British painter Glen Hague talks about coming to the Algarve for the first time last summer with an exhibition about love, in all its forms
When we asked Glen Hague to described his painting style in a few words, the artists rises in his chair, pulls on his t-shirt and points to the words printed on the black fabric: “Mess is more.”
The motto suits the British painter, who is originally from Bournemouth, in the south of England, but has lived in Portugal since 1980. Hague is definitely a maximalist, and the eye of the beholder has to fight to avoid getting lost wondering around the 18 canvas the artist recently had on display at Farol Hotel in Cascais, and which was showcased at Anantara Vilamoura this summer between July 6 and August 31.
“I like mess and more, I’m not a minimalist painter,” says the Brit who has been painting for 35 years and currently resides in Cascais. “If my paintings are too empty, I worry and have to put more in them.”
Glen’s works reflect life’s multiplicity: they hold lots of information, large and small figures, abundant colour, lost, found and assembled objects. No two are alike. The subject however is always the same — love. Accepting an external suggestion, the painter decided to depict the different aspects of this feeling (“I didn’t want it to be all hearts and flowers,” he points out) and named the exhibition ‘All you need is… Love’ is implied in the name and evident on the canvas, not always in obvious ways, but present nonetheless.
For instance, the painting Saudades do seu amor (Missing your loved one, in a literal translation) was inspired by the untranslatable Portuguese word saudade. There is also a triptych on self-love, wherein each painting represents the body, soul and mind, and even a painting on love for spirituality. Despite the name of the exhibition, the artist created only 10 paintings based on this subject, which was a challenge in and of itself.
“I don’t normally start off with any idea of what I am going to do. I just get a canvas and throw some paint on it and see what happens,” he explains. “But this time I had to be more controlled, which was a good experience for me.”
As for the remaining works, they are the result of a particularly prolific last few years in the British artist’s career, especially after he started attending the Arte Estúdio (art studio) in Carcavelos, led by Francisco Capelo (who acquired and selected most of the first modern and contemporary art at the Berardo Collection Museum in Lisbon). The Portuguese painter would lead Glen’s art on a different, more abstract path, where the Brit had tried to walk before.
“Being a painter is a very solitary thing. You don’t actually meet other painters, so you don’t bounce off ideas and you carry on your own way,” states Hague.
This is why he decided to contact Capelo and attend his classes. “It absolutely transformed what I was doing and it gave me such enthusiasm that all these paintings and many more — I have so many in my house I don’t know what to do with them — are all from not even two years ago,” he says.
Hearing this, it is hard to believe that he almost gave up painting before meeting Capelo, but that is what happened. Self-taught, Glen was a teacher for many years, conciliating his work for the British Council in Portugal with painting on the weekends before deciding to become a full-time artist three years ago.
Capelo taught him the importance of a paintings finishing details, something he says is crucial to his creative process now, and which is based on three main mediums and techniques: acrylic painting, collages and paint. Glen usually works in the afternoon and spends several days on the same painting. Each of his works is born from a conflict between two elements: order and chaos, light and darkness, history and design.
“I often start off by creating an order — [such as] regular shapes on a white canvas — and then I’ll throw wet paint on them and see what happens. I keep doing that until I find something. I get this sort of feeling [gasps] there it is.”Glen Hague
Since the mixture of paint and water takes some time to dry, this process can easily take up to two or three weeks. Sometimes the paintings are set aside until Glen sees something interesting in them again. Once the paint has been thrown on the canvas, the painter also uses digital techniques — he takes a picture of what he has done, transfers it to his tablet and edits it on an app, exploring all the possibilities provided by this digital medium. Finally, he transfers this onto the canvas, although he stresses it is never an exact copy.
For an artist who first took an interest to painting at age 11, inspired by amazing art on Marvel comic books, these last three years have been defining for Hague. “I am doing the job I wanted to do all my life,” he says, smiling.
All you need is… love. And art.