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Room with a View:  Luke Caulfield

Art in a Covid Climate May 2020

Documenting History

The COVID pandemic is a moment in history which will undoubtedly provoke numerous narratives across politics, science and culture.  In a world where fantasy, reality and memory increasingly merge, Caulfield’s practice draws the viewer into his nuanced and collaborative world exploring historical events and the ways in which they are communicated through the course of time.  Caulfield's practice extends from digitally informed painting through to 3D printing, projection mapping and guerilla projections. The focus on history of art is a thread looping through Caulfield’s work, highlighting the extent to which historical documentation is flawed, not only because each viewing is inherently subjective, but also because it is a moving target that changes over time and through different ambient cultural conditions.  Caulfield sets out to confront the aesthetic predispositions of the viewer, the value of originality, the impossibility of repetition, digital/manual fallibility and temporal expectations.

Caulfield studied at the Slade School of Fine Art and has exhibited works in his native London and internationally: France, USA, Japan, Italy, Morocco, Switzerland, South Korea and Norway. Prizes include the Abbey Fellowship Rome, Cocheme Fellowship, AIR residency, Arts Foundation Fellowship shortlist, Natwest Art Prize, Mostyn Open, Royal Academy and the John Moores. Caulfield has also written for the Musee Picasso Paris on Guernica and been quoted in Guernica: An Icon by Gijs van Hensbergen.

For many of us this is a time of reflection.  What for you has been the best, worst and weirdest thing about the pandemic and isolation?

So far the best thing has been seeing a full double rainbow stretching over London as all the streets were clapping for the carers. Coincidently the symbol used to praise the NHS. On that day we were told that the peak death-rate had been reached so I saw the arch of the rainbow as a graph with a peak. The weirdest is to have an invisible enemy during the most beautiful sunny days. The worst is seeing the stark daily number of the dead.


Where are you spending your days during the lockdown?  

Painting in the studio in Shoreditch and writing at home in Haringey.


If you could have any anything delivered to your door what would it be?

A piece of Rome…specifically Bernini’s David which inspires stubborn defiance that we need now.


What have you rediscovered at home?

Rereading classics that inspired me during my childhood, like The Odyssey and 1984.


Which exhibition plans this year have now been postponed?

I have work to be shown at de Pury@Aspery in a group show but June is now January.


What are you working on at the moment?  

I’m trying to paint an undocumentable painting. The more it evades photo documentation, the more it utilises its own potential as a different medium.


Tell us about one of the projects you most enjoyed doing?

The execution of my ideas has normally been an exercise in masochism; enjoyment only comes from from the outcome….I feel the most enjoyable outcome is yet to come.


What was it like where you grew up and who within your immediate family has had the greatest influence on you?

I grew up in a chaotic manner. Most of the time my parents were more focussed on hosting big parties than their children. That may be a better way of parenting than the excessive worry of today. We were lucky to be regularly taken abroad to France, Italy and Greece. My dad made us beautiful toys such as castles and theatres. I was very antagonistic to authority at school; I think I went to about twelve different ones. I never had a guiding adult as an influence and I was the eldest child so I ploughed my own furrow.


Which artists have inspired you the most?  

Bas Jan Ader, Robert Barry, Caravaggio, Michelangelo Pistoletto, Gordon Matta Clark, Mario Merz, Sigmar Polke, Barnett Newman, Zurburán, Bernini, Velazquez, Géricault, Chris Burden, Kazimir Malevich


What would you say is one of the most spiritual works of art for you?

When I was a teenager I was confronted with a large Barnett Newman painting. It struck me to the core with Nothingness; a sublime impact which might be described as ‘spiritual’. Before this I wasn’t very interested in art and I was happily surprised that art could do that.


What do you think the world will be like post COVID 19?  

….COVID 20? …I hope not. Like the rest of Nature, I think humans adapt and renew very well. I look at current events through the lens of history.


How do you think it will impact the art world?  

Art will survive and the World will survive. The art world should start from there.


What is the best online exhibition you’ve seen, podcast you’ve heard or webinar you’ve participated in?  

It’s sad to see non-screen-based media, through small computer screens, since it just emphasises how much of the experience is lost. 


If you could have lunch with someone you admire who and where would it be?

If we are speaking of people who are alive then it would be Alejandro Jodorowsky. His independent free spirit is still sparking and infectious, despite his advanced age. 


Where in the world would you live if not here?

Rome or Madrid.


Which is your favourite museum in the world?

That’s tough because I have very many…but I’ll say Villa Borghese which isn’t too big but what is contained inside is huge….


If you weren’t an artist what else would you do?

I’d be a writer. I have written for a catalogue at Musée Picasso. Before studying Fine Arts I studied Drama and Classics at university; I think I’d be happy writing dramatic fiction in a visual way, so a  screenwriter.


3 books and music tracks you’d take if you were marooned on a desert island?

A book on Mythologies of the World (with photographs of artefacts) / ‘Psychology and Alchemy’, Jung/ ‘The Divine Comedy’ Dante (Bilingual edition with Dore illustrations) …..Pucchini , ‘E Luchevan Le Stele’…. Estrella Morente, ‘Volver’ …Stan Getz, Joao Gilberto, ‘Corcovado’.


What would you describe as your luxury at the moment?

Projecting films onto a large screen….lots of Almodóvar and Pasolini


What’s the first thing you will do when lockdown is lifted?

Despite being born in London, I’ve never visited the Temple of Mithras. I’ve been thinking a lot about the Romans in Britain and have a strong urge to go so I’ll be going straight there on the 141 via a good café.

Thank you Luke!


If you could have anything delivered to your door what would it be?

"A piece of Rome…specifically Bernini’s David which inspires stubborn defiance that we need now.

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