November 7th, 2013

Duncan Gaman, Mill producer, is among those in our London studio who have a creative alter ego. He divides his time between producing, and painting working on a mixture of personal work and private commissions. I caught up with him to find out a bit more about his inspirations...

Tell us about your art and what themes you focus on…

I am a painter specialising in abstract compositions, private commissions and portraiture.  My work explores the abstraction of figures, organic forms and landscapes into large colour field paintings.  Put simply, I try to create emotion and feeling through use of colour. Working on a larger scale of canvas really helps with this, as they are more visually immersive when you stand in front of them.

The theme of my work over the last year has been painting peoples portraits.  Initially, this was just for commercial reasons, but after a while I realised that the reaction that you get when you present someone a painting of themselves is priceless, and I began to understand how much of a kick I got out of the final presentation.

I'm now applying these new portrait painting skills and incorporating them into my larger abstract paintings.  I still put the use of colour in my figurative paintings at the forefront of the work, the aim is to abstract the composition as much as I can; but still to keep the figures' relationship with its environment a representational one.

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What drew you to painting?

Before I started Art School I worked as a studio assistant for the internationally renowned artist Stefan Knapp. I was only 16-years old at the time and had a summer job as his studio assistant whilst he was creating his mural titled "The Battle of Britain" for the Polish Metro in Warsaw.

I loved the feeling of working in a studio and this helped me with the realisation that there is nothing quite like having you own creative goals and ambitions, and one way for me to do this is to do my own projects, creating my own work, which is my real driving factor.

What inspires you?

Now, I draw my main inspiration through photography, by taking a single photograph as a starting point.  The photograph is more than just reference.  The aim is to capture the spirit of the photograph and make it more beautiful and expressive in the medium of painting.  It's a process of adapting, transforming and hopefully enhancing!

How does someone go about commissioning you?

If I'm creating a painting for a commission it can be a collaborative effort where we work closely together, checking in regularly for feedback and sharing thoughts on the work throughout the process. It can also be a complete sole effort, where I'm left to develop the piece on my own from start to finish.

Balancing my artistic ideas with those that are commissioned is always a challenge. Ultimately you want the work to be liked by the eventual owner, but you don't want to compromise your own creative ideals.

I have always sold my work on a commission basis, but as I have built more interest in my work I have started selling it via my website and on more popular fine art web based resources.  But, the most amount of work comes through recommendations from people I have sold work to.

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Do you have any exhibitions or big plans coming up?

I'm in talks at the moment with a gallery in the art district of New York City, Chelsea, who approached me directly, to represent and promote my work in the US, which is both exciting and flattering. There is lots in the pipeline for next year, with a new exhibition in the spring, and I'm currently working out a good location to show this body of work.

Your studio and art exhibitions have been based in Shoreditch in the past, what draws you to this area?

I have lived and worked in Shoreditch for over 6-years now and I have regularly been to all the bars and cafes in Hoxton Square in this time. Through this I had gotten to know the Ruby's cafe owner Lino through a friend that had also exhibited his work there. It is such a great location to have your work shown and with the historical relevance of Hoxton Square area with the YBA's in the 90's and the White Cube being a stone's throw away it's simply could not be a better location in the area.

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How would you describe the art scene in Shoreditch/East London?

Three words - vibrant, dynamic and creative.  On the first Thursday of the month is a busy night in the area, as galleries open their doors late for a chance to preview art, culture and events after hours.  With so many galleries being open late along Vyner St, Redchurch St, Brick Lane, Vicky Park and Hackney Wick.  You get a chance to see more unique work and first exhibitions of up and coming artist, than you would in the more affluent West End galleries.

Shoreditch has become so much more commercial and many friends and artists I know have moved out of the area, moving north to Dalston, Stokie and further east to London Fields and around Hackney. Saying that, the mass exposure of your work that you can have in Shoreditch is something that I believe in, and when it comes to applying for funding, the now known healthy commerciality of the area can actually work in your favour.

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What are your favourite Shoreditch hangouts?

I love Shoreditch in the summer, although green space is at a premium in the area, there is always such a great buzz in the late evenings in the summertime. But, in the autumn and winter months my favourite place to go has to be Jaguar Shoes, with the Old Shoreditch Station coming a close 2nd. The bar staff mix great drinks and the exhibitions/installation spaces that they keep putting on are brilliant as well as being truly original. They really do deserve the recognition and international press that they get.  I wish more of the bars in the areas took their lead; they really capture the essence of the area.

Thank you Duncan for that insight into the art scene! More news about Duncan's latest work and exhibitions can be found here.