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

  • Ed Atkins

    Something is Missing

    Ed Atkins is considered one of the most unsettling contemporary artists – as well as one of the most exciting. In this video, the young British artist shares how he works from written texts, and why melancholy is at the centre of his animated digital videos.

  • Louisa Gagliardi

    Longing for Something Else

    “Art is amazing because it’s in a way unnecessary, but extremely necessary as a testimony of its time.” Let us introduce you to a rising star of painting, Louisa Gagliardi, who creates her surreal work digitally and adds layers of paint to the printed image.

  • Hannah Levy

    A Design Purgatory

    “I wonder if the reason why people want to touch it is that they’re in some way attracted to it, or if they’re repulsed by it.” Meet the young artist Hannah Levy, who primarily makes sculptures combining curving steel forms with cast silicone.

  • Dora Budor

    Acting Things

    “I want to use art as a field where I can explore parallel scenarios.” Dora Budor makes complex sculptures and interactive installations inspired by cinematic metaverse and scientific research. Join us as we visit the young Croatian artist in her studio.

  • Ian Cheng

    A Portal to Infinity

    Watch Ian Cheng, a rising star on the art scene, talk about his trilogy of animated live simulation works – ‘Emissaries’ – which works like a never-ending video game in real time: “It was a process that was on-going as life is on-going.”

  • Yona Friedman

    Advice to the Young

    What piece of advice would a renowned 94-year-old architect offer young architects? Find out in this short video, where Yona Friedman argues that architects must always adapt to the context and work for the average user.

  • Jan Gehl

    How to Build a Good City

    “We now know that first, we form the cities, but then the cities form us.” Meet the 81-year-old Danish architect Jan Gehl, who for more than fifty years has focused on improving the quality of urban life by helping people “re-conquer the city.”

  • 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.