Interviews can be used as a field study and a method to gaining a direct access to the artists, the primary source, as Blazwick (Bickers & Wilson, 2007: 27) suggests. Blazwick describes a number of different types of interviewers: the interrogation (who does not take into account the artists’ responses); the challenger (the ‘media journalist’ who tries to bring an issue to a trial); and the researcher/analyst (where the interviewer collaborates with the interviewee). I chose to employ the last mode, which Hollway and Jefferson ( 2005) define as the ‘narrative interview method’. Using this method, I started with a general notion of a topic to explore in the interviews, but I did not select the order of the questions, or word them in my own language. Instead I tried to become a listener, with the hope that the interviewee would become the storyteller. Hollway and Jefferson ( 2005: 31) assert that in telling a story, the interviewees become the narrators and take responsibility for making the relevant points clear and understood. Relevance is created within the interview itself, and by the interviewee.
In total twenty-two interviews were carried out with poets, painters, installation artists, chanting artist, authors and academics. One interview with an installation artist is not included due to technical problems with the recording. The remaining twenty-one can be read in the Appendix () and accompanying CD. As part of the interviews I am also including my art meditation experiment with my wife, which was made into the film Interview with authorial-Self (April 2007; ), since it was carried out in a same way as the other interviews: questions were asked, answers were provided, and new questions were formed from those answers. There was no pre-script.
My interest in the process where words and images appear to the artist led me to interview poets (whose ‘business’ is words) and visual artists (whose ‘business’ is image). I noted that the poets who were interviewed were much more articulate in expressing their ideas verbally than were the visual artists. The first artist that I have interviewed, David Johnson, mentioned to me that this may be the case, saying that I will find that poets articulate ideas more easily since their ‘business’ is words and so they are more proficient in using them.
Initially I approached those artists whose work inspired me; simple as that. Later I noted that I was drawn to artists who all shared the notion of a source of creativity which is unknown, and which felt to them as being ‘beyond’. Most interviewees disagreed with the assumption of my thesis regarding sources of inspiration and creativity, and yet all interviewees acknowledged that they did not work as individuals, but rather as collaborators with sources that were felt to be unknown.
I met with those artists who accepted my invitation to take part in the research, usually in their homes (across the UK and France). The first interviews were filmed, and later transcribed by me. Later interviews were carried out via email correspondence. At the end of each transcript I have noted the date and the place of the interview, and whether it was carried out in person or via email. All texts were sent to a professional copy-editor/proofreader, and later sent back to the interviewees for their amendments and comments. Once the interviewees had confirmed the final version and signed a release form (), the transcribed interview was formatted and published online.
Meeting face-to-face had the advantage of getting to know the interviewees, and being able to receive additional information through body language. The biographer Shirley De Boulay explained in a lecture to the Alister Hardy Society (22 April 2006, Oxford) that the interviewers learn from what is said as much as from body language, for example, observing moments of enthusiasm or hesitation just before giving an answer. The disadvantage of face-to-face interviews was the time-consumed in travelling, their expenses which were all paid by myself, the costs of filming equipment, and the long process of transcribing the video recordings. With interviews via email correspondence the interviewees typed their answers, saving me the transcription process. However, with these interviews I lost the human contact, and I had to compose emails with a few questions ready for the interviewee to respond to. It was challenging to construct questions which needed to have some logical sequence even before the interviewee typed his or her answers.