How did your journey as an artist start?
I remember my mother giving me a set of children’s watercolour when I was about 4 years old. If only she knew what this would do to me, I think she would have chosen another gift! My mother knew nothing of watercolour let alone art, but nevertheless she gave me this wonderful box of light. Left to my own devices, I started to play with these colours having no restrains or limitations. My love of painting probably started at this instance, exploring how colours are mixed, blended and graduated. Seeing how the magic of colours defined the subject in an invented space. This was a complete, all engulfing experience, hours and hours being spent just playing, the more I did, the better I got.
Coming from a non-artistic family I was not encouraged to pursue the arts at school, doing art was like doing something unimportant. However I was free to do as I pleased in my “spare” time. At School I was drawn to the classical guitar and studied this and art as hobby subjects whilst studying all the sciences for exams. These were difficult times, my mind was thinking science but my heart was drawn to art. In the final two years of my secondary school I decided, rather than regret all my life “what could have been” I decided to apply for art School rather than university. I was never going to be happier than when playing with my box of lights.
Do you remember your first artwork? What did it represent?
As a child, my first paintings were copies of birds and animals from an illustrated book which belonged to my older brother. I would probably consider my first original painting was done in my primary school art class in 1975. It was of an imaginary scene with windmills resembling a Dutch landscape. I was so pleased when this won the first prize in the art competition. Looking around my young competitors I realised I had something the others did not have, I had an affinity to use and manipulate paint.
The feeling of motion and your mastery of light are two remarkable aspects of your art. Where do you get the inspiration to endow your artworks with such intensity?
Light has not always been a conscious focus of my work. Accidently I realised that I was looking more and more at artists like Rembrandt and Velázquez during my art school years. Later I realised that they both had one thing in common, light. People often comment on the movement within my work, I cannot say that I consciously consider this element, rather I compose using dynamic figurative poses which often imply movement.
Having studied Eadweard Muybridge’s work, I came to the conclusion that the moment of imbalance is the instance or the implication of movement. Coupled with light, this moment can be dramatically heightened. I feel I have learnt important lessons from painters such as Rembrandt, Velázquez and Goya who have prepared me with a thorough grounding in dramatic compositions with colour and light. Contemporary artist such as Bacon, Kiefer and John Walker have had a great influence on texture and surface qualities of the impasto.
You state to have a deep connection with Spain, its people and its culture. Can you tell us how did that happen? And Andalucía… what does it mean to you?
Although it is hard to define but something inside me related to this country, it felt familiar or was I becoming a hispanophile? Either way I knew this was my direction for all things, naturally I wanted to paint it too. I was so intrigued that I wanted to meet more Spanish people, after graduating from Central Saint Martin’s School of Art in 1986 I embarked on a mission to know more! With my bad Spanish I encountered the Spanish in London, in bars, friends of friends anyone I met, I was naturally drawn to them. These becoming long term friends to this day. Picking their minds for information on life, loves, culture and all nature of everyday life which I found overwhelming.
In 1987 I made my first excursion to Spain as a guest of my friend Miguel from Valencia. This was to be a mini grand tour of my favourite place on Earth. From Bilbao, to Barcelona, Valencia, and then Madrid. It was on this trip that I realised that Andalucia was the focus of my passion. It had the raw vivid historical colours right to the present that I was looking for. This was my spiritual home. I am happy to say that my closest friends to this day are from Córdoba, Granada and Madrid. They still guide and advise on points of my painting interest.
Which would you say are the greatest satisfactions your career as an artist has brought and brings to your life?
I think having the ability to express myself in paint is my greatest asset and one that gives me the most satisfaction. All my paintings have a personal history and inherent problems that were resolved in its creation. Being a painter of some reputation has opened doors to situations that would normally be closed.
I was most excited when the Bank of England bought my “Caminios a/de Cordoba I-VI 2002” only my dealer and I knew that these paintings were about, the invasion of Spain, but this series of 6 grand paintings were approved for the bank. Although they do look impressive there, I feel happy to have implanted a bit of my Spain in the UK!
What projects are you immersed in at the moment?
I have painted the bull and flamenco for many years returning to each subject after excursions from other subjects, introducing new thoughts or ideals each time. Currently I am immersed in a new idea of describing the bull without defining all its details. It fascinates me how the subject seems to have more movement with less information.
Returning to the original idea that light both creates and destroys. This year I am still exploring the avenues that this idea exposes, producing numerous studies and hopefully, the final paintings later this year. I look forward to presenting them to Artzine.
What do you expect from your Artzine adventure?
Well I have to admit that when Marina approached me to join Artzine, I could not help noticing that it was a Spanish company. Being true to my biased sensibility, I had to join naturally!
I would not presume to show the Spanish what their culture is, but I would be happy for Artzine to expose my work to a larger audience both in Spain and worldwide.
Where could we find Zil Hoque when not painting?
In my earlier days when not painting, you would have found Zil Hoque in tapas bars engaged with the Spanish. My previous studio was fortunately located near a Spanish tapas bar “The Finca” in South London.
In many occasions, after a painting day, me and other artist friends from the studios would congregate in this bar and spend the entire evening drinking and conversing with each other and the Spanish staff, who affectionately called us “Los Muebles”. Such was the esteem!
These days you would still find me in tapas bars, although they are further away from the present studio and I go less often. I still visit my friend Rafa in his bar “Mar i Tierra” and talk to him about the bulls, horse breeders, art and Spanish wine over a few glasses of Rioja Gran Reserva. But I am not solely associated with bars. Occasionally, I am also known to meet up with my flamenco dance tutors and friends, Angela and Lola, and arrange some photo shoots with their troops for my work.
Thank you very much!