Symon Potter is a painter with a studio at ASC Bow. He has a BA in Fine Art and has been practising for 25 years. He currently has a solo show ‘Colour and Transmutation’ at Cass Arts Art Space in Islington, running until 26th March.
How did you come to painting?
I went to art college when I was younger and really enjoyed the discipline & getting messy with paint, then fine art followed by abstract painting, but I stopped for a while. When I moved to London from Windsor, I was caught up in other creative endeavours such as music and work. About ten years ago, I made my first painting since studying; I was unsure how it would turn out, but all that I’d learnt at college came straight back. One of my friend’s saw the painting and wanted to buy it. After that encouragement, I was like “I can keep doing this” and never really looked back!
My painting changed during lockdown as well, I found it a godsend that the studios were still open and I don’t live very far away either. The hour walk along the canal is really nice and sorts my head out. I can come in here and create, that’s when my painting really evolved.
What’s your process with your paintings?
I tend to work on three or four paintings at a time because I work in many layers and want my work dry when I return to my studio to paint. I prefer it to dry fast, so I don’t tend to work with oil paint, it’s mostly acrylics & gel mediums. When I can be in my studio, I want to be productive while I’m in my creative space. So I work on two or three canvases simultaneously, so I don’t get bogged down on one piece. Also if I feel the painting isn’t really progressing, I simply put it away, start on something else and come back to it at a later stage. One painting I came back to after putting it away for nearly three years, but usually that’s not the case!
What determines your colour palettes when you start a painting?
My work is influenced by nature and deeply personal. I don’t do yoga or meditate, I paint instead and feel I achieve a great sense of enlightenment. A lot of my work is informed by my past travels. Those feelings that you get when you travel: the feeling of freedom that is deep rooted within you, you’ve been somewhere in the past, think you’ve forgotten about part of it, but one day something you see can trigger it, takes you back to that memory or feeling – that’s what I’m trying to get at in my art. I feel like painting brings it back. Painting is quite sacred to me and I feel a subconscious connection that ends up on the surface. It’s for this reason that I like working with bold and vibrant colours, metallics and gold leaf; it has this ethereal quality that brings back those feelings for me.
What qualities are you most drawn to creating and recreating in your paintings?
I like the opposing qualities taking place: abstraction between positive and negative textures, the contrasts of gloss and matt, where parts are carved in or risen.
You speak of leaving your works for some time and returning to them. When do you know a work is complete?
It’s difficult to know when to stop, when I’m really enjoying the painting that’s when to leave it. I would say about 60% of the time I don’t particularly enjoy what I’m doing and 40% of the time when putting it back together at the end is when I’m actually enjoying it. That’s why I put paintings aside and start on another one.
You mentioned how the lockdown and having access to your studio as well as walking everyday was important for your headspace, and helped your work grow in its meditativeness. Do you have a routine for when you arrive at the studio?
I really like starting new blank canvases, they don’t intimidate me. So I get started on a new canvas as soon as I arrive.