational moments, and I will list a couple that I have found to be really important to me personally at different times in my life, which I hope respond to the question posed. Whilst an undergraduate student I had the opportunity to see the Pinturas Negras, by Goya in the Prado, which have had an enormous impact upon my work since. As a postgraduate at Newcastle University, I once hung a painting of my own next to a Francis Bacon painting in the gallery – late at night and this I have not really divulged to anyone (until now)! A tutorial with Jason Martin was also important, as was meeting people like Piers Secunda, Neil Rock and Mark Gilbert. A tutorial with James Hyde at Chelsea was also a high point and very important to my thinking at the time. Exhibiting at RAID projects in LA was fantastic and more recently, a lecture I gave at the Luxun Academy of Fine Arts, in China, was positively refreshing in terms of energy and scope of discussion.

A: As Head of the School of Fine Art at The Glasgow School of Art, you work with a multitude of students and artists, both emerging and established. In which ways does this environment inspire your research, and vice-versa?
AP: The environment within the Glasgow School of Art is extraordinary, the development of so many forms of practice and the discussion and debate surrounding contemporary Fine Art practice are absolutely imperative my ongoing artistic research. I find the environment to be unbelievably inspiring, the students and graduates as well as the wealth of creativity across the city of Glasgow create a wonderfully energetic catalyst for developing work and research.

Book tickets for Future Now and join the discussion: or call 01904 629 137.

One-Day and Two-Day Passes are available. Both include free access to the Thursday Night Networking Party at 1331. Entry valid with pass.

Download the Programme here.

Travel to Future Now: The Aesthetica Art Prize Symposium in York with Virgin Trains.

1. Jennifer Lopez Ayala. Draw the Line. Courtesy of the artist.