“Yes,” he says and hesitates – Somerville is elegant in his correction of me. “But it’s like the Chinese say with calligraphy – it’s a whole lifetime in one brush mark; everything on this paper comes with age and practice and everything I’ve ever done to get to this point. It’s not random.”
Though arguably formed as a teenager in the 1970s, it was during the highly energetic 1980s that he explored artistic expressions being part of the popular club and arts punk culture coming out of the States. He spent time in New York, and later became close to arts’ curator and influencer Erika Belle, one of Madonna’s original crew and early collaborators; she became his muse and inspiration for several paintings, they remain very close to this day.
“So yes I was formed in the 70s but spun out in the 80s…” he says. “I have to accept my influences, and for ages I rebelled against any of them. I’m not talking just the 80s American thing here, but the more lyrical British tradition …”
Does he mean Howard Hodgkin as opposed to Pollock and de Kooning?
“That British tradition of painting has that more of poetic side, a lyrical side and I sit in that tradition; the American side is more aggressive, more verbal, edgy. De Kooning I love and yet sometimes feels blocked for me, it’s to do with the thickness of paint, sometimes over-worked. Again for me, in Pollock there’s too much chaos although I love his intensity too.”
Somerville is a bold colourist and it’s no accident that as a student at the then Chelsea School of Art (now Chelsea College of Arts) his tutor was Ken Kiff, the highly regarded British artist and colourist who was an inspiration and greatly encouraging to Somerville in his work until Kiff’s passing in 2001.