Christopher Stacey tells us more about his work, ambitions, and being shortlisted for Young Masters 2014…

What is it about Young Masters that you are most interested in? 

The term Young Master conjures of course, painters of skill, with a higher, more noble, perhaps transcendental ideal. There has to be a reason to paint, other than to record. Something that perhaps is not found in a photograph, or even by looking alone. Perhaps it is to try to understand, to seek patterns or intelligence in flesh, blood, trees, mountains. What makes flesh human, trees seem wise and mountains godlike.

Can you explain to us what your work is about?

I am interested in what it is to be human. In particular, what it is to be a woman. I am interested in beauty, not an idealized, received social idea of beauty, but the strange, fragile violence of living in a body. I want not only to paint flesh, I want to paint what is under the flesh. The bones, blood of course, but the mind and the desire, too. I see the subjects all as heroes, as overcome the awkward, painful reality of what it is to be alive, what might be termed beauty. I try to avoid deconstructing it, reducing it to meat. I want my paintings to be heroes.

Which artist/s are you most inspired by?

Right now, I adore John Singer Sargent, who was criticized for superficiality but had such lyricism, liquidity and sexuality in his work. Of course, Jenny Saville. Alex Kanevsky, and I love Cy Twombly. I am hugely influenced by Helmut Newton and Alexander McQueen, who wonderfully portray women as powerful, mindful human beings.

Can you tell us something about your background?

I studied at Chelsea and spent many years working for Charles Saatchi, Gilbert and George and others. I then opened a business in Cambridge, moved to Italy where as I sat outside the bars of Milan, began a fascination with fashion and subsequently, fashion photography. There is a distinct beauty there, classic of course, but somehow subverted absolutely original and powerful, dark somehow. I returned to England and began to paint again.

What inspired you to become an artist?

I can’t help it. It’s how I see, the way in which I look at the world. I see so much that is extraordinary in the ordinary, the everyday.

If you weren’t an artist what would you be?

I like to think I could still be a pop star in France.

What is your greatest achievement as an artist to date?

I think the greatest achievements are personal ones, any victories are for others to judge.

What are your plans for the future?

To grow a large family and a tall garden.