For many people, retirement means having ample time to indulge in their dreams and pursue the things which matter most to them. For Englishman John Tierney, retiring from his Criminology post at Durham University has afforded him the opportunity to take on the iconic cityscapes of Los Angeles, which he featured in these lovely photo-realist paintings. Already counting a collaboration with Paul Smith on Melrose, the success of his pursuit into painting means a second life as a full time artist, and for that, we at Trendland applaud his heroic efforts. We wanted to know a little bit more about how his endeavor into the art world came about, and to find out what exactly about Hollywood this Brit likes most.
TL: What has drawn you to Los Angeles/Hollywood as a setting for your paintings?
JT: As a painter, I am attracted to Los Angeles because of the juxtaposition of light and architecture in this highly vibrant city. The light has an intense luminosity, creating strong shadows and sharp outlines between buildings and sky. The architecture is, to put it mildly, seductively eclectic, taking in old and new iconic buildings and a whole range of small-scale, quirky establishments – as one finds on Melrose Avenue, for instance. In fact, last year I completed a series of paintings of the fashion designer Paul Smith’s store on Melrose (Paul Smith used one of these paintings as the image for a limited edition silk scarf).
TL: Can you describe your process?
JT: All of my paintings are oils on canvas. Due to their nature, that is, they are highly detailed and aim to capture fleeting moments, my work is based on photographs. It is not my intention to slavishly reproduce a photographic image, rather, the photographs represent the raw material, a resource to be worked on and interpreted – and involving technique, use of colour, composition, and so on – in the process creating a new representation. Some of my key influences are British artists David Hockney and Peter Blake, and American artist Edward Hopper. It was the latter who spoke of grasping the ‘surprise and and accidents of nature’. While my position is congruent with this, I am also interested in grasping the surprise and accidents of photographs – light and shade, movement, placement of people, etc. Broadly speaking, engaging with the serendipity of the frozen photographic image.
TL: What are some of your favorite subjects?
JT: Most of my work takes as its subject matter the urban landscape of Los Angeles and the desert landscape of Joshua Tree national park. However, some of my paintings are of New York and Helsinki, Finland. Regardless of the location, what I am trying to do is create a strong sense of place – what it felt like to be there at that time – and for me this means moving beyond an attempt to reproduce a ‘photographic’ image. The paintings are, though, representational. At the same time, I hope that people enjoy looking at them. I suppose that a further dimension to this is that I visit these various locations as, in a sense, an ‘outside’ observer who is fascinated by the differences between them and, say, the urban landscape of an English city.