Brian Cheeswright and Ed Hill are figurative painters with a striking, naïve style whose paintings tap into a ‘new sincerity’ in art. A joint exhibition of their work entitled Two Painters, starts in Whitechapel this month. Cheeswright, 35, makes modest-sized figurative paintings concerned with vulnerability and anxiety from the living room of his flat in Edinburgh, while Hill aims to make atmospheric paintings imbued with an elusive mystery and warmth.
How did you both meet?
Brian: I won the Marmite Painting Prize last year, and Ed came along and was genuinely interested.
I graduated ten years ago and kind of mentored him in his last year at college, giving him a few pointers. I thought I’d help him out by doing a show with him, but he’s been doing so well since leaving college it feels like he’s helping me!
Ed: Brian became a kind of a painting peer whilst I was studying. As I talked to him I realised he had more of a perspective on being a painter. It’s nice to stay in touch with people whose work you admire or you have some similar thoughts to. We had a lot in common generally but it turned out we felt the same about subjects in our own paintings.
How would you describe your paintings?
Ed: My paintings stem from scenes, drawings, direct observations, photographs, personal experiences, thoughts and sensations and interests. I look at a wide variety of stuff but my actual work comes from my own life or somehow relates to some personal experience. It’s figurative but it’s can also be bit strange. I’m a big fan of comic books and hopefully there’s an element of cartoonishness and humour in them.
Brian: I would say that between Ed and I, where we unite is in this slightly naïve, very figurative and expressive style. We’ve got our differences, but the main thing is that subject matter is more important than the paint. We’re trying to say something rather than make pretty pictures.
What is Blakeian Moment [pictured above, left] about?
Brian: Most of my figures are just isolated, and it’s about the fact that we’re all just little islands. It’s the idea that painting is an attempt to communicate with another person but that it’s really hard to make someone ever understand your inner self.
What is the story behind Friend Tower [pictured above, right]?
Ed: I was at a festival with my childhood friends and quite spontaneously they made this tower of themselves. I thought it was an interesting image so I took a snapshot of it. Human behaviour can be so strange and I thought this is quite a funny thing when you think about it. Also it’s just a good image, I liked the composition of it and the chaps on the floor under the strain. I painted the sky this pinky colour which is out of context. I was thinking of some kind of ancient carnivalesque ritual, to give it an idea of an ancient folkloric tradition of people making towers of themselves.
Brian Cheeswright and Ed Hill: Two Painters is at Idea Store Whitechapel, 321 Whitechapel Road, E1 1BU until 9 November.