Transcript of the Martin Greenland interview
What does it mean to you to win the award?
To win the John Moores exhibition, it's like the pinnacle, it's like the big one really. I've always regarded it as the big painting prize, certainly in this country.
There are other prizes around like the Turner Prize. I've always regarded the John Moores as like the equivalent of the Turner Prize except it's just about painting, defiantly so. It's maintained it's determination to be a painting prize and it's great that it's continued.
What was it like to find out that you had won?
Unbelievable, absolutely unbelievable. It made me feel very, very good. It made me feel very good because when I saw the work here I actually felt quite lowly about it. I thought 'Oh God, look at all these big paintings, all these really amazing things around the wall and there's my funny little painting'. Not quite like that but! I felt a little bit modest about my work and I felt a little bit gloomy about it but there's no reason at all to think like that I suppose.
How did you arrive at the title for the painting?
'Before Vermeer's Clouds'. The painting initially was going to be called 'A Vision of Heaven'. That was the working title, that was the original idea. Based on some paintings I've done before, it's like a thing which keeps recurring as a theme. I wanted to create this place which was very benign, a place of perfect peace. Where the light in it was very benign, the light in it was very beautiful. It's sort of like mid-morning light on a really wonderful early autumn or spring/summer day. I recognised immediately that that's the sort of light which is in one of my favourite paintings which is the 'View of Delft' by Vermeer.
I had done a painting many years ago involving the clouds out of that painting and it just seemed right to have those clouds in this painting. So take an element from that painting. It was almost like a homage to Vermeer and to do what he seemed to have done in his painting but do rebuild the landscape round it so it's no longer a town with an estuary in front of it but it's my landscape and the elements in it constitute somewhere that you'd feel perfectly at ease with at any time.
The transition from winter to winter, so it goes through from winter, spring to summer, all the way through. Which is an element which I'm not sure if many people recognise straight away, but if you're talking about anything which is unusual that surely is the most unusual thing to have all the seasons within the same painting.
I wanted it to be somewhere that you'd want to be at all times, not just in the summer. So you'd want to be there in the winter as well.
Has anything else influenced your work?
I purposely live in a bit of a bubble. I see a lot of contemporary art but I try to paint in a determinedly personal way. I don't really take on a lot of influences, the influences I do take on do tend to be from dead artists I have to say. Having said that I do hope my work exists in a contemporary sphere, I don't want to be seen as old-fashioned. Somebody says 'Oh your work's very old-fashioned and traditional'. Yes, I traditionally paint in traditional mode because I find it so beautiful.
So my influences do tend to come from other eras I'm afraid. Usually. But what I do consider to be contemporary is actually looking at life and my life is obviously a lot different to a lot of other people's life. This isn't supposed to be life as I see or as I live it necessarily, although I live in a very beautiful part of the world. And it's obviously not a scene of any sort of deprivation. So I'm not trying to reflect anything at all about other people's lives. In this I felt that I wanted to do something which was partly true to life and partly slightly unbelievable.
What do you want to do after this?
Painting or career-wise, I don't know. It's hopefully the beginning of all sorts of things, but I really don't know what. Painting wise I will continue working with the themes that I've been working with lately. This painting set me off on a track of thinking about other possibilities. Once I got the idea of the clouds and the landscape I thought there were so many ways this could go and I thought of a dozen other different paintings I could do just using this beginning so that's probably going to be happening very soon I hope.
What were your impressions of the competition?
Typical John Moores. There's a lot of stuff in here which is not what I'd do. A lot of stuff I don't understand. A lot of stuff I really like, some absolutely stunning pieces. I always feel that my work looks different but I always think that it's great that it's here amongst all these other great paintings. It's typical John Moores, it's looking good, it's always a show I always want to be in although sometimes I feel my work sometimes stands out somewhat.