I am a fairly shy and nervous individual and tend to fear being on the spot. But I have taken it upon myself to partake in ventures that take me out of my comfort zone. In the name of research and unresolved curiosities, I began to interview artists. Ian Killen is an artist who I met in 2008 during one of his artist’s lectures. I was very impressed with his work and was blown away by his lecture. I finally got the opportunity to interview him this year. Before the interview I was very nervous and put a lot of pressure on myself to make the interview a success and look as if I knew what I was doing. Lucky for me Ian Killen is a very down to earth and friendly man, who would make the most unsettled individual feel at ease. The interview took place at Ian’s home in East Yorkshire. It was a very cold day during the worst period of snow of the year so far. When me and my boyfriend (AKA. The camera man) arrived, we were warmly greeted and there was plenty of tea and banter. All the while I was trying to take the startled dear expression off of my face.
First, we went out to his garage where he keeps a lot of his work and materials. This was quite an experience. As well as being an artist, Ian is also a husband, father, teacher and great hoarder. There were works that I had seen before and also works that I hadn’t, among boxes of weird and wonderful objects. Toys, badges, Christmas cracker figures and more than I can attempt to remember. The thing that was the most memorable was the book.
In Ian’s garage, he keeps what started off as a small hand held scrap book that slowly built up over time to become huge 4’ x 5’ (rough estimate) book bound with thick card clear electrical tape. With no help from myself, the book was hauled into the kitchen and laid out onto the kitchen table and me and my exhausted boyfriend scoured the pages in awe. It was magnificent and in no way pompous. It was a piece of history created in the true Ian Killen style. We decided to prop the book up and use the pages as a back drop to the interview. This turned out to be slightly problematic, yet very affective. The camera was set up and running, I had my questions ready and we were away. The interview was a success and I found out a lot about Ian and his work. After the interview, his wife and three children returned from their morning out. His wife was very pleasant and their children were very shy, excluding his daughter, who was very sociable and confident for her age. He described her as a genius. She showed me her own scrap book which was full of drawings, certificates and memories, which was wonderful. She accompanied us to the garage, where the book was returned. She routed through boxes, as fascinated as we were. It was a paradise for artists and children and a minimalist’s nightmare.
He allowed us to take pictures of his work and materials, and he gave me a book, a printed tea towel, which were both part of his community previous community projects. I was pleasantly surprised that he let me document his work.
After saying our goodbyes me and my boyfriend made our journey home. I was pleased with how the day had gone but couldn’t but feel envious of Ian’s effortlessly easy going nature. His family home was a great place to hold the interview, as it provided an insight to him as an individual as well as his work. The interview would have not been quite the same if it was held in his studio (if he had one that is). It was a real experience to be able to find out about his work, and he was more than happy to discuss it. After the interview he stated that the interview had made him think about his work in a new way.
As an artist, he does not put heavy emphasis on the context of his work, yet it appears strong within his narratives and explorations. His work has a certain innocence without being at all naïve. Many of his community projects involve the participation of children, either drawing or making sculptures or contributing objects. He expresses in one of his artist’s talks that he sees more passion in the drawings of children than those of art students. If I were to try and put my reaction to his work into context I would refer to the famous quote by Picasso “It took me four years to paint like Raphael, but a lifetime to paint like a child”. However, if I was going to express my true thoughts, I would admit that my first reaction was much simpler. I would more accurately refer to the Jack Nicolson quote “People who talk in metaphors can shampoo my crotch”.
Unfortunately, I looked back at the footage only to discover that there was a technical glitch and my material may have been lost. It is an on-going mission to recover this material and it will soon be revealed. Until then, I can attempt to express my thoughts, feelings and experiences. I cannot give you questions or answers and I cannot reveal his words. For now I can give you everything but…