British artist Michael Sandle is best known for his politically-driven sculpture, including his Iraq Triptych showing Tony and Cherie Blair being expelled naked from Downing Street and Twentieth Century War Memorial, a response to America’s involvement in the Vietnam War.
‘I’ve enjoyed my life more in my 70s which is extraordinary. A lot of my shyness has gone and I’m beginning to think maybe I’m not that bad an artist after all. Most of the time I’ve carried around this awful burden. If you have one foot in history you have all these Old Masters looking over your shoulder.
If I could pass on any words of wisdom to today’s youth, it would be try to be truthful to yourself.
Most contemporary art is appalling. We’re living through a period of heroic decadence and I think it manifests itself in art which is churned out for a consumer society. A lot of contemporary artists have a brand, and just repeat their schtick – people start to recognise their work and pay a fortune for it. Having said that some young people give you hope and some students today are very good.
I can tell you the very moment when I knew I wanted to be artist. I was sitting in a high chair which had been painted shiny pink. My mother gave me a magic paint book and I immediately knew that this was for me. My parents tried everything to stop me. I didn’t like my childhood and my work was certainly influenced by that. My father never showed me any affection and my mother was quite possibly a psychopath. The awful thing is, not only do I look just like her, I AM just like her!
I don’t actually like sculpting very much. It does suit my personality though, I work very slowly. The piece I am doing at the moment has been causing me sleepless nights for four or five years. If I do something quickly I always feel suspicious. I once read a cartoon that said ‘sculpture is like climbing Mount Everest on a pogo stick.’ It’s true, if it’s not difficult, there’s something wrong.
We live in an ageist society, no question about it. The Royal Academy is an example of that. If you’re nominated and you’re over 75 you’ll never get elected. It’s terrible. Ageism is very wasteful because older people have the most experience. The Chinese have the right idea with ancestor worship.
To stay young, I do rebounding, I’ve been doing it or eight years. Best piece of kit I ever got. You just bounce up and down. NASA says it’s more efficient than any other exercise known to man. It doesn’t affect your joints as running does. I don’t eat five a day, I couldn’t possibly do that, but I think my diet is ok. People tend to be surprised when they find out I’m going to be 80 in two years. Artists are cursed or blessed with eternal childhood.’
If I could pass on any words of wisdom to today’s youth, it would be try to be truthful to yourself. It is an old adage but there’s a lot to be said for it. You have to face up your weaknesses and live with them. I’m in your face and if you don’t like it then up yours!”