William Goodsir is a British artist born in London in 1951. He studied at the Byam Shaw School of Art, following this with a three-year degree course in Bath. He currently lives and works in Bath. In conversation with a friend recently I stumbled upon William’s art, I was very struck by his penetrative images and figures so I contacted him for a more in-depth conversation.
E: Hi William, you studied Art and subsequently did a degree course in Bath. What led you to choose the artistic path? Have you always been drawn towards the Arts?
WG: I don’t remember making a conscious choice, but I was painting with oils and attending life drawing classes by the age of 15. I think there was definitely something about the notion of being an artist that appealed to me. It seemed such a free and directly purposeful way to live one’s life. But it was really the time I spent at Art College that cemented my commitment to Art.
E: Let’s focus on some of your images which are striking and attractive, but at times, very dark. Do you have a favourite?
WG: No I don’t have a favourite painting as such, but some mean more to me than others.
E: I am intrigued by the presence of one of your “characters”: Harlequin. Tell me why Harlequin?
WG: Why Harlequin? Well the image of Harlequin has been around a very long time and other artists have been drawn to him, notably Picasso. As an image he embodies many things. He is decorative, he is mysterious, sinister, playful. He has that Byronic quality of being “Mad, bad and dangerous to know”; so attractive to some and so disturbing to others. He comes and goes as he pleases, seducing women with red wine and music. He is both player and observer. He first entered my painting as a figure lurking in the shadows of the large painting “Desolation Angels”, but over the years he has become increasingly dominant and something of an anti-hero in the narrative of the paintings.
E: In most of your series of exhibitions, there is heavy preponderance of another figure: the Angel. He can be incredibly scary at times. Can you tell me more about “Desolation Angels” from your 2002 series?
WG: The Angel represents the female and sex, as the Ballet Dancer image also does in other paintings, Desolation Angels being one of them. The figures of the dancers were developed from photographs taken by me of the Northern Ballet Company in rehearsal. The painting was executed much earlier than 2002 at a time when my life was particularly turbulent and I was feeling threatened and somewhat isolated by a court case I was defending and the breakdown of a personal relationship, all happening at the same time. I think those feelings of isolation and threat are in the painting which I regard as one of my seminal works that opened the way for what was to become one of the dominant themes of my work.
E: You say that your paintings reflect your own emotional journey. Which has been the hardest part and why?
WG: The hardest part of my emotional journey has been dealing with loss, everything from loss of trust, through spoiled dreams, to death. Loss leaves you with less than you had before and I have found that, at times, depressing. Life does however offer endless opportunity for recreation, so I have used much of my own experience of life to fuel my art.
E: I see a predominant choice of dark, thick colour strokes in your works. Is this part of a message or is it reflective of your particular mood when you are creating?
WG: Both. They are part of the language I use, along with shape and texture to establish the emotional context of a painting which will be closely linked to my own mood. The message is fabulistic rather than literal, an attempt to encapsulate core feelings that will trigger strong subconscious responses in the looker.
E: Where has your art taken you in the last few years?
WG: Nowhere particularly exciting. The last few years have been less turbulent than much of my life. It has been a period of reflection, taking stock before the next big heave. This has resulted in “The Sweet Bird of Youth” and “Places Revisited” series of paintings.
E: Have you ever found yourself drawing inspiration from a book at all?
WG: I draw inspiration generally from books. They are very important to me. Specifically, I have definitely been influenced by the dreamlike narrative of Lewis Carroll’s Alice books. I am currently working on a series of “Alice in Wonderland” paintings which is revisiting a theme I first worked on in my early twenties. It is interesting for me to see the different way I treat this theme now, compared to then. I have also used lyrics from some Dylan songs to theme paintings, “Desolation Row” for instance.
I am in awe of William’s art. His has been a long and, at times, hard journey, but the next instalment of works promises to be even more penetrating and fascinating. I can’t wait. www.william-goodsir.co.uk
Photos © William Goodsir