John Coleman

John studied painting and drawing at Camberwell School of Art in the late seventies. In the eighties he co-founded the artist’s group “work from common knowledge” and exhibited with the “Museum of Installation”. Later he showed work at Riverside Studios in the “Land” exhibition and he has had illustrated narratives made into a radio broadcast and a short film for Channel Four’s Alter Image series. He has painted throughout and this now forms his principal research interest. John is the course organizer for the extended degree in art and design. This course is the updated Foundation Course which John also led for many years.


  • Art, Media, Design Extended Degree

My preferred method of working (painting) is outside in front of the subject (landscape) in one or sometimes two goes. I find it hard to recall or imagine the specifics of nature and want to see it in front of me in order to work. The tones and colours especially are always changing as the light moves around and comes and goes so that I feel I need to work quickly – but not so quickly that detail and the particular are lost. Viewpoint and composition is important because of interest created by perspective, scale, gaps and recessional space. Each painting or drawing is a sort of little experiment to try to capture a fleeting moment, to make something fixed, so that I can see it again. And the ways of doing it are always slightly evolving so that it feels slightly different each time, even if the subject remains the same. One can be familiar with a place over many years but then a new view or situation presents itself afresh, that had not been seen before, and it seems worth trying again. 

To me the questions raised by the work are personal: How to make representational paintings and drawings of the world around us having absorbed and been interested in modernism and idea art. How to make these images ones own without recourse to gimmickry and innovation for its own sake, and without so obvious imitation of others. How to avoid sentimentality when nostalgia is a component of the creative process. How to stay true to observed facts when the chosen medium is so self-consciously crafted. And how to make something modern with what may appear to be so dated and exploited. I am also interested in Nature Writing, particularly in Britain. From Gilbert White, Richard Jeffries and John Clare to J.A.Baker and Richard Mabey.