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An Interview


Julian Schnabel



V.M. I am interested in how a person's name subconciously moulds their character and the events in their life, especially in relation to similarly named people. The first name of John Lennon's first son is also your first name; you live in Manhattan where Lennon died. Have you any plans to leave there before you die?

J.S. What's the difference? Maybe the way I see it is that I don't go to my studio in the morning. What happens is I go to my drawer and I find things that I keep throwing there. Then I say "Ah, here's something I threw here"

V.M. The letters of your name re-arranged make the phrase 'scab jail hell nun'. In 1996 you did a painting entitled 'Night Hunting'; based as it is on 'The Stations Of The Cross' and with its overtones of Beelzebubian foraging, sinister interests are indicated. If born a woman do you think it possible that you could have been a 'hell nun'?

J.S. Yes. About three or four years ago some friends bought a painting and put it on a brightly coloured wall. I was upset when I heard about it but they moved it to another place and we remain friends.

V.M. At the time when your work was first bought by Saatchi and you had a show at the Whitechapel the pictures contained broken crockery fixed to tarpaulin and spattered with paint. Was this a metaphorical indication of the attempt to break a habit of over-eating, and the paint a metaphor for projectile vomiting? Or where you not very fat then?

J.S. I want to please myself I suppose, I feel that if I please myself then possibly someone else will pick up on it.

V.M. The Chapman brothers, on seeing you at an opening with David Bowie, said one to the other "Oh look, a fat twat and a thin twat". It was yourself who brought this to public attention. Do you regret handling it in such an overbearing and pugilistic manner?

J.S. It's similar and different. It has to do with the way I am looking at things, which is very much what painting is about. It is interesting to say something and then see the words go through somebody else's body and out there mouth and then see it formed into an idea then come back into your head like a concrete whisper. I remember the first time I saw David. The guy who was sitting next to me said, "Well, what should we use?" I said, "I don't know, I can't tell. I am so shocked looking at this, all my critical faculties have disappeared, and can we talk about this tomorrow." I couldn't even think straight.

V.M. Mmmm.It's horrible when that happens.

J.S.I sorta felt inspired to sit down and paint something--just grab anything that was available and paint on it. Yet at the same time, I felt like I wanted to avoid the whole successfulness of the art industry and things like that.

V.M. No problem there then. Julian, do your new-found celebrity pals support you in your work?

J.S. I think they all know my work and like it very much, and a lot of them paint themselves. Gary Oldman paints, and Christopher Walken paints, and David of course. They know my work, and they are friends of mine. I could not do it without them.

V.M. You seem to court the popularity of celebrities who paint. Leaving aside the issue of why they choose to be seen as painters rather than artists and the hobbyist mentality that this implies, have you no pals in the art world?

J.S.I would say that's pretty realistic. I guess most things happen if you wait long enough. My father actually had this same conversation with Andy Warhol. The Andy Warhol museum loaned Warhol's real wig to David Bowie.I still have my father's wig upstairs, do you want to see it?

V.M. My brother is picking me up in a minute so I'll have to go now, but it has been very interesting to talk to you

J.S.You can make a painting if you feel like it. Just don't show it to anyone.

V.M. Chance would be a fine thing.

J.S. I know the feeling. Bye Vic.

V.M. Bye Julian.