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NOIR: 55 artists walking the dark side of the street....

Devised and edited by Lyndon Watkinson @SU4IP

Pupppet Discarded: oil on canvas 90x178cm 2018

Glenn Ibbitson is a painter, collage artist, and filmmaker operating in the Western figurative tradition. His works tend to address a range of socio-political issues,  carried as subtext below the surface of ostensibly straightforward representation. His work is represented in private and public collections across six continents.

Can you tell me about a significant turning point in your practice?

Everyone deserves one break in their life. Mine came by chance, seeing in the arts listings section of a national newspaper an opportunity to train with the BBC as a scenic artist. I didn’t have the first idea of what this might entail, but I bluffed my way through a panel at Television Centre in London, and thereafter began my perfect apprenticeship—far better for me than any masters degree. It gave me some proper tuition at last, introducing me to a range of time and labour-saving techniques. It made me work against the clock, like any other proper job out there. Above all, it paid a good salary. I also had enough spare time to maintain a connection with my own painting practice, which was being fed constantly by this new experience. In film studios, seemingly surreal juxtapositions became commonplace; gesture and theatricality took [literally] centre stage. Myriad special effects were revealed to me; this was an industry based on <i>smoke and mirrors<i> with everything bathed in either high saturation colour or the subdued tonality of Noir.  My work was transformed; it never looked quite the same again.

Does art help you address other areas of your life?

My art tends to bleed into other areas of my life like a watercolour in the rain, to such an extent that there is no longer any definite dividing line between my art practice and my life outside of art. Activities outside the studio include work as a set painter or co-designer in theatre, where, through collaboration with a team of highly talented people, I can still learn on the job. Everything I involve myself with is potential source material for the next painting project, be it a painting, poster, graphic novel, playscript, or film.

What advice do you have for young, aspiring artists?

Artists are pretty poor when it comes to absorbing advice. I know I was, but for what it is worth, here are five recommendations: Firstly, ignore the solipsistic art market. The art market and I have developed the perfect relationship. I don’t pester it with my product. It ignores me, enabling me to do my own thing. It has been a mutually successful working arrangement over the past four decades.

Second, avoid using artspeak to describe your work. It alienates most of your audience and like Toki Pona, it only allows communication with a limited number of other people on the planet.

Third, resist the lure of art competitions. Art is not a competitive activity. It cannot be subject to comparative judgements. Such competitions are set up by institutions to generate money, and you, as an artist, are their chosen cash cow.

Fourth, find alternative spaces in which to display your work. Pop-up shows held in vacant retail units, within art groups or artist collectives.

Finally, be realistic. Appreciate that it is the journey along your professional timeline that will be your reward, not the hoped-for destination.

What are you working on at the moment?

In accordance with my enthusiasm for film, I have just completed co-curating an international film festival attracting over 80 films from 15 countries, providing a three-day event of short films. Feedback has been such that it is likely to become an annual event.

I currently have six small canvases in progress, part of an ongoing series entitled <i>The Death of Richthofen<i>. My father died nearly twenty years ago. From that moment in 2004, I felt a need to pay tribute to him through my art. I had a vague idea that the composition would be constructed around our days spent making model aircraft together and playing in the local park. After prevaricating for nearly fourteen years, I did three versions, and the current panels are isolated details from these multifigure compositions. More to come, I think.I am also developing a script for a play based on the works of George Orwell. As curator of <i>Room 103<i> I have taken works which interrogate his preoccupations to galleries in Leeds, Manchester, West Wales, and the University of Oxford.

What is the role of an artist in society, and why is it important?

As I see it, the artist's role is to illuminate and warn. Democracy and personal freedoms are more fragile than we would like to believe, and their preservation requires artists to assume their share of responsibility for their safe preservation. .I hope to direct attention to socio-political issues in a subtle way, allowing a viewer to enjoy a superficial encounter with colour and form within the Western painting tradition, and then to wrong-foot them by gradually revealing a subtext smuggled under that surface, be it trafficking, ecocide, gender politics, corruption, or deception.With the  demise  of the ‘avant-garde’ in our post-modern period, narrative art is now resurgent, possibly due in part to the recent elevation of the graphic novel to the level of serious cultural medium. This has made my modus operandi less problematic.

NOIR: the book is available now through Etsy at


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