We caught up with David Wightman to talk about his inspirations, making his mesmerising paintings, and his upcoming show.
You’re famous for using textured wallpaper in your paintings. What’s the appeal of this material?
I first started using wallpaper in my paintings while at the Royal College of Art in London. I happened to come across a roll of blown-vinyl textured wallpaper in a forgotten store room and began experimenting with it as a collaging medium. The paper reminded me of my childhood home and also of the terrain of the landscapes I had just started to paint. It seemed perfect as a way of describing mountainous surfaces and as a way of exploring texture from a formal standpoint. It has become my signature material.
Your work is very labour-intensive. Is there an attraction in this way of working?
I’ve always made paintings rather than simply painted paintings. A painting can take me weeks to collage and paint as my method of working - building up separate sections of wallpaper using a technique similar to marquetry and then hand-painting each section afterwards - is naturally very labour intensive. My entire method has evolved and become more elaborate over the years and it’s difficult to imagine myself ever painting something quickly. Despite this, I want my work to have a certain economy of composition and colour. Simplifying and reducing my palette is actually a long process! My prints are based on the original pencil drawings I make for my paintings. I take digital scans of the drawings and slowly build up areas of colour until I’m happy with the balance of hues and shapes. It’s a different process but equally time-consuming.
You’ve taken part in a wide variety of exhibitions and art fairs such as The Other Art Fair, Affordable Art Fair, Art on a Postcard, and also show your work online with Art Pharmacy. Do you think it’s important to make art more accessible?
I’ve always wanted to have the largest possible audience for my work without compromising what I do. I’ve shown at the Affordable Art Fair and other very accessible art fairs while simultaneously showing at private galleries. I’ve been commissioned by Arts Council England and English Heritage (both public institutions) and have worked on private commissions too. I’ve even worked on a collaborative project with the fashion house Akris. It was a huge pleasure to see my work ‘translated’ into fashionwear. My prints are another way to broaden who can see and own my work.
You have a solo show with Long & Ryle in London opening soon (Empire runs from 13 October to 11 November). What can we expect from this show?
I’ve been working on my forthcoming solo show for around two years. Expect colourful and beautiful fictional landscapes using my trademark use of collaged wallpaper. My mountainscapes have become brighter, bolder, and more interesting over the past two years. Waterfalls, rolling hills, lagoon-like lakes, and imposing mountains all feature in a variety of different paintings and prints.
You can see all of David's works for sale here.