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#18

Simon Bill was born in Kingston-upon-Thames in 1958.
He studied at Saint Martins, 1977-80 and The Royal College of Art, 1982-85.
He lives and works in Sheffield.

23 oval paintings are hung close together upon the four walls of the gallery enclosing us and defending themselves. Materials used include corn, expanding foam, mdf, spray paint, oil paint, acrylic medium, birch ply, tape, silicon, plastic leaves, foil, hair, plastic jewels and tartan. Images include a brain section, an ear, a rear view of a cat, a duck/rabbit and less formal ones. Subject matter includes the millennium, the body, materials, the mind, weather, philosophy, British humour, mythologies and art.


A discussion between Kaavous Clayton and Simon Bill at Outpost on 28th April 2006.

Kaavous Clayton: You stopped painting a few years ago and started writing. What links these two activities?

Simon Bill: Writing requires a handful of good ideas per working day. Painting ought to be like that; and, very occasionally, is. Some of the pleasures are the same in painting and writing - the aesthetic pleasures of aptness and correct positioning.

KC: Is it the pleasure that you are exploring?

SB: No. It's just that some pleasure keeps you chipper while you're going about your business.

KC: Has writing affected how you feel about your paintings?

SB: I like them a lot more now that I've got comparatively little invested in them. My sense of self, my plans for the future, my everyday mental toil - these things no longer revolve around painting. So seeing them now is just as enjoyable, for me, as a leisurely tour round a provincial museum looking at the works of some good minor artists.

KC: Does that mean they now feel like they belong to someone else?

SB: Not someone else entirely. A former self. Or an alter-ego. Or my evil twin. Or my imaginary friend.

KC: And what do you think your 'friend' would make of your writings? Would he read your book and enjoy it as a relaxing holiday read by a good minor author?

SB: He would find it very funny and highly informative. A hugely entertaining read. He would go round asking all his friends if they know how many neurons are in the human brain and then telling them, whether they wanted to know or not.

KC: He sounds like a riot. It feels as if there is a book behind every one of your paintings, and also a different book behind the collection. Are there any stories connected to any particular paintings that you would to talk about?

SB: Well, since we're in Norwich - there's a painting called 'Threw a Monkey in the Sea', which is a quote from Alan Partridge. Unfortunately that picture is in the London show. 'From the Netherlands' is based on a prehistoric aboriginal cave painting that a man called Eric Von Daniken claimed was a picture of a spaceman. He also alleges that the Nazca earthlines are a landing strip for flying saucers. Now then, the connection with all that, in my mind, is that 'The Netherlands' sounds rather sinister and remote, until you remember it's Holland.

KC: If you're trying to suggest that Norwich is rather sinister and remote you're quite right.

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