Chris Villars: Self Interview 2 (May 2004) [Home] [Painting Index]

So you're still painting!


Couldn't bring yourself to kick the habit?

Pathetic, isn't it!

So now you're content to go on producing "more of the same"!?

Yes, but I am trying to avoid being too obviously repetitious!

What about all these "Rothko Windows"?

There are only two series, and they are different - albeit only slightly! Actually, there was also a third series, now abandoned, two paintings from which still survive.

Why do you call them "Rothko Windows"? Why not just "Windows"?

The first series look like Rothkos, don't they? Series 1, number 3, is a stylisation of a specific Rothko: No 203, 1954. Looking at a photo of that painting (in David Anfam's catalogue raisonné of Rothko's paintings, p389) was the inspiration for the series. They are a translation into my style of Rothko's "classic" style of painting. The second series is obviously related to the first and, though less like Rothkos, I kept the name to indicate the connection.

Are the "Rothko Windows" meant to be read as a time series from left to right?

Yes, the individual pictures represent times of day: blue (midday), orange (sunset), black (midnight).

And white?

The final white, or, more accurately, black and white, image in both series stands for some kind of idea of transcendence - beyond midnight, transfigured night, something like that.

But why all these windows!?

In a way, all my paintings are windows, only sometimes the frames are not explicitly shown. In a sense, I think all representational painting - all paintings that present a view of something - can be thought of as windows.

What about the plain, or blank, paintings? They're a joke, aren't they?

Yes, I'd like to think that people smile when they see them! They are also an answer to the question, how little can you put into a painting and yet still represent something? I don't think I could put in less!

The white painting represents nothing!

Yes, the point is that it represents nothing. It is not a white painting ŕ la Robert Ryman, where subtle variations in the texture of the painted surface are the aesthetic value to be enjoyed. It's just a picture of nothing. It had to be white. Imagine I painted a plain orange picture and called it "Nothing"! That wouldn't work! I could call it "Sunset", that would be OK - maybe I will paint that one day! - but to call an orange picture "Nothing", that would be very confusing!

Why did you repaint the plain pictures as "Pictures in an Exhibition"?

It came about like this: My friend Paul Flapper lives in Tilburg, Netherlands, where there's a big contemporary art gallery called "De Pont". When Paul saw the blank pictures he wrote me saying he knew just the place in that gallery where they would look great. That remark inspired "Pictures in an Exhibition". I thought, there's no chance that they'll actually be exhibited there, so I'll just have to exhibit them myself!

And the "Tulips"?

Mondrian says somewhere something to the effect that he was interested in painting the essence of a single flower. With that remark in mind, I'd been considering for a long time how to paint a single flower in my style. One day I saw this wonderful single poppy in the garden, brilliant red over green, and that inspired the red picture. Thinking of Mondrian, I called it "Red Tulip". Originally the yellow and white "Tulips" were called "Daffodil" and "Snowdrop", but since there were no formal differences between them, I decided they must be the same flower! So they became "3 Tulips". Tulips come in all those colours, don't they?

Don't you think they're rather pointless pictures?

One point is, they seem to me to be the minimal way to represent a flower in my style - the flower-head and the stalk, flower-colour over green. I don't think I could take anything away and still legitimately see them as flowers.

What are you painting now?

Another tulip! A pink one! One of many that came up in my front garden from bulbs my wife bought in Utrecht when we visited there a few years ago.

I thought you were trying to avoid repetition!

I think this is the last one! I'm calling it "Another Tulip" to convey an awareness of that sense of wearisome - but apparently unavoidable! - repetition.

And what of the future?

That question again! I'd better not say this time that I'm thinking of stopping!

I wouldn't believe you if you did!
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