ARTIST OF THE MONTH: DAVID CAINES

August’s Artist of The Month is visual artist and designer David Caines. Born in Wakefield, Yorkshire in 1963, Caines moved to Hackney in 1990 and he continues to live and work from his home in Stoke Newington.

David’s psychologically charged paintings bring together unlikely groups of curious and seemingly unrelated characters in carefully arranged groupings against empty backgrounds. Held to ransom by the canvas, they are forced to perform in a curious tableau vivant. To help them interact in this liminal state, they have an array of banal props such as masks, chairs, sticks and ropes. These meticulously rendered encounters are awkward and ambiguous, the paintings are littered with red herrings and false clues. It is left to the viewer to conjure the narrative.

David has been painting since 2008, and has exhibited often in London, and regularly sells work to private collectors. David was also shortlisted for the East London Painting Prize 2015.

We sat down with David to find out more about his work. Read the interview in full below. David will also be taking over our Instagram from 25th August – 1st September. Follow us on ARTIQgram for an exclusive behind the scenes of his work, process and inspiration.

What artists have influenced your practice?
I think the pictures I make are as much influenced by literature and cinema, as by looking at the work of other visual artists. I read a lot of fiction, folk tales and fairy stories. I am particularly interested in the films of Czech surrealists Jan and Eva Swankmajer, and directors Walerian Borowczyk and Alejandro Jodorowsky. Visual artists I admire include Leonora Carrington, Francis Bacon, Paul Nash, Odilon Redon, Mike Kelley, and Louise Bourgeois. My design practice has introduced me to a lot of performance artists as well, and looking at images of their work has definitely affected my paintings. I’m thinking in particular of Kira O’Reilly, Lois Weaver and Tehching Hseih, but many others too.

What would you do if you weren’t an artist?
I would like to play music, I think it’s the most mysterious art form. So I would try and make it as a musician.

Tell us about your dream project.
Possibly to collaborate with musicians – or maybe dancers – to create a ‘happening’ or performance. Something huge and absurd that overwhelmed the viewer.

What’s the last exhibition you saw that made an impact on you?
Swedish painter Hilma af Klint (Painting the Unseen, Serpentine 2016) was fantastic. She was making cosmic, abstract, spiritual paintings in the early part of the 20th Century that were, in part, influenced by secret séances and the occult. The current show of women and surrealism at White Cube Bermondsey (Dreamers Awake) is very diverse and interesting. I recommend it.

What is the one thing you cannot live without?
I can’t really imagine a life without music, I listen to it all day long, especially when I’m painting.

What art do you, or would you, collect?
I have a very eclectic (and modest) collection of art. Things I particularly love are an amazing pinhole camera photograph by the performer Julia Bardsley; a lithograph by David Lynch (the film maker); a pair of Jan Swankmajer film posters; a bronze cast of a child’s heart by my friend Sofie Layton; and some Mexican and African masks and figures. I think I would collect a lot more if I had the £££s and the wall-space.

What is the most memorable piece of art you have produced?
The painting ‘the visitors’ (2009) was an important one for me and I still like to look at it. It was the first time I created an imagined grouping of figures. It conjured a peculiar atmosphere that I’ve tried to hang onto and evolve ever since.

What do you do in your spare time?
I like to go on long runs around London. It’s a good way to observe and explore where you live, and gives me some thinking time to let ideas percolate.

Take us through the lifespan of creating a work of art.
My painting process begins by making little black and white collages on my computer of bodies and heads and masks etc. There are certain types of source images that I am drawn to find the costumes and poses that interest me – early photography and silent movie stills, for example. This year I have decided to stop looking and create the my own source imagery. I did this by collaborating with contemporary dancer Helka Kaski. Helka did a photoshoot for me where she went through a lengthy sequence of awkward poses and movements with various props and outfits. These images will now form the bulk of the ‘bodies’ in future collages.

Once I’m happy with the collage, I print out a small black and white image of it, and this is my reference material for the painting process. Sometimes the finished painting is very close to the original collage, but more often than not the painting mutates as it takes shape.