Michael Simpson

Michael Simpson

Odyssey of a Painter

“I’ll tell you what I did feel when I was a younger man: I felt kind of sexy. It has something to do with the sensuality of painting.” British Michael Simpson invited us into his studio space, where he shared the story of his journey as a painter.

“It was like a cultural backwater, where I lived. There wasn’t even a book in the house … The family was in a sense culturally impoverished.” Simpson grew up alone with his mother, and when his uncle took him to his first football match at the age of seven, what caught Simpson’s attention was not the game but the colours and shapes: “From that point on I drew and painted … That was how I began to work with painting, and it didn’t stop. It just grew in intensity, and that’s how I began my odyssey as a painter.”

“When you look at a painting the first thing you must see is the painting itself and then the image later. If that happens then the painting is half-way to working.” Simpson feels that a painting must always “move beyond its subject,” and hence the mechanics of a painting – such as the use of colour and the creation of the form – is crucial: “It’s like constructing a building.” Moreover, he finds that the term ‘art’ is quite worn out: “I don’t think that painters ever think about art, when they make a serious painting. What they’re doing is solving a problem, or problems.”

Michael Simpson (b. 1940) is a British painter. He has been working on a series of large-scale paintings relating to the same atheist theme since 1989: ‘Bench paintings’. Although this work – which originates in his intense interest in the infamy of religious history and in particular to the renegade medieval philosopher Giordano Bruno – is contemporary, its main influences originate from 15th century Venetian and early Flemish painting. Simpson’s first solo show was at Piccadilly Gallery in 1964, and he has since exhibited continuously including solo shows at Arnolfini in Bristol, David Risley Gallery in Copenhagen and Serpentine Gallery in London. He lives and works in Bradford-on-Avon, Wiltshire in England. For more see: http://www.michael-simpson.co.uk/

Michael Simpson was interviewed by Roxanne Bagheshirin Lærkesen in his studio space – a former gasworks – and also filmed at Spike Island – an international centre for the development of contemporary art and design – in England, February 2016. Please note that the painting shown in the background in Simpson’s studio is an unfinished work by the painter.

Camera: Kyle Stevenson
Produced and edited by: Roxanne Bagheshirin Lærkesen
Cover photo: ‘Leper Squint’ (16), 2014, by Michael Simpson
Copyright: Louisiana Channel, Louisiana Museum of Modern Art, 2016

  • Mika Rottenberg

    What is the Connection

    The exceptional video artist Mika Rottenberg here presents her intriguing video installation ‘Cosmic Generator.’ Set on the U.S.-Mexico border and in a huge Chinese market, the work explores the collapse – or reinforcement – of distance.

  • Svetlana Alexievich

    A Human is a Scary Creature

    Nobel Prize-winning writer Svetlana Alexievich is known for her monumental non-fiction narratives exploring war and its aftermath in the former Soviet Union. In this video she discusses the role of the writer in a corrupted society permeated by money.

  • Eileen Myles

    A Poem Says 'I Want'

    “I think a poem really is a statement of desire.” Meet the legendary American poet, writer – and homosexual icon – Eileen Myles. In this video, she discusses the innate power of poetry and how to address the absence of the female genitalia.

  • Sambuichi

    One with the Earth's Cycle

    “Architecture should thrive like a plant.” Gain insight into the philosophy of a frontrunner in sustainable architecture, Japanese architect Hiroshi Sambuichi, and hear how he created some of his unique, site-specific buildings.

  • Naja Marie Aidt

    What You Don't Want to Hear

    “Life’s fragility is ever-present.” Deeply moving video with Danish writer Naja Marie Aidt, who opens up about the tragic death of her 25-year-old son, and how she dealt with her overshadowing loss and grief through literature, gradually returning to writing.

  • George Condo

    The Way I Think

    George Condo was part of the 1980s wild art scene in New York. In this video, recorded in his New York-studio, the iconic artist shares his life-long love of drawing and thoughts on his artistic expression, which he describes as “artificial realism.”

  • Marina Abramović & Ulay

    A Living Door of the Museum

    Standing naked in the main entrance of a museum, facing each other while the audience passes sideways through the small space. Legendary performance artists Marina Abramović and Ulay share the story behind their poetic work ‘Imponderabilia’.

  • Bill Viola

    Cameras are Soul Keepers

    When video artist Bill Viola was 6 years old he fell into a lake, all the way to the bottom, to a place which seemed like paradise. "There's more than just the surface of life." Viola explains. "The real things are under the surface".

  • Wang Shu

    Architecture is a Job for God

    The Chinese architect Wang Shu’s buildings – a crossover between traditional Chinese culture and large-scale modern architecture – have earned him prestigious awards. “Democracy means a really diverse society,” says the architect in this inspiring interview.

  • Margrethe Odgaard

    Colour Diary of New York

    Becoming more aware of your surroundings can “open a new dimension inside as well as outside yourself.” Meet award-winning Danish designer Margrethe Odgaard who has trained herself to register the world through colours.

  • Nick Cave

    The World is my Skin

    Have you ever wished that you could put on a suit which would open up the imagination and take you to the world of your dreams? In this video artist Nick Cave presents his wearable sculptures, the 'Soundsuits', made from discarded everyday materials.

  • Gerhard Richter

    In Art We Find Beauty and Comfort

    “I don’t really believe art has power. But it does have value. Those who take an interest in it find solace in art. It gives them huge comfort.” Gerhard Richter, one of the greatest painters of our time, discusses beauty in the era of the internet.