2002-13 : Various thoughts
I work in two London studios: my home/studio in Kensington and my Acme studio in Bethnal Green, where I have worked for over 30 years and which I mainly use to make larger works.
My paintings vary in scale from less than 20 cm to nearly 7 metres in length. Since the 1970’s I have used acrylic, enjoying its characteristics and possibilities allowing me to variously stain the canvas and create collaged, textured surfaces.
The work is concerned with differing series of subject matter and language, often worked on concurrently. These can overlap to produce unexpected hybrids, with some paintings being worked on over many years. The subjects re-occur over the years in different guises producing yet more series and mavericks.
My 'Maverick' works contain mini series from about 1-5 works each, often seriously playful and intentionally deceptive, other times mischievously perverse. I use acrylic polymer, a medium that binds pigment, soil, sand and collage to canvas, paper, plywood or board. The works can be in the form of a diptych, triptych, rectangular or shaped.
Early subject matter painted in oil included my first landscapes and single monumental figures which then developed into manic dancing group that then disintegrated. At this time an internal battle between the orthodoxies of American Abstract expressionism and ideas of significant form and content had begun to surface and led to my wilderness years and a change of medium from oil to acrylic.
I am involved with both depiction and abstraction, illusion/allusion and especially the idea of images micro seconds before perception.
I belong to no group or school, each painting and work on paper makes its own separate demands, from maverick impishness to the solemnity of Nature and its forces, and can range from the attempt to depict the depth of celestial space down to the microscopic mini space of electro-chemical activity in the brain.
I use acrylic/collage on canvas, board, wood and paper often with sand, soil, ash, metal, etc to help play and explore unexpected visual language.
Land/waterscapes and interiors are subjects of just some of the series I paint to contain my visual explorations. Like many painters I used to work in the landscape itself, searching for some significant view that would act somehow as a visual inspiration. However my efforts could never match Nature, which proved to be too powerful and overwhelming, leaving me unconvinced of my approach and unable to create any thing of interest.
It was not until ideas that were evolving in other series seemed equally applicable to thinking and feeling about landscape, albeit from a different angle. I became increasingly intrigued by paradox- visual irony - the combination of opposites ie; reality / illusion /allusion, abstraction /figuration, past / present, surface / depth , all of which are like sub-plots , as it were, to the main feeling and overall idea I wanted to produce, - an image in the process of making itself visible on the very edge of perception, an unique autonomous entity although related to or part of a series.
As I want to discover rather than copy or illustrate, the painting dictates it's own future, in the sense that I cannot work on it unless it suggests the next step. Often there are mental or emotional blocks and the work will remain dormant sometimes for weeks, months or even years. As a result I work on many images at varying stages of resolution - hence the numerous series. One strategy to overcome this is to shuffle the works around each other or take easily transportable ones to visit my other studio and meet up with other works. Often there is some cross fertilisation of ideas and hybrids can form.
Within the various series one of my interests is the depiction of different kinds of space. Deep space; sky, receding perspectives - shallower space ; forests , spinneys -shallower still ; urban interiors, still lives and finally micro space with little sense of scale, no top, bottom, or side, analogous to looking straight down at the soil or through a microscope. Other topics include movement of natural forces: river / sea meeting rock, wood, urban structures, tidal surges. The wind blowing: water surfaces, wheat fields, sand dunes, trees. Electro-chemical activity, fire, the eye tracking pin-prick illusions of light over the surface of the canvas.
My early work in the 1950s/60’s grew out of great admiration for Permeke, Picasso, the Cubists and especially Goya’s Black paintings whose horizontal format continues to intrigue and challenge me. Then there was the influence of Abstract Expressionism and the Spanish painters, especially Velazquez for the orgy of possibilities that have grown out of Las Meninas.
The early 1980’s became a crucial turning point with a series of works ‘Reflections after Las Meninas’, an attempt to reconcile opposing elements of abstraction/figuration, illusion/allusion, past/present. A door opened to a host of possible visual ideas. These range from depictions of space as in mirrors, doorways, land/seacapes to mental and diagrammatic space. Since the mid 1980’s I have continued to be fascinated by doorways mirrors and windows and spacial ambiguities.