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(c) Jeremy Houghton

An Interview with artist Jeremy Houghton

8 July 2018 Suzanne Frost

Once again the buzz of Wimbledon is sweeping the country and for two weeks only, Brits become a nation of strawberry eating, Pimms drinking, tennis lovers. Royal appointed British artist, Jeremy Houghton, specialises in capturing movement in his practice and was Wimbledon’s resident artist for 2017. He will once again take to centre court this year with a pencil in hand as he takes up his second year as championship artist at Wimbledon. The paintings, which Jeremy will create from this year’s championship will be displayed in a special 150th anniversary exhibition at the All England Club in September where proceeds will go towards the Wimbledon foundation.

© Jeremy Houghton

London Calling: Do you have a personal attachment to Wimbledon or to tennis?
Jeremy Houghton: Back in my student days I was a tennis coach and that’s how I funded all my travelling and gave myself a bit of extra pocket money. It’s probably my favourite sport and I played tennis throughout school so I do know and understand and enjoy the game.
 
LC: It’s a merciless sport!
JH: You can’t switch off, not for one second.
 
LC: You are painting a moving object or subject essentially, how do you go about that? Do you take pictures or do you have an image in your mind?
JH: The process is sketching and photographs. When I’m there courtside, I do as many sketches as I can. I've got a shorthand, so through my sketches I remember little details and photographs are also a great help. A combination of the two are crucial to my process. But when you actually paint the movement, it is a process of elimination. The more detail you can eradicate, the more movement you can create.

 Odyssey (2017), Oil on canvas, © Jeremy Houghton

LC: You also like to paint birds, where does that originate from?
JH: I ran the arts school in Cape Town for 5 years and while out there, I spent a lot of my time following the migration of the flamingos. I realised that a bird in flight is a great way to analyse movement within space. They’ve got an endless kaleidoscope of moving shapes in flight so they’ve been my tool to help me analyse and research the representation of movement.
 
LC: Tell me a little bit about your latest project with the RAF pilots.
JH: It’s a lovely marriage of my previous portfolio, I’ve got a lot of military history and done a lot of paintings of the like. Painting the final remaining pilots who flew in World War II has been a real privilege.



I had a chance to meet these boys, they’re all about 100 years old, they were members of the RAF, and to hear how they coped during the war as very very young men or even boys, and to see how they survived the ordeal of a 4 year war and how they coped with being in a freezing cold aircraft all by themselves, very lonely, very frightened, to hear their stories was incredible.
 
LC: These are very stripped down drawing.
JH: It is very stripped down pencil because they see themselves as just ordinary blokes and they didn’t want the celebration, they wanted very down to earth, simple portraits in their everyday clothes and they just wanted to emphasize the fact that they are normal blokes and they were just lucky not to be killed like their friends.

 © Jeremy Houghton

LC: Wimbledon has kicked off, who are you most excited to paint or to see?
JH: I’m a huge Federer fan. For me last year to watch him ending up with the trophy for the 8th time was pretty amazing. I think he’s just the greatest sportsman of our generation, perhaps ever, and the way he conducts himself on and off the court is incredible. I like Johanna Konta a lot, she is one of the British girls who climbed her way up the ladder and I think she will rise to the occasion at Wimbledon and the British crowd really get behind her, so I am really excited about seeing her.
 
The Championships, Wimbledon are on from 2 – 15 July. Jeremy Houghton’s paintings will be exhibited at the All England Club from 25 September.
 
 
 
 
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