think everybody has a dark side. Some people repress it, others let it go and their lives become very dangerous.’ He is unwilling to comment on the gritty depths of his own mind, preferring to leave the talking to his paintings. ‘In an exhibi- tion you’re opening yourself up,’ he says. ‘People might make a reasonable stab at my needs if they go to my exhibitions. You can’t contradict yourself if these are the things that drive you to paint.’
He is refreshingly candid about his work, explaining he simply wants to paint images that will mean something to people. ‘Some artists want to paint about poverty and war and industrial decline. That’s not what drives me — I'm driven by people and what they do to each other in matters of love. Sex matters are seen as tn'vial, but I don’t really care. I’m being honest in what I do. I don’t do it to titillate people, I do it because that’s what interests me.’
‘Some artists want to paint about poverty and war and lndustrlal decline. That’s not what drlves me - I’m driven by people and what they do to each other In matters of love.’
His paintings can sell before they even grace gallery walls, but Vettriano is far from the image of an artistic heavyweight. He is embarrassed by talk of prices and says he is interested only in paying the mortgage. ‘Material possessions give me a sense of comfort in that if nobody buys my paintings I have something to fall back on,’ he says. When he was pursued by art galleries and the media in 1988, he was worried Scotland would snub him for being too successful. Since the initial ﬂurry of interest, he has ensured his Scottish proﬁle has been low key.
Fallen Angels is the closest thing his publishers could get to a book about his work. ‘Nobody’s going to write a book about me till I’m long gone,’ says Vettriano, smiling wryly. ‘To coin a well known phrase, every picture tells a story. The work was best presented with a series of stories.’ The book is the brainchild of journalist and writer W. Gordon Smith, who asked Scottish writers to respond to Vettriano’s powerful images. Some like MacCaig and MacLaverty chose some of their existing words, others like Alasdair Gray, Joy Hendry and A.L. Kennedy, found themselves exploring Vettriano’s shady world with similarly dark musings.
Vettriano was surprised and ﬂattered by the response, but the waiting was not easy. The memory is one of delicious, painful anticipation. ‘Gordon would ring me late at night saying: “I’m just about going to bed and there’s an envelope lying at the door here. Do you want me to read out what they’ve said?” It was a lovely way for the whole thing to unravel, but I couldn’t sleep for the hairs standing up on the back of my neck.’
Vettriano sees Fallen Angels as a Scottish book, but lovers and loathers of his work here will have to wait until next summer to see it in the raw. The semi-clad, sensual characters loitering in his studio upstairs are to be suitably framed for an exhibition in London next month before they expose themselves in a Scottish gallery. Until then, Vettriano will continue to return to his fantasy world, recreating it on canvas. The question is, will you be lurking in the shadows? C]
Fallen Angels is published on 13 October by Pavilion, £16.99.
JACK VETTRIANO FEATURE
(top) The main attractlon and (bottom) The critical hour of 3am
The List 7—20 October 1994 9