Alessandro Raho, John Moores 2014 shortlisted artist – guest blog

Alessandro Raho This week's John Moores Painting Prize guest blog is from another of our shortlisted artists, Alessandro Raho. Personal relationships are important in Alessandro's work and his painting 'Jessica' is striking portrait of his stepsister of the same name. 

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Alessandro Raho

What made you enter the John Moores?

I like the award because of it’s history and special place for painters. I noticed this years judges were artists I felt an affinity with too.

How does it feel to be one of the shortlisted artists for John Moores?

Very exciting, to be selected by other artists and people in the art world, your peers really, is a particularly good feeling.

Do you have a favourite John Moores winner?

David Hockney has a special place in my heart, I think that could be because I grew up being aware of his work. Actually when going around the exhibition there really is such depth to the previous winners, it feels like a trawl through modern British painting history...I loved that.

Are art prizes important?

In encouraging groups of people who share the same interests to get together, talk and care about that thing, then yes. Unlike sports prizes though they aren’t definitive.

Why paint?

I have a desire to depict things I see and feel. I don’t know why, suffice to say that when I’m deeply moved or affected by seeing something, and that can encompass many different things, from two beautiful surfaces next to each other to the longing look in someone’s gaze, the most direct way, the quickest way and the most considered way to describe the visual effect and the feeling that elicits is to paint it. (Painting could be a way of coping with those feelings.)

Tell us about a typical day in your studio.

Well usually I start the day with a coffee and check emails. Then up to the studio and start planning the day, what needs to be done. Maybe the hair? The arm? I don’t have a formula for how to make the picture so all kinds of things get decided as I go. By the afternoon I’m in full swing, the palette is laid out and I’m able to make the best marks.

Do you have a routine when you paint?

I find the most productive time is the afternoon. The palette is all worked out, and your mind is really in the problem resolving mode of the day. Then it’s a case of continually checking, "Does that look right?".  Sometimes I feel as though I’m trying to find the brushmark that irritates me the least. For example, a quick rendering of a hand in paint can look good to start with, but often it starts to bug me as the days go on and I don’t trust it anymore, so will change it. Those marks often seem more satisfying, oil paint is such a sensitive medium, that indecision and remaking are all held in the new marks and seem to add to more intensive feelings somehow.

Do you listen to anything when you paint?

More and more’s just a distraction and it’s too easy to be distracted these days. I make an effort to go offline when I’m in the studio.