I’ve been working on the show’s twenty four paintings for two years. I started them with no idea as to where they’d be shown but continued anyway. About a year ago I was offered a solo show by Box Galleries in Chelsea so I ploughed forward with the enthusiasm, and sometimes panic, that a deadline date provides.
This new work is a partial return to older themes I explored in the 90s, but with the benefit of fifteen or so years increased technical knowledge of oil painting. Originally this theme dealt very specifically with issues of gender, sexuality and mental health but though returning to this theme pictorially this set of paintings also refers now to the process of painting itself, environmentalism and the increasingly confusing world that we all have to navigate. The origin of the figuration was largely given by one of my favourite paintings, “Young Spartans exercising” by Degas. It’s in the permanent collection of the National Gallery and I was instantly fascinated by the painting when I first saw it. That interest, and the inspiration it offers, has never gone away.
That pictorial origin might not be immediately apparent, but there are many other nuggets of inspiration from other sources that have also contributed to this set of paintings. Lyrics from music or film titles that I’m listening to and watching as I have worked may be included, perhaps sometimes to be buried under oil paint or to be extended into a phrase that meant something to me at that given time of working. Pithy phrases from writers who I’m reading or the news at any given time may make an appearance – perhaps to stay untouched, perhaps to be modified, perhaps to be subsumed within the many layers of physical and mental media on the canvas’ long studio journey.
This is my usual method of working; feeding on the world and spitting it back out on the canvas. It is just me, using my work to record where I am at any given working moment; mentally, physically, spiritually, to the point where, even when I look back on them, I cannot remember the absolute specifics of the reasoning for including all of these elements.
Each painting becomes essentially a recording of its own making.
Perhaps the ‘Blue Skies’ title comes from a mild crisis of middle-age; a sense of realising that there are more years behind than ahead and that all that optimism of childhood and youth was misplaced. Blue sky painting… expressing the wanting of a better world in the mode of expression that I feel most confident.
“Blue Skies” at Box Galleries, London exhibiting through October 2017.