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Julian St Clair - Magic

Born in 1952 in West London, Julian grew up in a golden age of music and art. Having trained in the arts to a certain degree, it wasn’t until his early twenties that Julian was spurred on by friends and family, and a few professional artists. His direction was further driven by the surrounding galleries and museums which allowed him to draw inspiration from culture, both past and present.

In his formative years as an artist, Julian experimented with different techniques and styles, although one approach stuck and, to this day, he still uses a very perfectionist method. First, several layers of primer are built up, sanded back and built up again to achieve a very flat base finish. On top of this, Julian then works the painting up in stages, creating a series of layers that give the finished piece a completeness and solidarity, often unattained by other works on canvas. Sometimes up to a month is spent on each piece, this finish is one that many pop artists strive for - the overall feel is of pristine manufacture, and it is for this reason that Julian associates closest with pop artists over the decades.

Moreover, Julian’s choice of subject matter lies neatly in the Pop genre and may well nod its cap to the likes of Roy Lichtenstein and Peter Phillips. Ranging from ‘les femme belles’ to ‘les cigarettes’, the subject juxtaposed with the abstract geometry offers up a clean yet highly developed image which not only has an impact on the conscious, but also the subconscious, largely via the peripheral vision.

Staying on track where most diverge, Julian values the visual impact of a piece more highly than cultural reference and will aim to keep the aesthetics of the piece in line before letting the subject matter dominate the piece. Overall, the aim is to allow the viewer to enjoy his work in an uplifting manner, both visually and otherwise.

After many years of living in the hustle and bustle of London, Julian and his wife decided to move to Cornwall and enjoy the more rustic side of life. As a result, Julian’s work has become more directional than ever without the interference of social expectation and interference that, more often than not, clouds the vision of many an artist.

Below is a short interview with Julian which will hopefully give you an insight into what ‘maketh the man’!

Please view Julian’s work HERE


Can you name 3 major artistic influences?

There’s a lot of artists I admire & for me it’s more a question of being inspired by the spirit or approach of certain artists rather than trying in any way to copy their style. To name 3 I’d have to say Lichtenstein, Patrick Caulfield & Peter Phillips but of course there are many others.


Your style seems very ‘retro‘, is there a particular era that you draw influence from & if so, why?

The elements that find their way into my painting often derive from the ‘Golden Age’ of popular culture, i.e. the 50s & 60s. I find the distance that time has given these things imbue them with a kind of poetry or mythic quality that strongly appeals to me. Also as I was born in 1952 I was growing up with many of these things around me, so really they’re not so much retro as just a part of my life experience.


Is there a particular moment that you would consider formative in your artistic development?

That’s something I can be quite specific about. When I moved to Cornwall 25 years ago I was determined to pin down my approach, this was after years of being enthral to modernism & being influenced by Picasso, Mondrian, Matisse etc., etc. As I’ve always loved Pop Art one happy day I started painting just words. That was the epiphany moment. I realised hard edges & a kind of literalness was what really got me exited & was instantly determined to develop work that had those qualities.


Your palette choice is usually very vivid, has this been a part of your practise for long?

Yes it has really, the whole thing with colour and what makes it work are very interesting to me. I spend a lot of time trying to get this right in my paintings so that the colours work at their full potential, I want it vivid but not garish. I never use colour straight from the tube, even my blacks & whites are modified.


If you could listen to one piece of music, what would it be?

That’s really hard to answer as I like all kinds of music from Baroque to modern jazz, but to be true to the pop spirit I’d say the album Ogdens Nutgone Flake by the Small Faces is never too far from the CD player!


Have you got any interesting projects/exhibitions coming up?

I’ve been asked by The Copelouzos Art Museum near Athens to take part in an exhibition they’ve got coming up after which my painting will go into their permanent collection. As they own work by Rauchenberg, Lichtenstein, Wesselman & many other artists I admire, I must admit to being quietly chuffed by this.

I’m also working on a themed commission for some designers & have a touring solo exhibition in a corporate setting in big offices & suchlike.

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