Musician, artist, father, budding surfer – John Squire wears many hats, but the one creating all the buzz at the moment happens to be the role of celebrated painter. After a showcase of his works at The Smithfield Gallery in July 2007, the Dazed and Confused Gallery played host to the collection in September. Viewers were treated to an array of paintings and mixed media pieces that the former Stone Roses guitarist had been working between 2004 and 2007.
It’s the mixed media pieces, large canvases covered with layers of plaster, glue, sand and oil paint, which are the focal point of the shows. Built on a two-dimensional space, the works become undeniably three-dimensional, becoming true sculptures with the movement and life present in each one. The inspiration for these pieces came originally from staring at the walls in his home; after John did an “atrocious” job of re-plastering, he got the idea for putting a layer of plaster on unmounted canvas and seeing what would happen.
Much of the innovation in John’s work comes through his curiosity and willingness to experiment. Often he will get an idea, Google some tips on applications for the new medium he’s discovered, and go with it. With the mediums he uses, there is a lot of mixing potions, figuring drying times and formulas — processes that John laughingly refers to as “akin to cooking.” The work itself has evolved over time as well, as he introduced more texture to the plaster by laying strips of tape underneath and ripping them up before growing bored with that specific technique after a few canvases. Painting the canvas was a conscious idea to create more visual interest in the pieces, and the layering of sand and glue to some of the layers adds more depth.
John’s turn as an artist is much more than just a side project, it has become an obsession. With two or three canvases going on at a time, he works massively, trying to put in as much time as possible before exhibitions. He’s also come to realise that the more time he works with his art, the better he becomes, until reaching a point where “you just get on with it” and dive head-first into the next project. The workspace John uses is the renovated first floor of a sheep barn near his home, the main floor of which is still used by a shepherd. Before the creation of the studio, he was left to clearing off tables and floors to find room for his art, often working on the floor of recording studios. Once skylights and electricity were added to the barn a few years ago, he fell in love with the space and set to work utilizing it as much as possible.
For John, though, “art is nothing until it leaves the room; good art is made good art by the people who see it.” Displaying his work is just as much an adventure for John as for his audiences, and he was surprised at how his works looked being on display at a gallery for the first time a few years ago. When the pieces are displayed he gets a better idea of the full collection, seeing an interconnectedness that he didn’t notice at the studio – this coming from the artist who almost didn’t show up for his first exhibition because he thought “there was no point in showing up.” Now he realizes that the creator (himself) is a symbol at the show, and enjoys seeing how people interpret his work and absorb it.
With regard to his former musical endeavors, John feels that at his age he’s better suited to art, and finds it just as absorbing. “The reason for music was creation, chasing the first couple of bars, the first idea,” he says. The repetition of playing the same notes over and over grew old but he knew it was part of the deal, and while he had a lot of fun going on tours, John would have been happy just staying in the studio to create and record. For now his art is allowing him to do basically that, giving him the ability to close himself up in the studio and pop his head out every now and again. His four-year-old daughter makes her way out to the studio at times, awing Dad with her honest, no-fear approach to art. “She says she’s going to paint a waterfall or a herd of cows, and then just goes ahead and does it… There’s definitely something to be learned from that” he says, before adding that he might try her new technique of using two paintbrushes at a time on the canvas.
When he does make it outside John has been working on his surfing skills, a sport he got his first taste of while touring in Australia. He relates a story of ten guys with their surfboards in the water, being watched closely by lifeguards five miles down the beach because they obviously didn’t know the first thing about surfing. Not one to be defeated, John tried it again in France, only to end up with an ear infection, and finally stood for fifteen seconds of triumph in Cornwall a year ago.
There’s no telling exactly where the illustrious John Squire’s career will take him next, but he assures us all that he’s definitely not into gambling.