Casper White is a painter whose work focuses on the intimacy of a portrait, where fleeting and unexpected moments become a place for reflection. The ecstatic experiences of nightclubbing and the tender and fragile moments of the morning after.
In this interview, Casper speaks to Curator Beatrice Hasell McCosh on the occasion of the exhibition All These Gestures about how his artistic practice has shifted in lockdown.
Interview by Beatrice Hasell-McCosh
Where are you currently and tell me a bit about your studio practice as well as a little bit of your history and CV?
I am a painter currently based in Cardiff; I have a studio in the bay area at Bay Art
I have moved away from painting my friends and now focus on other source material. I struggle with the written word so my studio practice in many ways could be seen as an attempt to articulate myself and ideas in other ways? I’ve been very fortunate to show in Edinburgh and abroad with Arusha Gallery and am also a member of Contemporary British Painting
Tell me more about the pieces you have included in the exhibition, All These Gestures, currently on view at Bowes-Parris Gallery?
These paintings are all based around models from specific fashion shows. The idea of a model as a hanger for clothes or a tool for the designer is something I am interested in. The sitters of classical works are often the same. The sitters facial features and expressions in any portrait are essential in conveying their personality. With these works I am hoping they can be a conduit for different feeling and ideas.
How important are the preparatory works in your practice and how much do you do before beginning a larger or more substantial piece?
I like moving between large and small and medium. Changing the scale often causes a trip or slip that can itself be interesting.
Was this always a way that you worked, or have you come to it more recently?
The lockdown really made me reconsider my practice. I had always painted the people around me and suddenly it was from imagary, films and people I interacted with online (Twitter, Zoom and TikTok). Old films I’d made flippantly in galleries became important too. In a way, it was great not to be tied to portraying a singular person any more and broaden the language.
Whose preparatory works/drawings do you admire or are influenced by?
Aly Helyer shares what she calls night drawings, and they are always a treat.
Lorna Robertson is consistently impressive.
I have been lucky enough to visit both their studios a few times, and it is always left me inspired and challenged to do better.
Talk to me about the importance of contemporary imagery and pop cultural media within your work, and why was this something you were particularly interested in?
I like a sad pop song, they are unashamedly that. In a way, I admire that embracing of feelings and am trying to be more like that. Similarly, people do the same on TikTok, they are upfront with meaning or emotion or at least performing being upfront.
Your colour palette is particularly striking about your work, tell me a little bit more about those choices?
I have gone off contrast and darker colours (like browns). I think it for me it was a learnt behaviour, for example, if I make a high contrast painting with browns, it is seen as more classically good. I am sick of that and it doesn't feel the way I see things and is not the way I want to deal with images.
You recently had a show at The Mission Gallery in Swansea, tell us about that!
That show was made up of lots of this new work I tried to strip out most of the gimmicks I had used over the past few years, but I may have just embraced another set, who knows. I wanted to do candlelit tours of the show, but because of lockdown I made a film instead www.casperwhite.com/Come-fail-at-love
I first saw your work in the National Gallery, which was the culmination of work produced after winning a travel award, what was it like showing result there and did that award change your practice?
Having gallery of work at the national portrait gallery felt surreal (www.casperwhite.com/National-Portrait-Gallery-Travel-Award), I don’t think I could ever have dreamed of a show at such a prestigious gallery. As a welsh boy from the valleys, it was unbelievable and still is actually. It was also eye-opening as I did not feel like I had captured what I set out to do. I felt like I could have done better but I’m still very proud of the project as a whole.
Who would you most like to paint?
Honestly it changes day to day and even mid painting! I think I could find anyone interesting to paint because of the act of building their image in itself.
Who/what is your favourite TikTok?
@tessplease and @bunnyt33th have both ended up in paintings, and both are a delight to follow.
Casper White , Harlequin (CDGHP) , 2020£7,500
Casper White, Fall Menswear Model , 2020£4,950
Casper White, Fall Menswear Model, 2020£1,300
Casper White, Harlequin (CDGHP) (The Upsetter), 2020£3,500
Casper White, Study for Fall Menswear Model, 2020£650
Casper White, Study for Harlequin (CDGHP) , 2020£650