ART INTERVIEW 2005
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INTERVIEW WITH TIM GOULDING 2000
Parts of this interview were published in the Irish language magazine 'Foinse'.

Tell us a bit about your background?
I grew up beside the River Dargle near Enniskerry in Co. Wicklow, Ireland. Born in Hatch Street ,Dublin in 1945. My father spent his leisure hours planting a woodland garden and us three kids spent our days in this Garden of Eden on the banks of a Guinness-brown torrent in winter and a stately trickle in summer. Then at the ages of 7 we were shipped off to boarding school in England. School's only assets were the chances to learn the piano, 'cello, write poetry, compose music and start painting while waiting to meet girls. Various ambitions were to be either painter, musician or poet.....all of which have come to pass in one way or another.

When did you first start playing music?
At school I learnt piano, cello and to the age of 18 was only interested in classical music which I then learnt was only half the story.

How come you joined Dr. Strangely Strange?
I was asked to join Dr. Strangely Strange by Tim Booth in 1967 who knew I had a harmonium and it became part of our sound along with guitars recorders, whistles and Japanese Ping-Pong bats (for percussion)

What was it like being part of a psychedelic folk band in the 60s?
It was exciting and magical being part of a psychedelic folk band in the 60s...we thought that the 'straight' culture could be overcome by good vibes, colourful clothes, trippy music, free love, and organic gardening....hard graft was somewhat uncool. For a while it seemed that the military-industrial powers could be neutered by flower power!

Did it faze you to be playing with big name acts?
With the insouciance of youth we felt it quite natural to be playing along sides the likes of Elton John, Santana and Rory Gallagher. Whilst being secretly overawed we were collectively convinced that we had something unique and I don't mean the playing out of tune. In fact we did have a certain quirky poetry.

Why did you retire from the band?
In 1972 I became tired of traveling endlessly in the Tranny Van up and down motorways and did one last tour with Terry and Gay Woods who took my place in the band for a short while. I then returned to my first love ..painting ..and started to live full time near Allihies on the Beara Peninsula for the next 30 years. However us original "Strangelies" continued to meet and play every few years and in 1997 recorded our third album "Alternative Medicine" on Big Beat records. CDWIKD 177. This was recorded at Sulan Studios in Ballyvourney and produced by Pogues' co-producer Paul Scully. 3 tracks have contributions from old pal Gary Moore.

When did you start work on your solo album?
Late 1998 I started pre-production for "Midnight Fry" doing rough demos of my songs and tunes on my Korg N364 synthesizer. It started life as an instrumental album and was going to be mainly whistle and piano. We recorded half the album at our local Studio, Beara Studios, and the other half at ACME Studios in Christchurch, Dublin. Mixed at ACME and Grove Studios in Brighton, England It was recorded on the PARIS system which is a hard-disk set-up and the two studios are compatible. We mastered it at Windmill Lane Masterlabs.

Who plays on the album?
The personnel on the album appeared organically over a period of two and a half years. Album Credits Some of the musicians were living in Beara and some passing through. Others I met through the studio In Dublin. Many are old friends I have met over the years on musical outings. My main collaborator is Jimmy Bergin an Irish Multi-instrumentalist who lives in Spain but spent over a year living on the Beara Peninsula. He played with the 7 Kevins, The Electric Chairs (with whom he has a new album 'Sofa Surfing') and currently The Celtic Tigers, The Tiger Bandits and Las Vacas Locas. He joined our tour band The Cooks for the 2000 Irish tour.

Why Beara for your home?
Beara has been my home since 1968 when we bought a house there. It has so many wonderful attributes not least the raw power of the land and seascape, the warmth and sense of humour of the local people and more recently its multi-cultural mix.

Any gigs?
At the moment we are touring the album with a seven piece band which comprises the singer Mary Greene, Quentin Cooper of The Ceili Bandits, Three of the seven Kevins, my nephew Barnes Goulding of Igloo on drums and myself.

Plans for the Future?
A future project includes plans to record with two classical North Indian musicians who play Sitar and Tabla and also a possible collaboration with a traditional Irish singer of note. I would like to carry on where the song 'O-Mané' left off and make some trancy Hiberno-Indian tracks with an acoustic piano garnish. Hopefully I'll start in late 2001.Meanwhile we are aiming to release the album outside Ireland.

On life and music
Tim writes "Music is a journey of discovery starting most probably with the rythm of the mother's heartbeat and has become for me the higher language, the salsa of the soul, the international language. To the age of sixteen I was only interested in Classical music and then I started to listen to the likes of Thelonius Monk and Charlie Mingus. Soon Little Richard had my pulse racing and of course the Rolling Stones and the psychedelic music of the Beatles. Come the Summer of Love (1967) the West Coast American sounds were filtering through to Dublin on 'plastic slices' featuring Country Joe and The Fish, Jefferson Airplane, The Grateful Dead and many more. Steve Miller was a big favourite with his breathy bluesy delivery and stream of consciousness production.

Writing in 'MY GENERATION' Rock'n'Roll Remembered, an Imperfect History, (The Lilliput Press 1996 ) I recalled '1968. Notting Hill Gate. Smoke-filled rooms. Vestal virgins on their way to the coast etc, although some stayed behind. Was it just the bright eyes of youth that made the present so present, that identified the B flat of the taxi horn and it's perfect counterpoint in the D of the bat-winged American matron's call of "You Betcha"? No wonder the carpet dropped away and it was more like pure cerebral reception that was caught by the first foghorn blast of 'Song for our ancestors'. Quite inadvertently I'm on the dock of the bay with the drip drip expanding ever outwards into a new reality. Here comes Stevie in his breathy voice thanking Mary for the day they spent together."

To catalogue the Artists that have catered to my every need would be tedious but their influences pitched me from pillar to post from country music to so called 'serious' music. From the sublime to the corblimey. But always remaining is a love of choral music as in Rachmaninoff's 'Vespers' and the vocal tradition of Indian devotional music. In this territory, the territory of a mother's yearning for her child or the yogi longing for union with the Divine must come the singing of Iarla Ó Lionaird on his solo album 'The Seven Steps to Mercy', produced by my favourite producer Michael Brook. Tony Mac Mahon writes of it 'this new and unique work. It demonstrates understanding and respect for the tradition out of which it came-majestic, defiant, heart-breakingly beautiful.' Close to this tradition sits the Blues and the greats of this century too many to enumerate. But the lived-in brown voice of John Lee Hooker sends a shiver up my spine as does the energetic enthusiasm of Taj Mahal and more recently Eric Bibb. Both heard recently in Dublin. My favourite piano player too, Dr John playing the tunes of Duke Ellington. In this company our old pal Gary Moore is more than at home too.

Recent raves include Nitin Sawnhey's 'Beyond Skin', Talvin Singh's 'OK', Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan and Michael Brook's 'Remixed', and St Germain's "Tourist". The Cafe del Mar series hardly ever leave my turntable. Working with Jimmy Bergin one of the finest musicians I have ever heard, as in it comes out of every pore of his being, has been a high point of my life . Check out his album 'Sofa Surfing' with the 'Electric Chairs' .Ditto touring with his old Seven Kevin partners John and Esther Fitzgibbon. Ditto playing with the 'Human Linnet' Mary Greene. Ditto Quentin Cooper of the Ceili Bandits and my nephew Barnes Goulding a drummer we are going to hear a lot more of.

The supreme moments of life come when I am not noticeably present and they often come when listening to or playing music.

In Conversation: Tim Goulding
Written by KB & HK
Saturday, 05 November 2005


(Our conversation with Tim took place on Monday, October 24, 2005 at his home in Allihies. Tim's new show, (inspired by his travels during the months of December, 2004 to March, 2005 to Mexico, Thailand, Australia, the Marquesa Islands and other distant spots) runs from November 13 to 30, at the OS|B Gallery in Enniskerry, Co. Wicklow.)

HK: I think that the very lovely change from this (referring to an earlier painting) to this freshening of the palette and more clearly defined edges, is a neat transition. This (the trip) prepared you for that sharper...

TG: Yes. It was heading that way in a way, wasn't it?

HK: When you do the textures do you use a medium to fatten up your paint?


TG: Yes, I use an acrylic texture paint. These are all acrylic. I was using oil up until very recently.

HK: You get a nice non-plasticky colour.

TG: Well, the black is a bit plasticky in this one. One of the things I'm doing is to wet an area and then float very thin paint on top.

KB: Let me ask you about the colour palette. Am I right in thinking that it was your travels that led you to open up your colour palette.

TG: Yes.

KB: Were there specific influences you were looking for, or is it a synthesis of everything you saw?

TG: These are actually only baby steps on everything I saw. I went out like a whale with its mouth open and sucked in a huge amount of ocean to eat a few little pieces of plankton. So I just let it all come in.

KB: So it was more a process of osmosis, of absorbing everything you experienced?

TG: Yes.

KB: Are there any specific items that influenced you strongly like clothing or natural elements?

TG: It's funny you should say clothing because I've done one or two paintings inspired by the inside of an Indian tailor shop where there are these wonderful bolts of cloth. There were wonderful bolts of cloth, silks and satins and tweeds. Wonderful, wonderful colours. It was a complete experience just looking at them on shelves.

HK: It's such a shame that we are so devoid of colour here. I remember when we were in Italy, in Turin I think. We were walking about the city and my daughter noticed a fabric shop. It was a revelation to her that there should be a place with such a range of colour..

KB: We live in a part of the world with a muted colour range. But going back to your trip. Were there moments of epiphany that you can remember?

TG: We could talk about it so much. I think instantly of the flowers, the flowering trees all over, especially in the South Seas. The bark of the palm trees - I want to do a whole series on it. Then in the rain forests, some of the wonderful drippings of colour there. Also in the Marquesa Islands, massive flowering trees. I've never seen such wonderful exotic flowers in the wild.

KB: I want to ask you about these new paintings that we are looking at here. Are they specific of certain countries that you visited?

TG: Yes. I haven't approached the South Sea Islands yet (and that's probably my next step), but four or five of these are based on being in the Red Center of Australia, around Alice Springs and Ayers Rock.

KB: So these colours would be evocative of these areas?

TG: Yes very much so.

KG: And the shapes, did you draw the influence from Aboriginal paintings.

TG: Very subconsciously. I just woke up one morning in the rain forest and did some small gouaches.

KB: You documented your trip with photographs. No doubt you have a treasure trove of several thousand digital images - your treasure trove for future inspiration.

TG: Yes. I also documented the trip on my web blog (http://winterpoodle.blogspot.com/).

KB: I've been reading some of it: wry, irreverent, and very humourous.

TG: (laughs)

KB: Can I ask you about pink poodles?

TG: Pink became one of our things. I started wearing pink a lot and seeing more and more of it, the way you see your car everywhere when you buy one. When you start concentrating on pink, you see pink everywhere. And the epiphany was in a shop in New Zealand, I think, where I saw some soaps that were made in the shapes of poodles. One was black and one was pink.

KB: I saw that picture on your blog. Where did you start your trip?

TG: We started in Thailand.

KB: Is there a reason why you started your new work based in Australian influences?

TG: Well, we spent two months there in a place called Bellingen which is on the edge of the rain forest. At the end of that time we went into the Red Center into Alice Springs. And I had been looking at Aboriginal art in Melbourne and the National Museum of Art in Sydney which is a real treasure.

HK: You have been doing flat work for some time, and this is such a fresh approach, the way you are dividing the picture frame. It's very exciting. One thinks, how much more can be said about dividing a flat picture plane? And there you are coming up with a fresh approach.

KB: The element of the arc that we see in three of the paintings, is this an influence from Aboriginal method. Is there a kind of unconscious use of gesture in Aboriginal art?

TG: I don't know enough about it. I've been reading about it. It's very structured and original. The basis for Aboriginal art is not the same as western contemporary art. It's very much in a tradition with a highly-defined language. Dots, lines and half-circles all have specific meanings.

KB: It serves a purpose of storytelling and is highly spiritual?

TG: Very much so. And each artist has a particular story to tell. I look at the work and appreciate from a western non-figurative point of view. But they are looking at it in a completely different way. You know I'm looking at a field of ragwort down below and feasting on the colour of it while the farmer looks at it and sees a field of dead horses. Two people looking at the one thing from a completely different perspective.

HK: This arc that appears in your paintings reminds me of Ayers Rock. Was that conscious?

TG: Actually no, but now that you mention it...Uluru is the aboriginal name. It's considered better now to call it by the aboriginal name. Ayers Rock was the white person's name. Another influence in these new paintings comes from Mexico.

KB: In the division of the picture plane and texture?

TG: Yes edges of buildings, lines on buildings, crumbling textures, geometric shapes and scratchings.

HK: You don't need to go to Mexico to find that. You can find it right here!

TG: No you don't! I found it on Dursey Island. But the colour and light in Mexico, ahh... I walked into Oaxaca and said "Here is my next show!" I just have to do the painting.

KB: Are you planning a trip again?

TG: Not in the immediate future. I have about 3 years work stacked up.

KB: If you were to go back, is there one place you would choose to go more than any other?

TG: I would like go to the Marquesa Islands again. And get a studio there in one of the little villages and spend a year watching the seasons. That was the most extreme place I've ever been to.

HK: Where is it?

TG: It's in the north of the South Pacific, right below the equator. They are the most remote islands from any land mass. They're right between Asia and Africa. It's a chain of islands in French Polynesia with mountains up to 4,000 feet high, and relatively untouched.

KB: So we shouldn't mention it to prevent if from becoming spoiled!

TG: Well, they're so hard to get to and it's so expensive to stay there that I don't think there's any worry about that. My other choice would be Mexico. We both agreed that it was the most inspiring place we visited. I mean, it has everything going against it: it's polluted, there is abject poverty, terrible corruption, racial discrimination and yet...

HK: You are a musician as well. Do you listen to music while you are painting?

TG: I do, nearly all the time.

HK: Do you make specific choices in the music you listen to?

TG: Well, I've always been really interested in trying to tie the two together, like a lot of musicians and artists, trying to find a meeting point between the two. I haven't really found it. I'd love to. I think the only person who's really tied the two together successfully is Brian Eno. I saw an exhibition of his paintings that were moving. Beautiful.

KB: Laurie Anderson would be another artist trying to meld the visual and musical. There was an exhibition of her work this past year at IMMA. Personally I find that music distracts my visual concentration too much.

TG: Yes. But I also find that the stimulus of music can serve to free visual ideas.

HK: Speaking of blurring lines, do you orient your paintings in a specific direction?

TG: I do, yes. But I turn them upside down a lot. I've always maintained that a good painting will work any way around.

HK: Do you work both flat and upright?

TG: Yes. Quite a lot on the flat, because I like to be able to pour things onto the canvas. I have noticed with these new paintings that they have a resonance with Paul Klee who was also a misician. A lot of his work was directly related to music.

HK: I feel that Klee is a real painter's artist. But because he was so diverse and not easily categorized, art critics have never been able to get an exact fix on him.

TG: Well, that's been one of the albatrosses that I've dragged around. People say "Oh, he's always changing his style", or "He's looking for a style", which is ridiculous. Standing water turns to poison as they say and you know, hopefully your life moves.

HK: Do you find that your art dealers and galleries are upset when you change your style?

TG: Some do and some don't. The good dealers that I've worked with have always been open to what I'm doing next. A good dealer should, hopefully, believe in their artist and support them in what they do. There is a great tendency to say for instance "That's a Jack B. Yeats and it will always look like that and we can instantly recognize it." That's when it becomes an investment and I've done it myself. Occasionally, I have got stuck in a rut. But I move on as well. It's very important to me. It reflects how I am in my life.

KB: But there is a financial consideration of course in finding a style that has resonance with the buying public. Do you find that it is difficult then to move on, or are you compelled to do so?

TG: I have to do it. For instance, the Scar paintings, based on wounds and scars, were very cathartic for me. I had to do them. I did them for about 6 months and I knew they wouldn't be popular. Most people don't want a bleeding or sewn-up scar hanging over their fireplace.

HK: The gallery that your new show is in (OS|B)- is this a gallery that you regularly show in?

TG: No. It's a new gallery, which goes along with the title of the show "Koompartoo" (the aboriginal word for "new beginning"). The gallery has been in Enniskerry for several years, but the new owners have only been involved for about a year. And the funny thing about it is that I grew up on the edge of Enniskerry. Two years ago circumstances required that I move from West Cork to Wicklow. Now there is a new phase beginning in my life and the lovely thing is that I am having a show in my home town.

HK: This has been a very turbulent year globally. Personally, we feel that we are at the beginning of something new as well,

KB: The beginning of the end. (laughter)

HK: Come on now! Why in yesterday's paper it was claimed that women's life expectancy in the UK has extended to 100 years. Get yourself organized with lots to do.

KB: One of the unfortunate aspects of human life is that it is too short. Each generation seems condemned to repeat the mistakes of previous ones. Maybe we are reaching a point where life can be extended and that will help us find a solution to the continuing problems facing us.


TG: It's nice to think that you do gather knowledge and wisdom. But sometimes we see that that is not the case. I've always said that painting is an old man's game. And I used to say that I hope to be doing my best paintings when I am 60. And this years I turned 60, and I feel like I'm beginning to get into the..

HK: Fantastic! You look like your 40!

TG: Oh, thank you. I'll give you the fiver later (laughter). But I do feel that it takes so long to learn about painting and about seeing and learning what you want to do. And bravery. Bravery is the most important tool for an artist.

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