Rework, Transform and Recycle with Robert Bradford

Rework, Transform and Recycle with Robert Bradford

January 28, 2022

Robert Bradford was born in London, England and has lived in various locations around the UK, as well in France and the USA. For the last several years he has made a living primarily through his artwork. Robert has been represented by quality commercial galleries in Paris, London and New York, who have sold his work all over the world via exhibitions and art fairs. He has now returned to being an independent artist and is refocusing on painting on canvas and painted collages.


He is best known internationally for his recycled toy sculptures, these works have been shown and collected in over 25 countries. Robert resumed painting 3 years ago, first using collage on paper, then figuratively on large scale canvases. A year ago, seeking greater freedom of expression, he began painting abstractly and collaging over the figurative works finding that this process greatly stimulated the abstract ideas. Hence the 'Trash Art Series', which is ongoing in 2022.

He was trained in painting at Ravensbourne College of Art, England and in film making at The Royal College of Art London. Robert have lived and worked in many parts of England and France and California, U.S.A. Lectureships include Maidstone College of Art and San Diego State University.

Robert has also been responsible for many installation projects in Hong Kong and China and have been represented by include Envie D'art (Paris and London ) and Rebecca Hossack Gallery (London and New York).

What initially drew you towards becoming an artist?

I have always drawn, painted pictures and built wooden brick cities since I was a young child, so in a way becoming an artist was a natural evolution for me. There was also a major trauma in the family as I was growing up so this may have contributed to this tendency toward introversion and lone exploration

My first art school was next door to a swimming pool where I hung out with other teenagers, I thought that the students there looked very relaxed fashionable and cool and I wanted to emulate them .The head there persuaded my parents that I could probably get a good job as a graphic designer, so I was all set ... (also apart from English) I was not much good at or interested in any other subjects. I would not make a good graphic designer!

How would you describe your own personal style?

At B.A. level I was tutored by a mixture of Pop Artists and Abstract Expressionists, although I don't remember them talking to me much and was anyway in a bit of a world of my own. I was probably not very approachable. The students work was quite wide ranging. I have always been quite restless in terms of style and I have enjoyed experimenting with style content and art form, but the latest Trash Art Series series owes something to a kind of (more structured) abstract expressionism and to a degree art pauvre. I have found a great sense of freedom working this particular way, perhaps my most to date.


What pushed you in that direction and how can you see your work evolving in the future?

I have to guard against getting too tight when I work, and / or against making impulsive quick decisions which I later regret ... I now have a live/work space where I can wander in and out of my studio, so can wait for a 'Zen moment ' whilst I decide what action to take next on a painting.

What inspires you in your work, is there a driving factor that draws you to the easel?

I am quite driven to work ... I lose my sense of time when things are going well, and get itchy when I haven't got something on the go.

Are there particular individuals who have encouraged / inspired you along the way, friends, family, teachers, maybe even other artists?

There was an art teacher at senior school who was always helpful and complimentary, and I remember several things said by particular individual tutors later that have stuck in my mind and that I consider valuable. e.g. "Art is not about beauty (which is what I thought then) "It's about communication". Communication of what you might ask? Things which only Art can Communicate maybe?


When it comes to creating your work, do you have a preferred medium, certain types of brushes or tools you love to use?

Not really, I tend to use whatever tools that come to hand and treat them all badly :-( I like complex surfaces and a wide variety of types of shapes and marks ... I have one worn out brush that I use to make thin regular lines and can't remember where I got it from!

When it comes to the subject matter of your work, what draws you to those themes?

Usually ideas come from previous works, but I sometimes borrow ideas from other artists work, usually a type of mark or a particular kind of area. I often go 'backwards; by referring to previous of my own works, (hopefully to go forward via this process).


Could you describe the process behind your art? How do you get from concept to execution?

There is an overall concept to this series which is to rework transform and recycle. At the start I might have the vaguest possible notion as to what will come next. Often I respond to whatever I put down first. There is always a layering process both practically and visually. How I get there is virtually impossible to articulate in words. Often works change completely as a result of the process. Often the best ones are the ones that paint themselves :-)

Could you describe your normal day as an artist? Have you set routines and rituals or is a more a case of when the moment is right you work?

I work most days. In theory, I take care of domestic tasks first before going into the studio but often this falls apart :-) If I need to do something that's going to take ages to dry I may do that or those with the painting on the floor, then go and do normal things for a while, coming in and out to see how the drying is going, watching paint dry is not boring :-)

When you work, do you focus on one piece at a time until completion or are you working on multiple pieces at the same time?

I like to think that I can work on multiple pieces, but I can't really! I have two on the re-go at the moment but one is winning.

How has your art evolved to be where it is today?

Erratically is the answer to this question. Full circle at the moment I have played with drawing, painting, heavy collage of objects, large and small sculpture, including public pyrotechnical fire sculptures for a long long time, installations (in China and Hong Kong) and now back to paint on canvas for the foreseeable future.

Which of your artworks are you most proud?

I have a couple of favourites from every series that I have made but I have lost a lot of my archive in various moves, which I regret.


Is there a fellow artist alive today that you admire? If so, why?

I tend to respond most to neo-expressionist type painters for its scale ambition painterliness rawness intensity and uncompromising nature. I particularly like the work of George Baselitz and Anselm Keifer in these ways. I like Gerhard Richter for his constant experimentation. In sculpture I like Toy Cragg mainly for the variety of his experimentation and his approach via series'.

However I also admire several more obviously figurative painters like Freud for his dedication and depth within a particular genre.

If you could travel back in time, is there a particular artistic period / era that you would like to have been involved in?

I would have liked to have been around in Paris and/or New York at their most dominant periods. I like Mondrian and Warhol Lichtenstein particularly.

What challenges do you feel the 21st century artist has to overcome?

Realistically there are too many artists and not enough people who collect or are really much interested in contemporary art . Maybe that was always so. However I also think that most artists do their best work when they are hungry and some tend to slacken off when they are recognised and just repeat what they are known for.


What advice would you give to a young aspiring artist currently studying art?

Being an artist is not an easy road to travel down but trust yourself, to Be True to Yourself as you go. Don't get too caught up in fashion, becoming a salesperson or an art socialite. Work hard, find ways to survive and if you are able to do the important things someone will probably take notice. You will anyway find out a lot about yourself and have an interesting fun and meaningful existence on the planet. :-)

Despite having developed your own distinctive style, is there another style of art that you are immediately drawn towards and admire? Why?

Personally I am driven toward complexity and intensity of image surface etc. However, I am also drawn toward great simplicity of action. I would like to be able to make a few swipes marks lines or whatever, leave it at that and be satisfied with the result, but I doubt that it will happen!


We have all heard of the unfinished masterpiece, even Da Vinci laboured away at the Mona Lisa for years and years, have you works that are in a continual process of evolution? When working on an artwork do you find it hard to let go? Knowing when enough is enough?

I don't have a particular problem knowing when a work is finished / knowing when I think a work is resolved. Over a few days if no area or part bothers me' I will leave the piece. If I go back on things (which is very much what I am deliberately doing now) they tend to become different works which is fine. It takes me quite a while to know when I think that a past work is 'good enough' and why work A is better than work B.. and why.

Many people see artists as storytellers or advocates for a cause, do you believe that it is an artist’s responsibility to shine a light on a particular subject / theme, or do you create purely for the sake of expression your creative nature?

In ways  I think that artists with integrity inevitably reflect the society and culture that they live in whether they want to or not... or like that society or not. ( Even if they adopt older styles or ways of working ) One of the heads of the painting department of the art school I went to said that he selected students who he felt that for them art was the main way they had found of relating to the world. I believe that was a good way of choosing. i.e. The best artists NEED to be artists.


What are you working on at the moment?

I am working on two new/old versions of my Trash Art Series. About Numbers 19 and 20. One is called 'Fissure' and the other is as yet 'Untitled'.

Have you ever been part of an artistic group / movement? How did your work benefit from that experience?

I was once part of a studio complex in Bristol. It was interesting to watch how other artist proceeded or didn't proceed with their work. A group of us would sometimes go out on slightly wild benders into the night, which was great fun and informative about the individuals! :-)


When is your next exhibition? Is it a solo or group exhibition? Could you tell us a little about the exhibition, when and where it is?

The new painting series is getting some attention of late. The Trash Art Series now has a couple of examples on show at View Art Gallery in Bristol who are newly representing me (although I showed some things with them before years ago).... The same gallery currently also has two examples of my sculpture on show .. There will be an exhibition there based on recycled work later on the year and another exhibition in April that I will be a part of (about which I expect details shortly)

I am awaiting the confirmation and dates of an exhibition in Suffolk, and also dates from Hansford and Sons with whom I am an 'emerging artist' I will update you when I have more info about these.

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