If you've never cruised around Derbyshire you might think be thinking, oh I'll get around to it one day, maybe check out Chatsworth House and the County & Station pub in Matlock Bath, see the Rams play and that would just about do it. We think Everywhere is Nowhere, even here. But I mean, didn't even Lloyd Cole skip town way back when... Which leads me to the best thing to come out of Derbyshire since Lloyd Cole, abstract painter Kevin Willetts, (no disrespect to Mr. Willetts should be inferred)...
Kevin attended Chelsea College of Art in the late 80s and continued painting out of a small studio in East London afterwards before returning to Derbyshire an area that as noted doesn't trip from the tongue when one thinks of art... "It doesn't really matter where you are located," Kevin begins, "as long as you're producing art, and you've got a sizeable place to paint in."
His preference is to work in quiet environments, which helped bring him home, "Derbyshire has some very beautiful, peaceful locations. I can concentrate on developing ideas about art that are very internal but obviously take much from outside visual stimuli. I also view painting as universal and able to transcend boundaries, everybody feels similar emotions, and can be moved by art in away that other media cannot achieve."
He's generally regarded as an abstract painter, combining digital work with the brush, he's not entirely comfortable with the label, though... "Abstract is just a term, in a way all painting is abstract and refers outside of itself at the same time, it always has to relate to the out-side world and can never be purely abstract and self contained. I favour acrylic on canvas at the moment, although I've experimenting with computer art to provide a fresh impetus into the paintings. I did paint in oils years ago, and will probably look to do so again one day."
Some of his biggest influences remain his teachers at Chelsea, but they're broad and international too. "My influences? Loads. When I was a student I was very influenced by British artists who taught me in London, including Anthony Whishaw, Clyde Hopkins & Mali Morris, to name a few. American painters, such as Brice Marsden, Frank Stella and Mel Bochner. I tend to look at works by artists who are trying to work in an abstract open manner, exploring new possibilities within that rich tradition. I also am inspired not just by the paintings, but also the attitudes of painters such as Hans Hoffmann, who tried to go beyond what was considered acceptable as art for the time, so he was always pushing his work further, taking more risks, and that comes across in his great art. I was very also very influenced by California area artists, such as Hans Burkhardt, Richard Diebenkorn and Elmer Bischoff."
Of course, music, books, films all these things inform an individuals' art we're guessing from atop this great knownothing dias, guess and happily Kevin is able to fill in a few gaps for us...
"Yes, ideas do inform the paintings, from many diverse sources, including books. One book by the American philosopher Richard Rorty entitled 'Philosophy and the Mirror of Nature' inspired a painting, as well as articles I've read about psychology - Stephen Kosslyn and mental rotation concepts. Music is very abstract,and is generally not as misunderstood as much as painting, which some people may tend to feel excluded from appreciating. I believe art should be made available to everybody to appreciate and enjoy, it's also easy to criticise artists, but believe all artists are contributing to a heritage of art that is inspiring, and that should be encouraged.The paintings have also recently been inspired by ancient Celtic art & ideas, as I look to combine British history with new scientific concepts to create a dialogue between different beliefs, which are always changing."
Phew... Any celebrity encounters in Derby?
"No, but when I was living in London I did walk past Nicolas Lyndhurst (UK Actor) one day on the King's Road, Chelsea, when I was a student. I passed George Best (UK former footballer) on a different occasion."
What did you have for breakfast?
How do you make money?
I struggle as I'm making art instead.
Usually drive places if I need to go anywhere.
Have you ever been to the County & Station in Matlock Bath?
I can't say I have, although there is some great landscape scenery around Matlock Bath, and it's well worth a visit.
Check out Kevin Willetts work on his website: Kevin Willetts Art Site
His work is in Private Collections in London, Los Angeles and Derby. Could be in yours.