The British-born Bernie Taupin has lived in the United States since the 1970s and made Santa Barbara, CA, his home when he is not traveling for work. Currently, however, he is on another national gallery tour which includes a stop this month at Austin’s Russell Collection Fine Art Gallery.
The Russell Gallery exhibition, titled ”Beyond Words,” is a collection of the songwriter’s vibrant abstracts that demonstrate his command of line and form and color as an alternative vocabulary to lyrics and melody.
Anticipating his arrival, CultureMap talked with Taupin to learn a little bit about where his inspiration originates and where the relationship exists between making beautiful, memorable music and making stunning visual art.
CultureMap: Thank you so much for taking the time to speak with us, Bernie. We’re really looking forward to your arrival in Austin! Have you been to Austin before and been able to experience any of the signature Austin charm?
BT: Ive spent a considerable amount of time in Austin and appreciate it for its multi-cultural hum. There is definitely an air of creativity that makes you feel as if youre soaking in something worthwhile even if youre not necessarily experiencing it first hand. People on the outside tend to associate Austin primarily with music, but if they looked a little deeper theyd find so much more to entertain their curiosity.
CM: How did this latest tour come about? Are these galleries that you knew already or are they new to you?
BT: The tour came about at the suggestion of my representatives, and as it seemed like a good way to give my art a little breathing room, I was agreeable. Most of the galleries so far are new to me but they have all been most accommodating and generous with their space. One of the satisfying aspects of having your canvas hung and lit well is that its equally beneficial to the artist’s eye as I would hope it is to the those that come to view it.
CM: Have you always been a visual artist in addition to a musician?
BT: Ive been painting seriously for close to 20 years but had always wanted to try my hand at visual arts way before that. However, due to my location and busy lifestyle, it was hard to do so considering the scope of the things I desired to create, meaning large canvas and lots of paint.
CM: Your style definitely fits a given perspective and school of thought. Who are your major inspirations from the abstract world and favorite visual artists of the past and the present?
BT: Obviously Im a huge fan of the Abstract Expressionists of the ’40s and ’50s, but I tend to appreciate individual pieces rather than any one artist in particular. Although I should tip my hat to Hans Hoffman, who was most definitely an influence on much of my earlier work.
CM: Do you approach painting in the same mind space as you do your songwriting? Is is the same spot in your brain that inspiration comes from?
BT: Certainly they come from the same place. Both originate from my imagination, one just happens to be sonic, while the other is visual. The thing about the creative process of both is that they are solitary and, given my ease with that state of being, they suit me fine.
CM: Does one come more naturally to you than the other?
BT: Neither one comes any more naturally than the other, but I do paint far more than I write songs, so the balance isnt close to being even.
CM: Most of the artists we interview have music playing in the background while they work, but none of them have also been musicians of your caliber. What do you listen to while you’re painting?
BT: Sometimes its quiet when I paint, sometimes its rowdy; it very much depends on my mood. But when the ideas are locked in and Im focused on the colors, then its cranking. It runs the gamut and can be dictated by the time of day, but it might be Mahler, Coltrane, Chicago blues… everything up to Cash, Haggard and Jones.
CM: You’ve made your mark now in the music and visual art worlds. What’s next on your list for world domination?
BT: Oh, world domination doesnt really appeal to me, so I think Ill just stick to what I know for now.
Bernie’s show is currently on display at the Russell Collection Fine Art Gallery. It runs until August 25. The artist will be at the Russell Collection in person on Friday, August 24, and Saturday, the 25th, to sign autographs and introduce his artwork to fans.