This week’s #TenMinuteTuesday is with John Marshall, also known as ‘The Cow Man”. John Marshall’s single-subject paintings have been shown in collections around the world and bought by A-listers such as Claudia Schiffer and Matthew Vaughn. We were honoured to be invited to the private viewing of his latest exhibit ‘The Cows’, at Two Kats and a Cow Gallery, Brighton. Read on for more from this highly engaging man who had us laughing from start to finish, in our ten-minute interview.
John, I am sure you have had this question many times before, but why Cows?!
Why do I paint cows? I actually used to paint nude and abstract paintings. I used to sell the nudes to interior designers and I did good business. Out of nowhere, one day, I was offered a show in London where they were going to feature my work, they were going to have a whole year of solely nude paintings featured in the gallery, including a six-week feature of paintings from me. I said yes, because what an unheard-of opportunity, but later I found out that this gallery didn’t have a very good reputation, so in my quest to get out of being featured, I actually turned around and told the gallery owner that I no longer painted ‘nudes’ – I painted cows.
To my astonishment, they turned around and said “that is the most exciting thing we have ever heard!” And so, I ended up producing a whole show of my cow paintings, without having ever done it before. The show became a huge success, and it was actually a pivotal point in my career. And I guess, as they say, the rest is history.
How long has it taken you to prepare to put on this exhibition?
In general, it takes a year. Depending on the size of the paintings, and the type of exhibition. This exhibition was slightly smaller, so I started this in September.
Could you tell us why you had a large hiatus from exhibiting your work? This is your first show in three years…
Unfortunately, it was through illness… I had back surgery a year ago, but I would say I have probably been in pain for roughly thirty years. For the first time I have been out of pain since the surgery, so here we are. Looking back on the past five or six years, I can honestly say that I can see now, how the pain had subdued my energy, focus and creativity with my painting, and my output was quite gloomy. Lot’s of dark colours, renaissance style paintings. With this exhibit, I feel like the lights are back on, this is my recovery show.
What has the response tonight been like?
A lot of the people at this exhibit already own a cow painting from me, or several in some cases. They have been saying that these paintings are “something they didn’t expect to see from me”. The paintings tonight are much more colourful and vibrant – something they have not necessarily associated with my works before.
Can you tell us about the Gywneth Paltrow quote?
The story behind this is that a friend of mine Michael, was working on a film set in Australia and during filming Gwyneth Paltrow was complaining that the catering van coffee was terrible, so she took a list of ‘who wants coffee’ and recruited Michael to drive her in to town to get them. In the van, she asked where Michael was from because of his accent and when he replied with ‘Brighton’ she said to him – “I know where Brighton is, it’s where the Cow Man lives”. By way of explanation, we think that she knew of my work through her friendship with Claudia Shiffer and Matthew Vaughn, who own one of my cows.
Will there ever be a time you don’t paint cows?
I think the opportunity to not paint cows has most definitely been and gone. This is it for me!