Rae Hicks, John Moores 2014 shortlisted artist - guest blog

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Man and painting Rae Hicks with his work, 'Sometimes I forget that you're gone' In the first of a series of guest blogs by the John Moores 2014 shortlisted artists, we hear from Rae Hicks about his work and the soundtrack to his studio.... Rae will be giving a free talk on gallery on 12 August 2014 at 1pm. Dates for the other shortlisted artists' talks are available on our website. The first prizewinner is announced on 19 Sept 2014.
  What made you enter the John Moores? In 2011 my friend Mia Drøschler who had been a year or two above me told me to do it, as a kind of order, on the very night of the deadline for JM2012. It was my third year of university and I hadn't made anything that year but that one painting. Anyway I got to the exhibition stage and that's essentially all that made me enter again. I guess I will every two years How does it feel to be one of the shortlisted artists for John Moores? The most important part, is that it now feels like the ideas I've fixated on over the last two years haven't just held interest for me alone. At times it felt self-deluding, and wondered if I'd been talking myself into seeing beauty in places. Do you have a favourite John Moores winner? Keith Coventry and Michael Raedecker. It's a shame that the way the 'open submission' format de-contextualised Coventry's piece for people that don't know his work. He seems quite a unique identity as a painter, through his mixing of a poetic and quite categorical approaches. Raedecker's always been a favourite of mine, and that particular piece seems a little less sequential than his others, which I always find an interesting occurrence in someone's work. Are art prizes important? On the one hand, prizes sort of undermine the whole way we've come to understand and appreciate art in the last hundred years, as well as how we organise it into exhibitions. In a theoretical sense. They can seem like a relic. On the other, they are one of very few sources of encouragement in what can be a very lonely and unfairly closed pursuit. I suppose they are a sort of loophole in a system that doesn't know what it's all about, and is dangerously conflicted already. So in other words yes. Why paint? Honestly, because I used to. Like a lot of things, I started out very earnestly, wanting to mimic certain standards or canons. When that state is reached it's shockingly hollow, and I realised that it's a complete mirror for aspiration in all other forms. As it always has been. I suppose it also just seems the best way of getting over the phenomenon of what my own eyesight brings me. Tell us a bit about your studio space. When I graduated, I couldn't afford a studio so I worked in my room. After a while it became habit, and then actually preferable, even though I could afford one now. Plus, in London you really have to think about whether you want to add yet another logistical location point into your life. It's quite a big room, and I like how I don't have to 'decide' to work on something, I can almost do it as an extension of procrastination. Do you have a routine when you paint? There's a lot of arbitrary mark making to begin with which I necessarily convince myself is 'instinctual' or immediate. That just has to be got out of the way. It becomes useful later when I've abandoned that first cardboard idea, and then it's suddenly a useful framework. Like a collaboration between my earlier blank self, and an enthusiastic 'interpreter' character trying to nurture the former's efforts. And then at some point after that it becomes fun. Do you listen to anything when you paint? Recently it's been Forest Swords, Barn Owl and Teeth of the Sea. Last November it was Uncle Acid & The Deadbeats as well as Goat. For most of second and third year it was Magazine. Rammstein the other day. Dirty Three and Jim White last summer. Pallbearer in February 2013. Van Morrison in May 2012, but then I heard Polvo's 'In Prism' in June, which was me for the next 6 months until I heard Miami by the Gun Club. All significant painting music.