Bradley Wood’s paintings are luscious and seductive. They caught my attention immediately as I perused the list of exhibitors for this year’s Battersea Affordable Art Fair this weekend, for their wonderful painterliness. Taking the qualities of a beautiful Vuillard interior painting and using them to describe glamorous divas from the 70s, or characterful gents, or suggesting a narrative that is perhaps sexy, perhaps sinister, but always alluring. His work also reminds me of some of my favourite Alice Neel paintings. His colour sense is sophisticated; he is a master of using rich earthy reds and dark dark blacks. I was lucky enough to have New York based painter Bradley Wood answer a few questions.
Lisa: I see all kinds of influences in your work, from the luxurious high-living fashion-shoots of Mario Testino, to the paintings of Bonnard and Vuillard, with pangs of Alice Neel in between. Who or what do you consider to be your influences?
Bradley: I certainly identify with Bonnard and Vuillard. I love their color, interior spaces, their paint application. They were a starting point for me because I naturally gravitate toward a similar paint application. I have also been inspired by French and Italian vintage pornography – not the sex scenes ha ha, but actually the scenes before them — the sexually charged nuances in the actors’ body language. It’s what I always found interesting about baroque painters like Nicolas Poussin where the gestures of the figures tell so much of the story. The films can be well crafted, the cinematography and set design colors are really interestingly put together.
Lisa: How do you go about painting your pictures – do you have a fixed way of working?
Bradley: I have a ton of reference, which I’ll print out in black and white or just look over at on the laptop from across the room. I try to distance myself from the reference so it becomes more about what happens with the paint and not a literal interpretation. It’s always a crazy mixture — a hat from a Vogue magazine, a patterned rug from a 1950’s film, a pair of tube socks from memory. It’s always a compilation that’s really not overly planned. One part leads to another until the painting sort of spontaneously reveals itself.
Lisa: What do you love about oil paints?
Bradley: I love the viscosity and luscious butteriness of oil paint, and especially the quality of color you can achieve. I get pleasure applying about 90 percent of the strokes. I also love the imperfections, the way the paint almost surprises you sometimes and takes the painting someplace you didn’t expect. As for brands, I tend to be loyal to Williamsburg and Old Holland.
Lisa: How would you describe the people that you paint?
Bradley: The people I paint tend to be fairly eccentric in some way. We moved from an artist community in Brooklyn to a town 25 miles north of NYC. It was a huge change that actually inspired me to create narratives about the neighbors I didn’t even know – the wealthy widow, the peculiar old couple at the grocery store. Of course, these characters probably exist more in my mind than in real life.
Lisa: Where online or in the flesh can we see more of your work?
Bradley: FitzRoy Knox will be showing my work at the AAF Battersea this weekend and the AAF New York April 2-6. www.fitzroyknox.us
I’ll be part of a group show at The Angel Gallery Toronto this May titled “I Heart Paint.” It’s curated by one of my favorite painters, Kim Dorland. www.angellgallery.com
I have solo shows with Parts Gallery in Toronto, usually in the Fall. www.partsgallery.ca
I also have a 17-piece painting commission up in the main dining room at The Peacock, a British-inspired restaurant that’s in the former Williams College Club space in NYC. An additional four pieces are up in the Library bar as part of a rotating exhibition of my new work. It’s an amazing room to have a cocktail. I recommend the Bramble. www.thepeacocknyc.com
My personal website is bradleywoodnyc.com