John Clare in conversation with Basil Beattie R.A. 
B.B. I’d like to ask you about subject matter. Your paintings start as a representation or description – of a landscape, doorways, windows, darkness – but gradually moves away from that mode.
J.C. Yes, I might begin with a pastel drawing, then in the studio I work on the on the object and slowly it turns into something else. I’ve painted the same tree in France for 20 years and that familiarity can help me paint something different I haven’t seen before.
B.B. So the subject matter is a vehicle to allow other thoughts and impulses to come to the surface?
J.C. Yes, it’s about an emotional experience not an attempt at reality. The painting is a language which is not translatable into words. In dreams unexpected things emerge, not declaring themselves but on the threshold of identity. So paintings emerge which surprise us. For me, this is how reality is. We’re never quite ourselves, we’re never quite there. The elusive nature of the object is closer to reality than any attempt at exact description.
B.B. So there’s a dialogue between you and the object you’re making but you can’t force it, it’s done by stealth.
J.C. Yes, hopefully, just as with a dream, the object acts as a vehicle to germinate an idea.
B.B. Is there a conflict of loyalties between psychotherapy and painting? Do you listen to a painting as you listen to a patient?
J.C. Both situations are about what’s hidden. It’s not a logical process but one where you absorb experience. A rapport develops.
B.B. So perhaps, as Picasso said, “A painting begins to paint itself.”
J.C. Yes, when eventually the patient is able to speak freely, so s/he elaborates and extends the self. It happens without thinking.
B.B. But maybe it’s important to avoid the stereotype of interpreting the painting in a psychoanalytic way.
J.C. Absolutely. I’ve been painting doorways and shutters for many years but still resist the temptation to interpret this. The meaning of a painting is never fixed. The meaning of a dream will always be another dream.