Interview with Clinton Kirkpatrick – Artist from Northern Ireland

Clinton KirkpatrickClinton Kirkpatrick is an artist from Northern Ireland. He is currently in Kenya preparing for his exhibit “Where he ran, and returned to.” at the Nairobi Museum from May 3rd to 31st, 2014. You can find out more about Clinton through his website or his facebook page.

ExtraImaginary: Please give us a background of yourself and your journey with art.

Clinton Kirkpatrick: Hello! Well my name is Clinton Kirkpatrick and I am 29 years old, I am 6 feet 4 inches tall, I have dark hair, I am from Northern Ireland, I am a painter and a woodcut printmaker. My journey with art has brought me, now, to Kenya but let me take you back a little further first of all. I left school when I was 16 to pursue art full time. Art and music is where I knew my heart lay so I had to choose one to study. I am glad I went with art in the end as the journey has been quite incredible.

After studying for two years at Lisburn Institute I then did a foundation diploma, in 2003, at Limavady College in Northern Ireland. I already knew then that I was a painter. Those years were wonderful for experimenting with different art forms but I knew that it was painting that captured my interest! I left Northern Ireland and went to England to study Painting and Drawing at the University of Huddersfield. It was a specialised course and that is what attracted me to it. After first year at university I took some time out, saved some money and went to Australia for almost two years. Returning to university in 2006, I spent the next two years completing my degree. I had amazing opportunities throughout University and I was awarded two separate scholarships to work in Seoul, South Korea and Singapore in different art related capacities. In 2008 I graduated, moved back to Northern Ireland set up a small painting studio at my mums house.

Raining on the Sun. oil on canvas. 92x92cm. 2013The last 6 years have been most significant in the development of me as an artist. I worked in hospitality to keep my painting going and in 2010 I started a job as a Culture and Arts Officer in Belfast. I was always painting and exhibiting, alongside my day job, even though I knew the work wasn’t very good. I am very critical of my own work and I think I always will be! I complete a painting but then often know I can do better and therefore seek to do so. That is how my practice has been evolving. In 2011 I came to Kenya for the first time. It changed something inside my mind and being although at the time I could not pinpoint what it was. Soon, though, I would realise that the artist I am today was born then. When I got back to Northern Ireland I spent 8 months creating a new body of paintings, some of which were up to 6 feet in size. When they went on display in March 2012 at the Waterfront Hall in Belfast I was already making plans to come back to Kenya. I did so in October 2012 and spent further time in this country. Again I made work in response to in 2013 and during that time I was selected by the Nairobi Museum to exhibit with them in 2014.

And so here I am! Back with my work for the exhibition, ‘Where he ran, and returned to.’ opening in May 2014.

ExtraImaginary: Your artwork is figurative, abstracts, woodcut, as well as drawings. Tell us about each type.

Face to face black white. woodcut print. 25x14cm. 2012Clinton Kirkpatrick: I have experimented with different styles as an artist. I love both figurative and abstract art and I would class myself as both a figurative and abstract painter. At the moment I am working more with figurative paintings as this is naturally where my work has lead me. My figurative works are an exploration of my daily routines mixed with my imagination. I create characters and take them on journeys. I comment on my surrounding world and what might be happening at any given moment. My abstract works are an exploration of colour and paint properties. Inspiration for these grow out of my feelings for a place or, simply, whether I feel they are aesthetically pleasing.

I learnt woodcut printing in Kenya, in 2012, during my second visit. My tutor, John Silver, was a wonderful teacher. I always knew I wanted to take up a type of printmaking and the course sort of fell into my lap at the time and was offered by the Kuona Trust. I adore this method of printmaking and it has become an integral part of my practice.

I draw a lot now. I keep a sketchbook with me at all times.

ExtraImaginary: What techniques and materials do you use for your art?

Clinton Kirkpatrick: I generally use oil paint on canvas prepared with rabbit skin glue. I like that I can leave oil paint and come back to work on it and it will still be wet. It allows me to change or manipulate it further to get the desired quality I want. Sometimes I use household gloss paints to create works. They dry fast but are incredibly vibrant and dry with a gloss finish – beautiful!

For the woodcut printing I use a printing ink from Kenya. It also dries with a shiny gloss finish. I still get all my inks from Kenya to create the works. It sort of feels like that is how it should be.

ExtraImaginary: You’ve been to Kenya a few times for your art. What does this country represent to you and how does it in inspire your art?

He couldn't see what I seen. Oil on canvas. 182x152cm. 2011 - SMALLClinton Kirkpatrick: I did not originally come to Kenya for art. To be honest, I perhaps came to Kenya to escape my art back home. Little did I know, however, that art would actually infiltrate every moment of being here. The first time I came to Kenya I wanted to experience something new so I came to work with HIV and Aids awareness as a volunteer and I lived out in Naivasha. Then I started to teach drawing classes during my time as well as doing the volunteering work. Whilst carrying out other work I began to keep a sketchbook like I have never kept a sketchbook before. I still keep a sketchbook now just like how that one started and they have become something very close to me.

When I went home from Kenya in 2011 I began painting with ease. Ideas for paintings came more readily and I created work that mirrored myself. It was, for the first time, something ‘real’ and tangible for me. So I knew I had to come back. I spent some months fundraising and in October 2012 I returned to Kenya – this time as an artist. It was an amazing experience. Sometimes it was lonely but it drove my art even further than I dared to dream. I was so excited about the idea of painting and making works. Kenya taught me how to think like the artist I know I am. So for that I will be forever grateful.

Many things about Kenya inspire my art; the landscape, the people, the place, the culture, my dear friends here and my own personal involvement and feelings experienced. To now be exhibiting at the Nairobi Museum is simply amazing. It has been a long, sometimes hard, fascinating and incredibly journey. Kenya means a great deal to me. I guess a few years ago that is something I never thought that I would say.

Who knows what will come next!

ExtraImaginary: Are there any other countries that have influenced your art?

Clinton Kirkpatrick: Looking back I would say that many places have inspired my art. Australia and Aboriginal works have inspired me as I came home and started putting ‘dot’ motifs in my own work. New York City was visually inspirational and the scale and energy of the City is unparalleled to anywhere else. When I went to South Korea I came home and used ideas surrounding religion there in my work.

Now, it seems, that wherever I may be directly filters into my art and my life and it has become a type of narrative for my painting.

ExtraImaginary: You are having an Exhibition at the National Museum in Kenya. Tell us a little about that.

Ghost in a crowd. Oil on canvas. 150x100cm. 2014Clinton Kirkpatrick: During my last visit to Kenya I visited the National Museums of Kenya many times. I met Lydia Galavu, in November 2012, who is the Art Curator at the Nairobi Museum. Already during that particular visit I wondered about the possibility of exhibiting at the Museum. Sometimes I think of ideas and then look to find a way to make it happen. I applied at the beginning of 2013 and almost 6 months later I was notified that I was selected and invited to bring my work over in 2014. I was delighted. The exhibition runs from the 3rd to 31st May, 2014 at the Creativity Gallery in the Nairobi Museum.

At home I am a full time artist. I am back in Kenya for the 3rd time because of the amazing support I was shown by others. I have spent a long time raising funds to try and get myself over for the exhibition and I am entirely grateful to each and every person who has helped me achieve this. I guess the most important thing about this exhibition is that I am getting to show Kenya, the people and my wonderful friends here the work that I have been making about the place and their home. The exhibition is about difference, unity and story telling.

ExtraImaginary: Walk us through the process of creating your art – from first inspiration to final artwork.

Clinton Kirkpatrick: The inspiration starts with where I am and what I experience at that moment. I then draw in my sketchbook which can often be very quick thumbnail sketches. It is these sketches that become larger drawings, woodcut prints and paintings. I work on many paintings at one time, often with my entire studio covered in canvases. My paintings can sometimes take months to complete as I build up layers of colour.

ExtraImaginary: What is your most memorable moment as an artist?

Clinton Kirkpatrick: I have many now. Mostly involving Kenya. Memorable moments include realising that my first Kenyan experience awoke something inside of me and my art. Getting selected for exhibition at the Nairobi Museum was very exciting and I feel proud that I have been able to reach this point.

ExtraImaginary: Who are your favourite artists?

Clinton Kirkpatrick: Vincent Van Gogh. Dana Schutz. Yinka Shonibare. Philip Guston. Paula Rego.

ExtraImaginary: What are your goals in regards to your art?

Timeless. woodcut print. 32x35cm. Feb 2013Clinton Kirkpatrick: I want to complete a Masters in Art in the near future to once again submerse myself in my painting and the theoretical side of it. I have no ‘goals’ as such – I just want to be able to keep painting. I believe that something has ignited inside of me that hasn’t quite been realised yet. It has certainly been acknowledged now and I want to learn how to harness whatever it is. I am aware that I am still learning and that only now I am beginning to make paintings that can stand on their own. The possibilities of painting are endless and I think that the direction my work has gone over the last three years has helped shape the beginning of a colourful journey.

ExtraImaginary: Is there anything else that you would like people to know about you?

Clinton Kirkpatrick: I don’t think so. Just that you can keep up-to-date with my work and progress here at www.clintonkirkpatrick.com and www.facebook.com/clinton.kirkpatrick.artist.

I would also encourage everyone to follow their own passion and dreams. The journey is often exciting and sometimes incredibly difficult. It can be rewarding, emotionally draining or emotionally uplifting. That is life, I guess, and who knows where it will go!

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