Artist takes his cue from Hollywood’s classic past

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Colin Wilson’s new exhibition draws inspiration from film noir images. Chris Bond talks to the Scottish artist.

“Creativity is mistakes,” Grayson Perry once said. “Art is mostly the result of doing something wrong, then coming up with a different solution.”

It’s an idea Colin Wilson probably empathises with. When the Scottish artist left university he spent time trying to make a stop motion film only for the end product to fall short of the image in his head.

“I’ve always been fascinated by old black and white films and I had the idea of using print outs of film stars along with copious amounts of cardboard and wire to create a very basic stop motion animation,” he says.

“Having absolutely no experience in this department I found that it wasn’t a very straightforward process and as a defeated man I soon took it back to the easel.”

But rather than throwing in the towel he started to experiment, in true artistic tradition, with collages, keeping the classic film noir images he’d gathered. “I thought they worked but I wasn’t expecting to exhibit them, it just goes to show that it’s often the mistakes that lead you to the best places.”

Each piece combines collaged images with abstract hand-painted backgrounds and these works have taken Wilson in a new direction and provide the basis of his first solo exhibition at RedHouse Originals, in Harrogate.

The Bad & The Beautiful, which runs until the end of January, features 12 original paintings that draw inspiration from Hollywood’s film noir period during the 1940s and 50s.

Initially he wanted to avoid using iconic stars like Humphrey Bogart and Marilyn Monroe.

“To begin with I used images from silent films because I didn’t want people to recognise the faces because I felt it cheapened the image, but now I’m more interested in the image itself and its composition.”

Wilson only graduated from art college in Dundee three years ago but has already caught the eye of several leading collectors and major art institutions, and his work has featured in The New Contemporaries exhibition at Scotland’s National Gallery.

But it hasn’t all been plain sailing for the 24 year-old who found himself trying to make a living from art during the worst recession in living memory. “When you come out of college the first challenge is to get your stuff into galleries, that’s a huge step.

“The next thing is you’ve got to start selling because if you don’t sell, then the galleries won’t keep your work,” he says.

“I was very lucky and I got stuff in but it took me a couple of years to realise my work wasn’t the problem, it’s just that one of the first things people stop buying when times are hard is art because it’s a luxury.”

However, he feels this was a good grounding. “It’s helped me, it allowed me to sharpen my skills and find out what my strengths are.”

The Bad & The Beautiful, RedHouse Originals Gallery, Harrogate, to January 31. For more information call 01423 884 400.

Groove is in the art: New works at Redhouse originals

The ground floor of the gallery is dedicated to Wilson’s new exhibition, while on the first floor RedHouse is exhibiting a number of original paintings, prints and photography.

Among the highlights are pieces by renowned artists and photographers including Eduardo Paolozzi, David Hockney, Terry Cryer, Pete McKee, Rourke Van Dal and David Rusbatch.

RedHouse is also showcasing work by the San Francisco-based artist Tommy Cinquegrano who is exhibiting at the Harrogate gallery for the first time.