Press |  1980s | 

‘Hangovers and Gunfighters’ by Sandra McGrath

As soon as they walked into the Macquarie Gallery, I thought of Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. Gunfighters and internationally known English artists do not usually seem to have much in common.

Looks, of course, had a lot to do with it. Patrick Caulfield, prematurely silver-haired, was immaculately dressed in pale blue jeans and shirt, close-shaven and blue-eyed.

His stockier, and taller, companion, John Hoyland, was wearing a black jacket and sporting a stubbly chin that looked as if Hoyland were contemplating growing a beard, or that he had just forgotten to shave for some time. Even without gun holsters they made a rather dashing pair –despite the hangovers.

They were punctual for the interview – despite the early hour. Arranging ourselves on hard wooden chairs in a circular fashion in the back room of the gallery, Caulfield and Hoyland, sipping tentatively a glass of beer, indeed did look somewhat corralled.

Hoyland, it turned out, was in Australia because he has been invited to be artist-in-residence at Melbourne University for four months.

Caulfield had just come along for the ride. […] In London the artists are close friends; they often have lunch together and paint in studios close to each other.

Caulfield is married, lives in a Victorian studio at Primrose Hill, near the London Zoo, has three boys, two rabbits and two cats.

Hoyland is divorced and owns a house in the country which has a chapel he uses as a studio. The two artists paint in styles as diverse as their life-styles.

Hoyland works much in the manner of the New York School. He paints large, lusciously coloured, dynamic abstracts. The canvases are executed quickly with rollers, house brushes and palette knives.

Caulfield paints and makes prints of tightly constructed still-life – with flattened colours, and hard-edge shapes. […]

‘Oh, God,’ Hoyland moans, ‘I’m so glad you’re not going to talk about the bush. That’s all I’ve heard about since I’ve been in Australia. The bush. Hoyland purses his lips into a fish-shape and says the word again – letting the air explode into laughter.

Caulfield, looking on the scene, changes the subject and explains he has to get back to London fairly soon because he has a large commission to design/decorate miles of the London underground.

‘You haven’t ever been in the underground,’ quips Hoyland. ‘What are they going to pay you – a life-time’s worth of subway tickets?’ ‘No, taxi fares,’ Caulfield replies.

Hoyland and Caulfield work the same hours in London – they are both morning workers, and that’s why they often have lunch together. After lunch Hoyland goes back to his studio to sleep or to watch women’s programs on television.

‘I love soap opera,’ he admits, ‘and I love the phone ringing – anything to give me an excuse to get away from painting.’

Caulfield says that, yes, his studio really is quite tidy. (It would have to be.)

Hoyland’s studio? It’s also what you would expect. ‘My studio is a terrific mess. I work on Quentin Crisp’s theory (celebrity queen who wrote The Naked Civil Servant), that if you don’t clean up for 10 years nothing gets any worse,’ says Hoyland.


Hoyland and Caulfield have a very nice way of sending everything up – accents, the Australian bush, royalty, even England. The only time they really want to be serious is when the subject is art.

‘You know it gets harder as you get older,’ says Hoyland, and Caulfield nods agreement.

‘I mean, you begin to feel like an ol’ gun-slinger, with all these young guys ready to take pot shots at you.’

As Holden Caulfield once said, or should have: ‘Never trust the older generation.

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