Interview with Fresh: Art Fair artist Paul Oz

Ahead of this spring's Fresh: Art Fair, SoGlos chats to Gloucestershire artist Paul Oz about the exciting new contemporary art showcase, his work and inspirations, and the importance of nurturing artistic talent.

Showcasing more than 400 acclaimed and up-and-coming artists from 45 of the UK’s leading galleries, Fresh: Art Fair is set to offer art fans an impressive feast for the eyes when the brand new contemporary art showcase takes place this spring.

Heading to Cheltenham Racecourse from Friday 12 to Sunday 14 May 2017, Fresh: Art Fair, visitors can expect to see pieces, ranging from prints to sculptures, brought together from the UK’s best contemporary galleries.

In this exclusive interview, SoGlos chats to Fresh: Art Fair's featured artist and Gloucestershire resident Paul Oz about the importance of the contemporary art event, his unique style and the inspiration behind his impressive works of art.

Where in Gloucestershire are you based and how long have you lived here?

I was based in Bishops Cleeve until last year but recently we moved out near Staunton for more space, peace and quiet, and a purpose-built studio.

Can you tell our readers a bit about your artistic background?

I was alright at school, although perhaps didn’t conform enough to get good grades. I won a prize for something quite young, and did an art college course in the holidays aged 15, but with only grade C at GCSE, I was persuaded to follow a more academic route and went on to study aerospace engineering instead.

It was 15 years later I picked up a paintbrush again, and managed to sell I think the third painting I did to a friend, which focused my mind somewhat. My first gallery show was a few years later in 2008, and after being made redundant from my ‘proper job’ in 2009, I focused on art full time. It’s been bonkers ever since.

What inspired you to become an artist?

Initially just to create something for my plain white rented flat. I started with abstracts, and then decided to celebrate the things that I love, like Star Wars and F1. I guess I also had the fairy tale vision of what life as an artist could be like. I’m not sure I realised how hard I would have to work, certainly no time to meet friends for lunch in the week like I thought!

How would you sum up your style of art? What type of subjects do you paint?

I guess you could call it heavily textured impressionist pop art. Most paintings are 2cm thick in places, loads of energy, aiming for a 3D impression. Most of my work by choice are portraits, I love painting animals too which is really relaxing by comparison. If I’m painting an elephant and get it 20 per cent wrong it’s still an elephant, but if you get a face 20 per cent wrong it’s unrecognisable.

Commission wise, I will agree to as many as I can. Being largely self-taught, I learn most from paintings where I’m pulled outside of my comfort zone.

Which medium do you use?

Almost exclusively oil paint with a pallet knife. I’ve been using the same one for seven years and it’s as flexible as thin card and incredible to use. It’s been re-welded twice, but I’m going to be totally stuffed when it finally gives up one day! I also create sculptures from F1 components.

Who, what or where do you take inspiration for your work from?

F1 is probably half of my subject matter, initially by choice, but subsequently led by demand, and I’m regularly part of events now with the F1 circus all over the world. I’m a big movie fan, lifelong sportsman, and associate much of my mindset with a decade playing with Lego as a kid!

The greatest thing about painting portraits is the emotions involved with a particular icon or moment I’m marking, which can mean so much to someone.

Do you work with a specific gallery?

Not one specific gallery, I have a wide network of galleries around the UK, I guess with a few favourites where I’ve had solo show’s in the past, like The Paragon Gallery in Cheltenham, Imitate Modern London, and Cloud Galleries in Brighton where my next show launches at the end of April.

What are you most looking forward to about exhibiting at Fresh: Art Fair?

Meeting new people! That’s what it’s all about. I’m slightly worried about live painting for three days straight, I struggle with RSI a bit and have to work around that – but self preservation will be all going out the window!

Will your work be for sale at the event?

Most certainly, with The Paragon Gallery Cheltenham.

Which other galleries’ work are you looking forward to seeing at Fresh: Art Fair?

There are several galleries I don’t know of at all which I’m really looking forward to! Naturally I’d lean towards those who show work in a similar vein to my own, like Olivia Connelly and Gormley’s.

Are you excited to have been chosen to be the featured artist welcoming visitors to the fair?

I really can’t wait! Smack in the middle of my busiest month every year between annual rugby and F1 events, but there’s no way I could miss the opportunity of being part of such an awesome new event so close to home – I used to live a mile from the racecourse.

Why do you think it’s so important to throw the spotlight on contemporary art in Gloucestershire?

The impression is that there are a few hotspots of art around the UK but really I think it’s evenly spread out, if you were to put London to one side at least. There are incredible artists and galleries all over and most certainly in Gloucestershire. Any means to celebrate that is awesome.

What advice would you give to someone who’s never bought contemporary art?

Go with your gut instinct, what talks to you, and what you’d love to have on the wall. Don’t think of investment as such, but rather the artist’s story, and it’s impossible to make a mistake.

Do you collect yourself?

I can’t have my own work on the wall, but for sure I collect other work that inspires me, or has a story. I have some original Star Wars storyboard sketches which are really cool. Some pop art by Ben Allen and Danko, and some more serious works by Lindsey Kustusch and Jonathan Ford.

What’s your advice for aspiring artists?

Be prepared to work hard. If success as you imagine it comes, you’ll have to work near every waking hour. Never lose sight that it’s a business and with demand comes a schedule, deadlines, suppliers, accounts and tax bills. But, at the same time, stick to your principles creatively and be true to yourself.

Being personable and able to work with business partners and galleries is more important than how good your work is, so stay humble, there are other artists queuing up behind you for any opportunity. Always try to put yourself in a gallery’s position to try to understand their perspective.

For more information, see Fresh: Art Fair, or visit and directly.

© SoGlos
Tuesday 28 March 2017

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