“It was late evening when I arrived with my little family at JFK airport NY, we were then driven out to Montauk to stay in a Stanford White House on a painter’s property whilst they were travelling in Italy. It was a hot night and as we got to the coast, we wound down our windows and the car filled with American salt. Eventually we moved off the road and wound our way up a leaf framed gravel driveway for what felt like those long minutes that only visit when paired with anticipation. The night was liquorice as we approached the house but for the humming glow of light escaping from the leaded windows which played support for the warm pool of light pouring across the porch, down some stairs and onto the soft summer lawn.
I was able to work out there, making some large works in this beautiful studio with no roof, just big dark green walls so the sky and the atmosphere ventilate the experience. The floors are large decking boards so the studio can be hosed and scrubbed down at the end of the day, like being on a ship. As a boy from a coastal city of Australia, I felt good out there by the sea surrounded by American art history and all that proximity to places like the Parrish Museum and the Krasner Pollock house and studio.
I was fortunate enough to make all these paintings and drawings on this very special patch and I was surfing most days and this vitality got inside of me and kind of took over, so by the time we drove into New York I was beside myself. New York, as many people will tell you, just gets under your skin and you really do hit the ground running, looking, absorbing. I got into this habit of coming home from dinner out, getting a bucket of ice from the bar and taking it up to my room to have a whiskey and just draw like crazy in The Bowery Hotel notebooks, I made maybe 300 drawings, a flood of imagery from the intoxicating shock of it all.
What I try to do is set up some kind of connection to the exquisite in the everyday, so I don’t miss the enigma. This really is a discipline because the exquisite can be so fleeting that it can easily be missed. As Lee Krasner said, ‘Painting for me, when it really ‘happens’ is as miraculous as any natural phenomenon – as say, a lettuce leaf.’ So, I just try to make myself available and tune in to a certain frequency that allows me to slow down and celebrate a good, boiled egg in the same way some might celebrate a glass of Barolo. I call them ‘little events’ and they map out the day, and by osmosis, they go into the paintings. The theatre of domestic life is paramount to my work.” – James Drinkwater, 2023.
Follow this artist
Sign up to receive the latest updates on this artist including exhibitions, VIP previews, landmark events, news and milestones.