The following interview forms part of a series where I invite a number of contemporary artists to each reflect on their personal history, meaning and philosophy, and how those are expressed throughout their creative process.
This week I talk to Connor Tudor, an artist from Manchester whose paintings “stem from an interest in British Pub culture, utilising still life paintings as a way to form narratives around British cultural issues and values.”
Connor tells me what it is about pub culture that especially intrigues him, how he imagines his work evolving post-lockdown, and what it means to him to be vulnerable as an artist.
What is it about British pub culture that intrigues you as an artist?
I find that the pub is an interesting place where you can find almost every type of person and emotion. We go there to celebrate, mourn, have fun, drown our sorrows etc, it’s a really important space for the British I think, but also damaging in some degrees. I find it can act as a space that enables and encourages toxic masculinity, given the right crowd.
Obviously all pubs are different and you can’t really make blanket statements about them, which makes it hard to pin down what it is exactly that I’m interested in. Though saying that, I think it might be that very versatility, and using that versatility as a contextual backdrop for the narratives I set out.
You write that “even the figure is treated as a compositional and symbolic structure to explore the different values and beliefs of the British populace”. Which values and beliefs in particular are you drawn to in that regard?
The figure is presented primarily as pink hands throughout my paintings and I find having them reach into the canvas a way to extend the idea of a space, within which, the painting is set. So they act as a sort of anchor to specific concepts and beliefs. For instance, “Rubber Glove” is a painting of a lad preparing to strike a pool cue. The idea behind this painting was to capture that tense quiet before you split in a game of pool.
It’s about the building up to an explosive outburst and the figure acts as an allusion almost to our own dealings with such tension in everyday life. I won’t go too much into what I had in mind while painting it as I do think it can be interpreted in a number of ways which is part of the charm.
As pubs reopen after the present lockdowns, what do you imagine might happen in terms of how your work evolves?
Well, you never really know where you’re going with your practice, but I have been thinking, “what if I go to the pub and it feels like a memory? Like when you remember something being better than it is and I’m completely disappointed” and then move on from pubs for good. I hope I don’t, I still feel there’s a lot left for me to explore, enough to paint pubs for the rest of my life really. But I think given the current post-Brexit, soon-to-be post-pandemic (fingers crossed) climate we’ll be in, I don’t think there will be much to celebrate, and so my paintings will likely reflect that.
Which artwork of yours stands out in this moment as being particularly meaningful to you?
“Remnant 1” is probably the most meaningful to me. It depicts a singular broken pint glass sitting atop a lacquered, worn wooden table with a dark green horizon. The thinking was of what we’ve lost during this past year and what we’ll have afterwards. It’s a little hopeful though, the horizon, a historical symbol of there being something more, something after, acts as a reminder that we will continue to move on we’ll mourn the time and ones lost but ultimately we’ll all continue onwards. Wherever that may be.
What does it mean to you to be vulnerable as an artist?
Franz Kline once said to Philip Guston in a conversation “You know what creating really is? To have the capacity to be embarrassed”, which I think is absolutely true. You need that capacity to just keep painting with a reckless abandon and even if everyone tells you your paintings are bad it’s to double your efforts and keep hitting whatever wall you’re stuck at.
It’s similar to many of life’s problems in that regard, and by persevering and continuously engaging and exposing your artwork to the world (whether you’re confident in it or not) is maybe when I personally am at my most vulnerable, when I’m exposing my process or thoughts. Though admittedly, I do keep my own cards close to my chest when it comes to the concepts in my paintings.
If you were to design a new piece that emulated your current experience of the world, what might it include?
That’s a really difficult question, I feel like my paintings are often sort of fuelled by my experiences and interactions but if I had to make a work that emulated my personal experience, I think maybe a figure with a black eye, broken pint glasses, definitely an out-of-place man, in a pristine suit, lots of spilt drinks and a fed up looking bartender. Something like that might sum up my feelings at the moment quite nicely.