Aileen Lee meets artist Ian Humphreys
What’s your background?
I was born in England to a large family. I was always painting and drawing — it was the only thing I was ever any good at or interested in.
After some struggle, I got into art college. I wasn’t good at the academic side, so it took a long time to get there. I did my two-year foundation course and then a three-year degree at Exeter which was brilliant. I loved art college.
I was later invited to do some part-time teaching, and I taught for 18 years in art colleges in England. For six of those years, it was full-time on a foundation course teaching painting and drawing.
After that, I decided I’d done enough teaching, so I left and came to my favourite place which is Ireland. That was in 1999 and I’ve been painting and drawing here ever since. It was the best thing I did moving to Ireland to concentrate on my painting.
What’s a typical workday like for you?
My studio is on Heir Island, but I live on the mainland, so I go in my boat to my studio in the morning. All the windows are covered in my studio so I can’t look out and get distracted by the beauty of the outside.
I work in oils in the studio, and I might spend a whole day working on one thing or I might spend it working on two or three things. The paintings themselves all take months.
The best bits of painting are when I go in there and I lose myself and suddenly the day is gone and I look at my work and say: “Well, who painted that?” They’re the best days.
There are other days where you might struggle, and nothing comes together. It’s just the luck of the draw, but you have to be there to find it.
Tell us about a recent project or design you have worked on?
The most recent thing I have been working on is the exhibition at Warren Gallery in Castletownshend. The work for this exhibition is 14 paintings hung on one wall. They are about celebration of colour and of the world around us — they are not a narrative about or description of the world, they are a reaction to it.
What’s your design style?
My work has its roots in the abstract expressionist colour-filled paintings of America and the English St Ives group of the 1950s.
What or who inspires your work?
I am inspired by all art — from looking at cave art, right through to the present day.
I was really lucky when I was a lad, there was a man who lived in our village called Mr Levi. His son went to the same school as me. He saw my drawings and must have seen something in them.
He was a picture-framer in London and used to take me to London every weekend and leave me at the National Gallery or Tate Gallery or somewhere like that, and I was given the day to draw the paintings I liked and show him at the end of the day. If they weren’t good enough, I’d have to go back there the next week.
It was a great introduction to all the Great Masters.
What’s your favourite trend?
I don’t like trends — they’re superficial. I am interested in art that transcends time.
What’s your most treasured possession?
Mine would very clearly be my studio, because that’s where it all happens for me.
Who would be your favourite designer, or style inspiration?
The two painters I respect the most at present would be the English painter Howard Hodgkin and the Irish painter Sean Scully.
What would be a dream project for you to work on?
I’d love to be commissioned to paint a series of large paintings for a space, that would be my own interpretation to fit to that space.
Have you any design tips?
Don’t read about it, go and look at everything deeply and develop your own visual perception.
Don’t worry about ideas, they’ll come anyway — and probably then get in the way!
Ian Humphreys headlines the Warren Gallery Summer Show at Mary Ann’s bar in Castletownshend which opened yesterday.