This interview is opening the first printed edition of My Art Guide London, so the first part of this interview is focused on your relationship with this incredible city, where you are based. Could you tell us a bit more about your connection with London?
London is – despite the issues and problems with Brexit – a multicultural city, and all about different realities, and that is an incredibly special thing about this city. It doesn’t matter where you are in London, there will be restaurants and cultural institutions providing many different nationalities: be it a Chinese art gallery, an Iranian restaurant, an Indian shop, with people from all over the world coming together, which is just wonderful.
Has being based in London influenced your work in any way?
I don’t think so in a direct way as I am not really engaged in urbanity. But the energy of the city is influential, and there are many great artists and museums here which creates an abundance of creativity. Although of course we will need to see what Brexit brings – I think that was the biggest mistake – the biggest disaster – that any nation could do to itself.
How do you think this city has changed from the 70s when you first arrived in town? Are you nostalgic at all about this history?
Definitely not – I came to London in 1973 when Britain or rather London was deeply racist. It’s increasingly less so now but you could hardly walk down the street without somebody commenting on where you were from. You could not buy olive oil for yourself in London, it was very parochial, so things have changed hugely in the last 30-40 years. London is genuinely cosmopolitan now and has a completely different spirit, as I would say for Europe as a whole. And that has to be celebrated, truly celebrated. It changes the way people think about others in their community, and even changes the way we think about art, because what we do has become more inclusive of cultural reality and other parts of the world.
Could you tell us about your favorite places in town – if somebody is visiting the city is there somewhere they shouldn’t miss?
London is so “multivaried”. There is an abundance of great art and history to experience at London’s many museums and galleries, from the British Museum to the Tate.
Is there a special place you would go when you need to think or have your personal moment in town?
One of the wonderful things about London is its prioritizing of green space. There are so many parks and open green spaces in London – every region, every part of the city has access one way or another to public green space, and that is available for everyone.
Could you now tell us more about the exhibition you have recently opened at Lisson Gallery (14 September – 30 October)?
Yes, I am opening a new exhibition of paintings: a series of new oil on canvas works. I have been deeply engaged in the last 5 years in my painting practice, but it has actually been an ongoing part of my studio practice for the last 30 years. So while most of my publicly displayed work is sculpture, I have been painting behind the scenes in my studio. Now I feel is the right moment to display these – maybe the works change or take a new turn but I feel it is right now to introduce them to the public. The exhibition here at Lisson precedes my upcoming exhibition at the Modern Art Oxford in October.
Following this, next year you will present a major retrospective in Venice at the Gallerie dell’Accademia during the Venice Art Biennale, and you have also bought Palazzo Manfrin. Are you planning a move to Venice – can you tell us more about this project and also your link to the city?
I’ve been going to Venice for many, many years, and I feel, as an artist, deeply connected to it since I represented Britain at the 44th Venice Biennale in 1990 with” Void Field” (1989). The details of my plans in Venice for 2022 will be announced this coming Autumn. For now, all I wish to say is that I have this long connection with Venice. Venice is a hub of culture and the whole art world recognises it and continues to be involved in that Venetian spirit, with the Biennale and everything the city has to offer.