Howard Dyke and Geraldine Swayne first met in 2008, when they were asked to co-curate Fresh Air Machine at the Calvert 22 space in Shoreditch. Dyke had just sublet his studio to make some money and Swayne had been kicked out of hers, so the pair asked Nonna Materkova, who owns the gallery, if they could work there before the builders came in for the final overhaul. They had a three-month ‘residency’ in the space and, towards the end, were working while walls were quite literally coming down. The outcome of this work was shown in a ‘one week only’ exhibition — paints and brushes still out and finished works hung on the wall gave it all the best qualities of open studio/temporary exhibition.
Geraldine Swayne: When you start a new painting, do you have to get yourself in a particular state of mind, or just start and see what happens?
Howard Dyke: I do get myself in a ‘certain’ state of mind, then as soon as I start, I suddenly need to make another tea, another phone call, get lunch, speak to Clare. Then I realise I’ve no linseed oil. That’s my state of mind.
GS: Do you prefer to paint in silence or with music? If so what music do you paint to?
HD: I wish I could paint to music but I can’t. My relationship with music is that if it’s on, then it demands my full attention. I often wish I could paint, play the piano, be a good husband and swish my beautiful locks all at the same time. Oh, to be Myleene Klass of the art world!
GS: Can you paint when you are depressed, or do you wait till it passes?
HD: I invariably wait for the painting to pass so I can be properly depressed.
GS: Do you like talking about your work?
HD: You’ve gotta come over and see these new paintings I’m working on, the colours are really starting to work and I think I may have got the image right now, I’m still figuring out the scale but this new fabric I’ve found is really exciting me, got loads of ideas for the next series…
GS: Apart from impairment, is there a reason you’d ever stop making pictures or sculpture?
HD: Been looking for an excuse to give it up from the start. Too late I think, it’s in my knees!
HD: What do you want to be when you grow up?
GS: I think I have arrested development anyway. But if I manage it, I’d like to be less neurotic.
HD: You’re good at telling stories Geraldine. In no more than five words, sum up why…
GS: I have a lurid imagination.
HD: I like the way you punish the canvas when you paint. What’s your relationship with materials about?
GS: Recently I have been using scraps and dirty canvas off the floor, because I like using the suggestible marks in the stains and dirt. Also it’s a bit abusive I suppose, as I find primed canvas intimidating. I’m trying to show it who’s boss. When it works I like that fact that the thing looks like it grew somewhere or has rotted. It’s more like gardening, which I’m fairly good at. Dig a bed, fill it with compost, etcetera…
HD: I’ve heard you have a lovely singing voice. Sing a line for me.
GS: “Here is the demon that struck the chord; the liar that held it down…” (‘Nonna’, Faust 2008)
HD: Art or Music?
GS: Same thing to me. But I would not care to live if I was deprived of music.