An Interview with Artist Gavin Mitchell

'If Anyone Asks' from the series 'Fourth Wall' © Gavin Mitchell

Originally posted on October 31st 2013

Working with found images, collage and print, Gavin Mitchell’s work explores the human and material landscape – giving new life to discarded images and creating new visual relationships between objects and materials.

His recent project Fourth Wall’ references Japanese culture and introduces a fictional meeting between the cowboys from Western B-movie stills and Geishas from old Japanese postcards.

We caught up with Gavin on Tuesday to ask him about found images, Japanese culture, his influences and much more!

Genesisimaging: Hi Gavin! Are you ready to talk about your inspiration, your influences and found images?

GavinMitchell16: Always!

Genesisimaging: Great!  Where do you find the inspiration for your work?

GavinMitchell16: Any found material that instinctively draws me to it. My studio is a repository for abandoned stuff’ – motivating my work.

Genesisimaging: Where do you find the images and materials you work with? There are such a range!

GavinMitchell16: in the most unlikely places… I find the deeper you dig the more rewarding the find.

Genesisimaging: Tell us about your work process – where do you begin with an image or project?

GavinMitchell16: Thematic and Material layers. I choose from found materials and assemble an image using relevant or contradictory themes…

GavinMitchell16: Mixed Media allows you to use material layers that may be entirely different with each new project. There are no rules…

GavinMitchell16: I think you instinctively know when the concept, imagery and materials will work together.

Genesisimaging: Tell us about your Fourth Wall series – where did this begin?

GavinMitchell16: A pile of original 50s B-Movie western stills and 100 year old Geisha postcards both found at car boot sales…

GavinMitchell16: There were several references and influences I used when creating the work.

GavinMitchell16: Themes in early Kurosawa movies that became famous Westerns like The Magnificent Seven which mirrored The Seven Samurai…

GavinMitchell16: …and Woody Allen’s film Purple Rose of Cairo, when the hero breaks the Fourth Wall emerging from the screen into the movie audience.

GavinMitchell16: The collages create compelling fictional scenes with imaginary boundaries overriding the reality of two clashing cultures.

Genesisimaging: They certainly do! Art and London asks whether you have a connection with the Far East?

GavinMitchell16: Spiritually but sadly not physically… Hoping to change that in the New Year. Will they pay my air fare?

Genesisimaging: What is it that interests you about Japanese culture?

GavinMitchell16: Films by Akira Kurosawa, the Seven Samurai and Yojimbo which mesmerized me and Kagemusha – the scale of which blew me away.

GavinMitchell16: Also The Wind Up Bird Chronicle by Haruki Murakami. Magic Realism had a profound effect on me and subsequently my art.

GavinMitchell16: The culture seems to exist on two levels. Outwardly ethereal and deferential, battling with a subversive and surreal alter-ego.

Genesisimaging: And, how do you hope your work is perceived?

GavinMitchell16: As compelling and original art that makes you pause a while.

Genesisimaging: Great answer! Tell us about the most unusual image you have found or used in your work.

GavinMitchell16: I have a lot of obscure material in my repository for abandoned stuff.’

GavinMitchell16: I have film reels of old 70s trailers and ads found in a derelict cinema – I’m dying to create a moving collage with them.

Genesisimaging: Wow! When you look for images and materials, do you search with a specific project/piece in mind?

GavinMitchell16: Depends. Currently I am on the lookout for Japanese geisha girls and vintage playboy mags. I can get easily distracted!

GavinMitchell16: Sorry that probably sounded all wrong! I meant to say, I also get easily distracted by new found material.

Genesisimaging: Don’t worry, we knew what you meant!  How does your approach differ between personal and commissioned work?

GavinMitchell16: It doesn’t usually. Clients want me to create images based on the style of my existing work giving me the artistic licence.

Genesisimaging: David asks, what would you like your epitaph to be?

GavinMitchell16: Was in it for the long haul.’

Genesisimaging: That’s a good one. Tell us about your return to being a full-time artist.

GavinMitchell16: After graduating in Fine Art I was very disillusioned with the Art world, cliquey self-important and nepotistic…

GavinMitchell16: …so I took a 30 year sabbatical! Working in design and multi-media but remained a frustrated artist until 3 years ago.

GavinMitchell16: I rented a studio and returned to being a full-time artist. This time better prepared, more enlightened and less idealistic.

Genesisimaging: And we’re glad you did! David asks, if you could take one piece of work to the next life… what would it be?

GavinMitchell16: Ooh, testing questions Kirsty! Either Picasso’s Guernica, Hockney’s Rakes Progress or Duchamps Chocolate Grinder No.2.

Genesisimaging: Great choices!

Genesisimaging: You say your break from art enlightened you, what is the biggest thing you learnt from taking a break from the art world?

GavinMitchell16: That you make your own luck.

Genesisimaging: If money were no object what artwork would you buy and why?

GavinMitchell16: Botticelli’s le Quattro Stagioni.

Genesisimaging: Last couple… is there a current project you’re working on and what can we expect next from you?

GavinMitchell16: The Japanese theme is set to run a while. I am also excited to be working with Chelsea & Westminster Hospital as AinR…

GavinMitchell16: …working with the Post Graduate Doctors and dealing with the pressing issue of humanising the NHS!

Genesisimaging: That sounds like such an interesting residency!

Genesisimaging: Last Q! What does the term artist’ mean to you?

GavinMitchell16: Someone who is prepared to bare his or her soul in public without the right to expect universal approval.

Genesisimaging: Wonderful description. Unfortunately that’s all we’ve got time for!

Genesisimaging: Thank you Gavin, great answers and we can’t wait to see more of the Geishas.

GavinMitchell16: Aw… really enjoyed it, thanks for asking me

Genesisimaging: Our pleasure!

More info on Gavin can be found at

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