"I paint flowers so they will not die"
I first saw a group of Steve Goddard works 10 years ago, almost to the day. I was struck and excited by encountering an artist who seemed so rarely adept at recklessly spinning on his heel. Each work playfully, yet with notable seriousness, dictated its own journey. I think now on the well worn Pablo Picasso recital; ‘It took me four years to paint like Raphael and a lifetime to paint like a child’- there in front of me in an ecclectic arrangement of works, Picasso’s quote fanned out. The reasoned alongside the unrefined, to be viewed from all angles. Are we not both I considered? we are left and right sided after all. Tight drawing of depth and intensity, reminiscent of a ‘Renaissance’ master, larger forms summoning up the free spirit of the ‘Outsider’, thick saturated impasto singing the song of the ‘Impressionist’, sculpted heads of European notables that looked a little like primitive tribal fetishes. A wild yet considered collision of surfaces scratched, teased, nurtured - frantically and softly. Each work framed perfectly, in considered patinated windows, each with an inherited aura of history. This work is good, I knew. This guy has talent, but more importantly - real depth.
So I meet him 10 years later, invited to visit his studio and home in West London. I’m a little nervous. Im not sure what sort of person to expect - the work is so intense. The door opens, hands are shaken, Im invited in. Narrow corridors, wall surfaces extending in the space beyond the artworks. I walk through, moving faster than my eyes can keep up with. I feel cumbersome, I don’t want to knock anything over. We pass richly coloured rooms, laden with perfectly displayed works and then settle in the lounge area. I sit in front of a charming man, who humbly urges me to stop him whenever I need a break, once he starttalking about the work, he is known to not stop, I am told. The room is opulent, displaying a collection of his painting, drawing and sculpture, alongside objects gathered. So much to take in. A museum of riches. We drink tea, and get to know each other a little. I am then taken on a tour. I begin a journey through his world, outside blocked from the windows. A journey of hero’s - art heroes, who continue to teach and inspire. A journey of family members - Dad, Mum and Nan, I don’t pry but I know the images are loaded. A journey of childhood - Cowboys and Indians, toy soldiers, gingerbread men and discarded sweet wrappers. In true intuitive style, narratives mingle, these works don’t necessarily tell specific stories, they are ultimately sensory - visually abstracted. As with smell, the visual odour of these works transports me to another time(s) and place(s).
The rendering of the portrait head is ubiquitous but the subject, method and aesthetic seems utterly sporadic from work to work. In a world where the artist often finds and settles on a motif, these methods make no tactical sense. Thankfully Goddard does not deal with such constraints. Its emphatic that these rich impressions are captured for his own benefit, now that is something worthy of sharing!
Oscar Wilde once stated “Every portrait that is painted with feeling is a portrait of the artist, not of the sitter.” So when we see Goddard’s work what we see is him, his life, teeming with experiences and influence. Emotive, and full of vigour, play, reverence or concern. Like sunflowers, facing the direction of the sun, swelling, glorious on it’s abundance - but the cycle of the season is short. An upturned skull hides in the depth of the eye.
Joseph Clarke, 2016