When I came back to painting a few years ago I decided for reasons of convenience to use landscapes as a way to get my skills back and to find out what interested me. I discovered many things. One is that the affinity I have with the landscape of Southern England is even deeper than I’d realised. To put it another way, I’ve been told I see this landscape in a magical way.
The Glimpse and the Fragment
Underpinning my work is an understanding that as humans we perceive and understand the world by assembling discrete glimpses and fragments. We see a scene by letting our eyes move rapidly over it, we learn and gain insight by bringing together disparate sources of information be they personal or external. This lets us challenge opinions, make connections and cope with cognitive dissonance. So when I try to paint something complex I often make several straightforwards paintings instead of one complex one. Each provides context for the others, allowing the viewer to find meaning and accept contradictions in much the same way as they would in the real world. This lets me use art to puzzle out the world whist still making accessible pieces that can be appreciated simply for how they look.
A Fascination with Colour, Space and Light
As a student I was fascinated by the notion of perceived space coexisting with an awareness of the surface of a picture. Being able to draw attention to both a three dimensional space that doesn’t exist and to the paint that makes that space seem to exist at the same time still blows my mind and I could build a career exploring it. It simply isn’t possible to pull this off without diving deep into colour and light and both come naturally to me. The use of colour and light in the paintings of mine which leave the viewer staring into the sun is as close as my art comes to hedonism.
A few years ago I started to engage with time as well as space. I realised that time had crept into my work with me noticing – being so specific about moments and bringing together multiple images made it an unspoken influence in my work. So I made work that embraced it, with an x-ray vision sort of time travel by using carefully edited views of the present, taking almost a reverse archaeology approach to painting. Just like archaeology, the process is all about preserving context. Having the beginnings of a methodology for exploring time enabled my Magna Carta work and the things I have gone on to since.
I’m pretty good at absorbing things… Aside from the obvious artists that any English landscape painter will live and breathe – Constable, Turner, Cezanne, Nash, Sutherland and Piper et al I tend to take on board an ever changing kaleidoscope of sources. Over the last couple of years Japanese ink work has held me entranced and has begun to filter into a watercolour style handling of oil paints in my underpaintings. Right now, I’m blown away by the aesthetics of the Black Panther news-sheet (blame the Tate’s Black Power exhibition for that) and the music of Thomas Tallis and Miles Davis. A year ago I was assimilating and being frustrated by Anselm Kiefer after his show at White Cube (why didn’t it smell?) and right now I’m all over Picasso. Tomorrow who knows?