Richard Jackson interview: 'I’m trying to change the way people think about painting'

The American artist talks about bobble heads, bodily fluids and getting cuckoo

Richard Jackson (Installation view, ‘Richard Jackson. New Paintings’, Hauser & Wirth, London, England, 2014)
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Installation view, ‘Richard Jackson. New Paintings’, Hauser & Wirth, London, England, 2014© the artist, courtesy Hauser & Wirth London
Richard Jackson ('Copy Room', 2014)
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'Copy Room', 2014© the artist, courtesy Hauser & Wirth. Photo: Delfanne Photography
Richard Jackson ('Pain-t', 2012 – 2014 and 'Untitled (Wall Painting Savile Row)', 2014)
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'Pain-t', 2012 – 2014 and 'Untitled (Wall Painting Savile Row)', 2014© the artist, courtesy Hauser & Wirth London
Richard Jackson ('Who Painted My Horse Yellow?', 2013 – 2014)
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'Who Painted My Horse Yellow?', 2013 – 2014© the artist, courtesy Hauser & Wirth London
Richard Jackson ('House of Pain-t', 2012—2014)
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'House of Pain-t', 2012—2014© the artist, courtesy Hauser & Wirth London
Richard Jackson ('Bobble Head', 2013)
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'Bobble Head', 2013© Richard Jackson. Courtesy the artist and Hauser & Wirth. Photo: Stefan Altenburger Photography Zürich
Richard Jackson ('Clown', 2013–2014)
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'Clown', 2013–2014© Richard Jackson, courtesy the artist and Hauser & Wirth. Photo: Fredrik Nilsen


Over the past four decades, the Los Angeles-based artist has been exploring the boundaries of painting. From smearing wet canvases directly across the gallery wall to activating his painting machines that take on different sculptural forms and spray paint from various orifices. For his new London show at Hauser & Wirth, the 74-year-old maverick painter makes a splash with works like 'Pain-t' (2012) - a row of boys bent over that fired paint from their bottoms into the gallery.

You're not a typical painter, what can we expect of the show?
'It's an experience; it's evidence of an action of a performance. I always see it as entertainment.'

There's a lot of humour in your work.
'I have a good sense of humour. Why not take advantage of it? I think it's pretty funny how the art business is taken way too seriously.'

There are lots of different kinds of works in the show, where did the idea for a bobble head version of yourself come from?
'They're usually of sports figures and there's a whole community who collect them. I went to a Los Angeles Dodgers game and they gave away a bobble head of Sandy Koufax, a famous Dodger in the 1960s. So I thought it would be cool to make a giant bobble head of myself.'

Your painting machines use paint like bodily fluids. Are you being purposefully suggestive?
'No I don't mean it to be insulting or provocative. I don't care about political correctness. But to be honest the bodily fluids thing is probably overdone.'

Why can't we view the painting machines in action?
'Because it would give the viewer too much information, then they don't have to use their imagination. I'm trying to provoke their thinking.'

Your work constantly questions painting. Do you think it's still relevant in this internet age?
'I think painting doesn't relate so well to what's going on. It's basically married to old materials and old tradition. It's overdue to change. Painting is really liquidity; it's the market's cash. And until somebody challenges that idea, it's going to go on for ever and just be boring.'

You're definitely challenging it.
'I'm challenging it but I don't expect it to change. I'm trying to change the way people think about painting and how they relate to it and how painting can occupy a space and be there temporarily.'

Is there an artwork you dream of making?
'Yeah, I want to make an upside-down and inside-out cuckoo clock. It would look like a log cabin and when you went inside there would be a bar with people drinking - getting cuckoo, and on the hour all these animals would come out.'

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