“None of my tutors in London had heard of Gerhard Richter. I went to his exhibition, it was quiet and we got talking. A few weeks later he invited me to Düsseldorf.”
Brad Lochore has travelled the world collecting and making art. After buying and restoring an historic London printing house, he campaigns against London’s rapidly changing skyscape, and the plague of High-rises springing up across the city.
FAM: Hi Brad, thank you for taking the time to talk with me. You have lived in London most of your life but originally come from New Zealand.
Brad Lochore: Yes. I was born there and I used everything in my power to try and escape, once I realized I wanted to be an artist.
I’d be interested to hear about the art works you have here in the house.
My art collection is small but very personal. There is a story associated with each piece.
What is it that you look for in an artwork, if you had to pin it down in a couple of sentences?
I think an artwork for me has to be beguiling and seductive and yet be self-aware enough to remind us it is only a stand-in for things in the real world.
Do you remember the very first piece you ever owned?
When I was a student in Germany, there was a guy who made very lovely small paintings and unexpectedly at the end of the year he handed me a package with a painting. It was a nice feeling owning something by somebody who was going to spend the rest of their life making art. It felt like a mutual commitment. His name was Olivier, he was later photographed by Thomas Ruff.
How comes you were in Germany?
Actually, because of Gerhard Richter. I had written an essay about his work, none of my tutors in London had even heard of him. It was so provincial. I went to his exhibition and it was quiet. I showed him some slides of my work and gave him a copy of my essay, (laughs). He wrote to me a few weeks later and invited me to the Kunstakademie in Düsseldorf as a guest student for a year.
What was your experience of studying under Gerhard Richter in Düsseldorf?
Many of the 12 or so students in his class had become quite lazy Meister Studenten. I had my own keys so I had the run of the place. I worked virtually every day and produced a lot of paintings in the time I was there. Sometimes Richter would turn up early in the morning expecting not to find anyone and I would be working away. He was very critical and direct, but very helpful. The cleaning lady said he often used to drive from Cologne and come and go early. I asked him one day and he said it was a good excuse to get out of the studio and go for a drive!
Is there a piece in the collection you have a particularly strong attachment to?
Probably my favorite piece in the house is by Mark Pimlott. The work is beguiling and simple. The unstable mirror is a beautiful metaphor for being alive, for never quite knowing oneself.
I know that you are a great fan of Ian Hamilton Finlay, the famed poet and artist, what works are his?
I took my wife and daughter to visit his amazing house and garden called Sparta. Once we got to Edinburgh we saw these two works from his post card series at the Ingleby Gallery and we bought them. One is called two squares and he has filled in the two sails, which are also like eyes. One says “Barque, Bark, Baroque”, in a mad word association the three words tumble around and make the sea a baroque space.
What is the story behind this cabinet work?
I defended this work by Neil Cummings on News Night against the Stuckists, the night Tracey Emin was drunk after being in the Turner Prize, the night my daughter was to be born. Jeremy Paxman had the flu. The work shows us a chimera of consumption, over dressed, over ornate, a fool’s gold cap on the top of the bottle, reminding us of the hubris of consumption.
What can you tell me about these little suspended sculptures?
The mother and child fluid sculptures suspended in a resin block are by Cy Enfield. He was a polymath. He famously taught Orson Wells a magic trick, which gave him the chance to make his first Hollywood production. He later directed Zulu. He once carved chair legs with Man Ray in a hotel room in New York in the 1940s.
Tell me about this map.
Adam Dant’s piece re-imagines Shoreditch as the center of the known world. I obviously had to have it. It is an ancient place, the original Shakespeare theatre was here. It has the spirits of the area, monsters appear from the deep, there is madness and evil, drunkenness and mayhem, thieves and beggars, murderers and conjurors, hangers on. Very much how it is now!
Yes Shoreditch, tell me how you came to be in London?
When I first arrived in London more people were leaving than arriving. London was grim, a palpable sense of decline. People really need to remember that when they want to vote for Brexit. Britain was in a bad place, and it’s not that long ago. But I could see fallow ground too, I felt like a seed of a weed and sprouted there. After taking odd jobs I then got involved with a theatre company creating sets in Paris. It was a good time though, I had no money but I had time. It’s a lot harder for young people now. They have to work so hard to survive they have no free time to explore.
Did you come straight back to London after Paris?
Actually I hitch-hiked to Kreuzberg in Berlin, experiencing that bizarre moment with the wall still up and mad gestural figuration being made. Most of the people I met never saw daylight. I lived in a huge squat in a building called Kuckuck by the Martin Gropius Bau, next to the wrecked Potsdamer Platz. There were a hundred people “doing things”, lets say, it had a library, a theatre, communal cooking, art studios and it was a kind of experiment in living. I enjoyed it mostly and met lots of interesting people. I only lasted 9 months before returning to London, and this was before moving to study in Düsseldorf.
You have quite a Bauhaus inspired aesthetic, does this stem from your time in Germany?
Actually it dates from way before then. My father—who normally never read any books, just shlock airport thrillers—had for some reason a book about Lyonel Feininger. Growing up in New Zealand, all the things I liked came from Europe, I had to go there.
Were there any pivotal exhibitions in London that affected your aesthetic?
The show that woke everybody up in London was the show at the Saatchi Gallery of New York Art, which showed the very first Jeff Koons piece, the basket balls in a fish tank. That was seminal. It made everyone realize, you could do it NOW, it was a refreshing moment.
Can you tell me a little bit about the building you own here in Shoreditch, about the area and how it’s changed?
Fast forward to 1994 I was doing well and decaying London was evaporating very quickly. It was being developed and I realized I needed to try and buy a building. I walked past this place, sale sign tacked outside and I knew I wanted it. The building is a fifteen minute walk away from the Bank of England and opposite one of the most beautiful housing estates in Britain, but for some reason Shoreditch was considered the end of the universe. It was full of decaying old warehouses, very urban. Nobody had noticed it. Buying a building then was a lot cheaper than renting. And by now of course the value has increased about fifty times.
Can you say a bit about the politics of the area and your campaign work?
Immeasurable wealth has been poured into this city and there was suddenly money available for all sorts of other things including restaurants, bars, clubs, and art galleries too. The consequence of that was that Shoreditch went through a remarkable change in a very short space of time. The building that I bought had been a printing works and before the area had been full of veneer traders and cabinet makers. Suddenly the area was attractive to loft-living people and new industries popped up, artists made the area sexy and it rapidly became a place for “creative industries”.
On the back of that came the developers like hooded vampires. They saw this new creative quarter as something to exploit and I mean that literally, by exploiting the weak planning system they were able to propose preposterous scale buildings, completely dwarfing the architecture of the area.
Yes, exactly, giant horrible corporate style architecture sprung up. My neighbors and I ended up at war with these awful people. It has politicized me, the irresponsible capitalism which we are all being overrun by is something I have come to think of as evil. We are fighting proposals that would completely take away the daylight from the buildings in the neighborhood, literally the whole year round. It feels metaphorical that, being a painter of light, I have to fight for daylight against the power of capital. It has made me much more sympathetic to the plight of people fighting corporate interest around the world. It’s hard not to see a Ballardian vision of the future. Artists and galleries are disappearing, being squeezed out, leaving a spiritual desert behind.
On that cheerful note, thank you very much for the fascinating conversation Brad!
It’s been a pleasure!
Interview by Kâthe Kroma