‘I’ve always wanted more than one life’: the strange world of Brian Catling

When his biblical fantasy The Vorrh came out to rave reviews, the artist became an acclaimed debut – at 61. As the epic trilogy ends a decade on, Catling talks about teaming up with Terry Gilliam, being adopted and the nastiest depths of his imagination

In the middle of a manicured garden tucked away in a courtyard within the Royal Academy, Brian Catling has his fingers in his mouth. “I can give you a bit of, well – something,” he says to the photographer, around the digits – and begins scrabbling at his fleshy cheeks, teeth gnashing and eyes rolling. His gigantic hands pull at the jowls with such force that his arms begin to shake, as if his very skin can no longer contain him.

The camera snaps. Two ladies drinking Campari nearby watch all this something with great interest. “Are you Brian Catling?” one of them ...