Five minute sketch of fellow student at life drawing class.
I have been obsessed with creating visually since primary school age. It has been the one constant throughout my life. My parents encouraged it, even if they didn’t understand the excesses of it, and by the time I started Secondary School I was already sure that the road I would choose as an adult would be that of the ‘artist’.
The first stumbling block came when I applied for Higher Education. Over a nine year period I made four applications to study Fine Art, and was turned down on each occasion. On only one of these applications was I given a reason – my work already had ‘too much specific focus’. After each failure I was determined to be successful the next time to the point where I drove myself mentally into the brick wall of a breakdown.
After almost ten years of working and never being considered ‘commercially exhibitable’ or qualified enough to be considered a ‘serious fine art practitioner’ I started to get small exhibitions, generally organized by other artists. My paintings, then abstract, were selling well but I felt that they were becoming increasingly irrelevant so in 1995 I stopped painting and looked at other mediums – primarily photocopying. Consequently the sales dried up but the excitement of a return to figurative work combined with the new modes of expression gave me the drive to continue and forget the bitterness I had always felt at being excluded from Higher Education.
Over the last few years I have been fortunate in that galleries are starting to take an interest in my work again, perhaps fuelled by the increasing fashion for figurative work, and it has enabled me to work with fewer of the financial constraints of previous years. Acceptance into public collections and an invitation to show at the next Florence Biennale have also boosted my confidence and justified my belief in my work.
I do not consider painting irrelevant as a contemporary art practise, the world has a fixed notion of what constitutes ‘Art’, and that includes painting alongside other more supposedly ‘avant-garde’ methods of production. I have worked with found objects, installation, sound and new media but have always found them to be wanting. I always return to painting. There seems to be a singular truth to this medium – the practitioner takes what is in essence dirt and modifies it to a form of significance through the manufacture of ‘art totems’ – paintings. The truth of this is borne out by experience. Artists that would consider themselves of the ‘conceptual’ turn to painting, established musicians and actors turn to painting, even writers turn to painting. This is because they have realised that their initial forays into a, perhaps shallow, search for notions of posterity will probably be consigned to the cultural bin of ephemera rather than the canon of human cultural progress. I’m not saying that this is where my work is destined – but I’d be lying if I didn’t say I’d like the look of the road map.
I consider my work to be ‘Modernist’ in that I love the mediums I use. I want my audience to love them too; I want then to get up close and wallow in the visceral glory of what paint or collage or newspaper can look like when it is subjected to attention of detail. This is why I have not returned to abstraction, for when you look at one of my paintings of an individual you know that the representation is made up of solid paint. The representation has to be there to make the medium all the more obvious.
The subject matter of my work tends mostly towards a quiet critique of our society’s gradual erosion of its own compassion and humanity. There is little point in being the didactic zealot – nobody listens anymore. But I just feel the need to stand up and say the best way I know, through painting, that some things are unjust. Today the greatest global injustice is a singular poverty of aspiration tied to a very visible wealth of expectation.
My work is simultaneously a celebration of what I do and a call to the audience that we should notice what we are doing to ourselves.