May 01, 2021
Rebecca Stanton of The Affordable Art Fair Interviewed Richard Heeps for his Instagram Takeover (March 2021).
Q) Tell us a bit about yourself and how you came to be a practicing artist?
A) I was always drawn to the arts, I enjoyed painting, drawing and music. This concluded with me studying photography for five years, whilst doing that I had success with a series of exhibitions which included a solo exhibition at The Photographers Gallery London, which gave me confidence I was on the right path. Throughout my early career I had exhibitions in museums and public galleries but there was a resistance from commercial galleries to photography, with the exception of Doric Arts and the Stark Gallery (thank you Russel and Andrew Stark). In the year 2000 I felt there was turning point, I received an Arts Council 'Year of the Artist Grant', I created the series '36 Minutes in Cambridgeshire', a journey along the Millennium Line. The series was exhibited at the Babylon Gallery in Ely, there were a lot of print sales at that show and it made me realise it might be possible to make a living selling my art. I could see the tide was turning and there was a market for photography but it was not yet being exploited and I must dedicate my full time work to being an artist. The Affordable Art Fair seemed to be the best arena to meet my audience and connect with galleries. When I took part in my first Autumn Affordable Art Fair Battersea, Bleach Box were the only dedicated photography gallery at the event and from that success we followed the Affordable Art Fairs around the world, taking part in Paris, Milan, Amsterdam, Hamburg, Stockholm, Singapore, Hong Kong, New York and LA.
Q) What messages do you explore within your artwork and are you drawn to a particular subject matter, style or medium.
A) My key themes are a sense of place, a journey, leapfrogging time where the future and past are blurred. The pictures are not individual, they are a set all telling a story. Colour is very important in the work and it is probably my signature, I use it to seduce the audience, to draw them in. I cross over between classical, conceptual and pop art but the use of colour ties them all to me. Whilst my subject matter varies, there is always a link from one picture to another. I was drawn to photography as I used to paint and draw from photographs and in studying them in that way I became passionate about the medium and their place in capturing a moment in time, preserving the past. While I may not be typically be a documentary photographer, every photograph is essentially a documentary.
Q) Tell us a little more about the process you use to create your work.
A) I am a film based photographer, I use vintage analogue cameras. I have my own colour darkroom where I make my prints. I consider myself to have three studios, the external studio wherever I may be shooting, the darkroom where I make my prints and my home studio where I do the post production where they are mounted and framed. I have always wanted the work to be accessible and affordable without compromising quality and doing it all in house I am in control of each step to achieve that. There is a long process between taking a picture and bringing it to market.
Q) Describe your daily routine for us. How do you balance artwork with life admin, and has this routine changed in the past year?
A) The first half of my day is taken up by the most physically demanding work and the priority work, whether that is taking the pictures or producing the finished artworks. We work to our couriers pick up deadlines to fulfil the online art purchases. There is a turning point in the day where I do work on the editing of the images, where the ideas develop. The iPhone very much changed my process, it is such a valuable tool for sketching and planning and I love engaging with my audience on instagram. The main change for me has been the endless time at my home studio when normally the months would be broken by art fairs or going abroad to shoot. To be honest, I don't have balance, being an artist for me is a full time lifestyle not a 9-5 job.
Q) Do you have any exciting projects coming up in 2021 that you can tell us about now?
A) All projects are ongoing, there is not a sense of one finishing and another one starting, it's a constant evolution. There's a couple of series off-shoots I am working on. One, 'The East Coast', looking at my images of the East Coast of America and pairing them with images of the East Coast of England. Secondly I am working on a series with a working title of 'On the Road', where I am looking at my American road trips looking back at journeys with fresh eyes, with a different approach twenty years later. In this series the road is the central theme, the image within the film has a cinematic quality to it. I think this has been inspired by being restricted to my home, by not being able to travel. I am also working on a new book which is a big project as I am editing from thirty years of work.
Q) Do you have a network of fellow creatives, and how are they supporting each other during these unprecedented times?
A) I work with a number of creatives in Cambridge who have supported my production in a number of ways, they have kept things moving this year. Instagram has kept me engaged with other creatives around the world and has produced a number of collaborations.
Q) Do you have any socially distanced exhibition exhibition recommendations for those craving a bit of culture? What art show is first on your list when lockdown is lifted where you're based?
A) After a year break Cambridge Open Studios is bound to be buzzing this summer. I will be taking part and look forward to visiting my fellow participants. It will be a great event for staycations to do something different when visiting Cambridge (every weekend in July). I am very lucky that just down the road from my studio is University of Cambridge's modern and contemporary art gallery Kettle's Yard, and the new Hockney Gallery, further into town are The Heong Gallery at Darwin College and The Fitzwilliam Museum and Cambridge is a living museum in itself.
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