During a road trip across America in February 2007, I made a visit to the UCLA open studios. On the whole I found the work surprising — in a bad way — for its conventional appearance. There were a few notable exceptions, one being the work of John Kilduff. My encounter with Kilduff’s work was very brief, and I did not think too much about it at the time, but it lingered in my memory in a ‘What the fuck was that?’ kind of capacity. Skip forward a couple of months to an idle YouTube-browsing session, and by complete coincidence I happened across a John Kilduff video. Aside from the excitement of recognising something I never thought I would see outside of that fleeting visit to UCLA, I loved the video, which turned out to be the artist’s public access TV show Let’s Paint TV— ‘the show where we try to do a lot of things all at once’. I have been hooked ever since, and after the occasional casual email pinned him down to an interview:
Tunde Yeboah: First, just to get the ball rolling, do you have a favourite colour?
John Kilduff: No.
TY: Do you see your work, in particular your TV show, as belonging to a specific genre or historical tradition, like cubism, for example, or glass-blowing?
JK: Some people say Dadaist or Happenings from the sixties, but I don’t care where it fits in as long as it fits somewhere . . . say the trashcan?
TY: Is there a distinction between your practice as a painter and your public-access TV show, or are they two sides of the same coin?
JK: Yes and no . . . it appears that there is on the surface, but when it boils down to it I would say no. Although, when I am painting away from the TV show, I may quietly be remembering some of the things that I have said on the show.
TY: One way I would describe Let’s Paint TV is as a show where the presenter does many disparate tasks at the same time, and some of the tasks at the same time, and some of the tasks are of a day-to-day nature. How do you decide which tasks to include, and is there any kind of limit, whether it is moral, artistic, practical or otherwise, to what goes on? For instance, would you ever do an episode called Let’s Paint, Exercise, Blend Drinks and Masturbate TV?
JK: I don’t spend too much time thinking about what I’ll do. Generally, when I am doing something else, say painting in the studio, awake at night, watching TV . . . I get an idea of what I will do. Also, I get many requests from people and bands to come on the show, so that has a lot to do with how a show will evolve. I like the not-knowing-what-I’m-going-to-do aspect of it. I probably wont masturbate on the show (it might be a little hard when running), but I am open to any and all ideas. I am trying to duplicate life in an all-in-one package, so the sky’s the limit. Actually, I do want to go to the Moon and paint live on the Moon.
TY: The show, for me, has the feel that it is teetering on the edge of being ‘adult’, and yet always manages to remain wholesome (in spite of the occasional caller swearing live on air). Is that balance incidental or are you calculated about the show’s ambiguities?
JK: Heck, it’s just me. That’s how I am. The shock value of ‘adult’-themed work has its place and sometimes it’s on the show, but I am really not interested in making the show an all-adult themed extravaganza. I want to reach out to everyone.
TY: Apart from very briefly seeing your studio at the UCLA open studios in February 2007, my experience of your practice is through the internet, or more specifically YouTube. Do you see the internet as an ideal final place for your work to be, or does the internet just facilitate something else?
JK: Well it’s an ever-moving thing. YouTube and my videos on the internet are only in their second year or so . . . so life happened before YouTube/internet and life will go on after it. Did I just predict the end of the internet?
TY: Speaking of UCLA, is it possible to be an artist without going to art school? What is art school for?
JK: Yes! I think being an artist has more to do with how you were raised, or for that matter not raised. Art school is for fun, an escape, and maybe you get some good hints on what you should do, some good connections, and hopefully in the fist stages of art school a good grounding on making art. My only beef is that too many art schools – and art education in general – tend to dampen the enthusiasm in art. Many potential artists give up because they were led (or were allowed to be led) down the wrong road.
TY: How important is a sense of artistic community? Is there a community of artists that your practice exists with, or are you alone in the world?
JK: Both. I do feel alone in the world. That’s why I started doing the cable-TV show – to yell, to reach out, to exist. As for the art community, it’s very important. Even though I don’t necessarily always participate in it, it’s great to know that it’s there. Because of the show I do collaborate with various artists and look forward to more collaborations.
TY: Where do you position your work in relation to the current commercial/gallery side of art practice? Is your work a reaction against or refusal of any accepted norms and conventions?
JK: Well, I pretty much gave up on galleries years ago. Back then I was only making landscape paintings that had for the most part only commercial value. I felt more like a plumber than an artist. And when I started doing the TV show, I didn’t think that what I was doing was ‘art’. It was only when I received encouraging emails and a write-up in LA Weekly that I realised that it might be considered art. Now, I am starting to enter the galleries against with the TV show. Generally, I don’t think the show fits well in the typical gallery where painting and sculpture are the norm – where there’s no room for the artist to speak; where the artist can only speak through the works themselves. Those are not for me. I sometimes tell people I am an anarchist, though it’s not really true. But maybe it is the way I relate to the art world . . . maybe.
TY: Where do you position your work in the relation to the history of West Coast art at large?
JK: Most likely, nowhere to be found. I am sure many in the art world would be glad if I just disappeared.
TY: Has Let’s Paint TV ever been construed in such a way that you don’t relate to? I imagine there to be some differences of opinion in relation to the sincerity
and/or irony of the show.
JK: Not sure what you mean here, but from the emails and postings in the press and internet blogs the show does seem to have a life of its own and I do feel at times that it’s nice to just paint 🙂
TY: Finally, do you support any football team (in the English sense)?
JK: Not really, but I do like to find out how Bolton Wanderers are doing. By the way, it looks like they are on the way out of the Premier League. The reason I sort of follow them is that I have a friend who lives here in LA originally from Bolton. He flies to Europe to watch many of the games.
TY: Anything else you want to add?
John Kilduff’s work can be viewed online at www.letspainttv.com