Becoming an artist was a spiritual quest. After I decided to become an artist, I never deviated from that choice. You see, I didn’t have any sort of normal life as a child; I didn’t have any brothers or sisters, I was a real loner. And I was aware from a very early age that we don’t have long, we are dead before you know it. We worry about all of this stuff: paying the rent, what kind of car we drive, whether we can afford such and such a house, and it’s just all bullshit. You can be Bill Gates or you can live in a cardboard box on the street and you still die. All the stuff we worry about doesn’t matter. What you need to do is fill your time in life with doing something and leaving something behind that makes the world a better place. If you don’t do that you’re just a sucker. I knew that when I was 10 years old.
The Royal Air Force was a diversion in my life, but it was my only way out--I was from a poor, working class family in England and that was the way out. The RAF was a free ticket to the world. I saw it as an opportunity to educate myself. I wasn’t thinking about art at that time, I was just thinking about leaving a trace behind, which later transferred into art.
Being a painter is about problem solving, not about having problems or inventing problems that can’t be solved. Painting is something that we don’t need; it has no function in society. You can’t live in it or eat it or have sex with it, you can only look at it and appreciate it, but it has no actual function. Its something that we do, its an absurd thing. Art started off with cavemen spitting on clay in their hands and leaving a handprint in a cave. The only reason they did that was to leave a trace. It wasn’t about expressing themselves, it was never intended to be seen, it wasn’t about even leaving it for future generations to see, it was just about leaving a trace behind. I think art is still about that and that’s all it’s about, just leaving a trace behind, like a mark on a wall. So it doesn’t make any sense. That’s the dilemma. It’s completely superfluous. Which is all the more reason to do it.
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