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ARF interviewed about his upcoming solo show

My father, Christopher, is the eldest grandson of Sir WRF and both he and his sister Sarah enjoyed a close relationship with him. Following the divorce of my grandparents he became something of a father-figure for a while. Exposure to him and his home and studio in Kensington must have shown my father that you could make a very good living and be happy and stable as an artist. Which was all very lucky for me. Having always drawn and painted from as early as I can remember, when it became clear to me in my teens that art was the career that I'd follow my parents could not have been more generous in their encouragement and support.

After schooling in Canterbury, I had a stint at a tiny illustration school in Berkshire before randomly coming across a small postcard of one of Ted Jacob's paintings, and I went off to his art course in France 17 years ago when I was 20. Ted's rigorous training opened my eyes to observing what was around and in front of me, and what a colourful world it is. It also plonked me down in the middle of France for several years. There were few distractions.

I believe if you're an artist, no matter what your discipline, it's who you are and you create with whatever's at hand. After a decade and a half of moving around, living in different countries, dossing with friends, staying here and there, having a house of my own is a massive change. A world of my own and a huge blank canvas to decorate as I wish and discover my own taste.

I love scouring junk stores and boot-fairs for objects to both dress the place and feature in my pictures. It's like living in a painting and has made me become more sincere to myself and my own sensibilities. It's a lifelong project and will, I suspect, be my masterpiece. So much screams out to be painted and it's a challenge to systematically approach each subject. As you start one painting, you might take a break and en route to the kitchen be torn by the discovery of another more compelling scene as the sun streams through the windows and clips something in its path. One of the first rooms that immediately struck me for a project was the little bedroom (now bathroom) upstairs where the Directrice used to sleep when it was still a school. The walls were painted in arsenic in a time before they knew better and then overlaid by various wall papers, which when removed gave it a beautiful green patina. A large body of this show is based in this room.

I've been here just over two years. The summers are very sociable, with friends and models coming to stay for long periods lured by the prospect of relaxation, warm weather and wine. But the winters are long and solitary. I'm left alone in this huge house with the recent ghosts of those who have just been here. Rooms that echoed with laughter and voices and the drama of life are all of a sudden stilled and silent. I like it. It makes me reflect on the many lives that have been here over the years. Of the many children that went to school here, of the teachers, the maids that worked here, the squatters that set up camp here during the many years of its abandonment. Occasionally a local will tell me that they were a pupil here and recount some old tale or legend of someone who lived here. Some touching, some creepy. 'Stockings' and 'The Arsonist' are two paintings in the show, inspired by such tales.

France always felt familiar to me from WRF's paintings on our walls. We regularly holidayed in the Loire and the Dordogne and so I was very familiar with that kind of scene: the rustic walls and the buildings of character. I understand the affection William had for the exotic gypsy girl and the willowy peasant type. Regrettably, I can't say I've ever come across any of his scantily clad beauties casually going about their business in my village but I share his ideal and live in hope.

I enjoy his love of the exotic and the erotic and paintings which aren't ashamed to be beautiful or playful. My 'rat-catcher' series can be seen as a twist on some of Sir William Russell Flint's fanciful work, such as The Shrimper (an etching of a beautiful nymph seen from the back with a shrimping net). In mine, a strange, beautiful girl in her underwear is seen from the back triumphant after catching vermin. It's a piece of theatre, romanticised and like Sir William's scantily-clad, nubile washer women, if not impossible, at least highly unlikely. The oversized rifle in one picture is a wooden prop left here by a theatrical group that was allowed to use the school as one of its after lives.

I am the fourth generation of artists from the Russell Flint side of the family. None of Sir William's five grandchildren pursued art as a career, but three of his great grandchildren are now actively involved in the art world.

Alex Russell Flint, 2012


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