I’ve been asked to write a blog about my work in the Shed summer Show. I’d like to start by saying thank you to Chelsea and Ben for all their hard work in selecting, curating and bringing the show together in such a successful way.
There was quite a lot of interest in the pieces I exhibited and I’d like to address some of the questions that came up. First, I suppose that, although my style is fairly established, it is constantly evolving. I have always enjoyed working in a fairly free and impressionistic way and this has been helped by my recent use of larger canvases (thanks in part to encouragement from Chelsea). The looseness of my work probably looks quite careless to the observer, but in fact, I start with a very clear idea of the composition I want and the palette I’m going to use, though these are always open to change as the work progresses. Although I often love the happy accidents that that occur during the painting process, because these sometimes really make a painting come alive, each painting is constantly and carefully revised and refined until I get exactly what I want. Controlled chaos is a reasonable description of my style, I suppose. Using the larger canvases has allowed me to free up my technique even further and I have been really happy with the results (although to be honest I’m not sure if an artist can ever be really happy with their work but that’s another issue).
The subject matter of my work remains more or less the same. I keep returning to the places of my childhood for reference. Although I may start out thinking ‘well this is going to be the Thames or somewhere in Dorset’ or whatever, the finished painting is invariably (to me at least) representative of some place that was part of my past, and that’s usually the farmland, woodland and rivers of the Lake District where I was brought up. Places that are (perhaps inevitably) loaded with emotion for me. And to be honest, just as I start with a clear idea of the composition I want, I also have an idea of the mood/emotion that I want to convey. I think you may be able to tell by the names of the paintings (peace, solace, joy etc) that for some reason (I have no idea why!) I want to comfort the viewer (or myself?). It may be that the paintings are a form of catharsis, I’m not entirely sure. I’m sorry if that sounds pretentious but it’s something that has emerged in my work and I’m just being really honest.
Of course I don’t produce photo realistic paintings, so for the viewer, the landscape/seascape could be anywhere. I love the fact that people bring their own meanings to paintings. I think it’s hugely exciting and interesting that, just as with music, writing or film, we project and impose our own feelings, thoughts and desires onto art, and that they may somehow meet the thoughts, feelings and desires of the creator of a particular piece. I remember two people discussing a painting of mine and each was adamant it was a specific place. Of course it was neither, but I love the fact that it was meaningful to each of them in different ways. I suppose at this point we could talk about post modernism and Roland Barthes’ idea that ‘the origin of a work may lie with the author but its destination is with the reader’. I think that there is some truth in this, although I think that the (possibly subconscious) desire of the artist to communicate can be very powerful. So perhaps Tolstoy also had something when he said ‘A real work of art destroys, in the consciousness of the receiver, the separation between himself and the artist’.
At the moment I’m working on some small portraits in oil and some large landscapes mainly in acrylic. My portraits are quite different from my landscapes in that they tend to be more obviously dark, although I think that the themes of comfort and catharsis still apply. I’m really excited that my paintings are going to be shown in a gallery in Barcelona. I hope to be showing again soon at Portland the Gallery in Richmond Upon Thames and am looking forward to the Shed Winter Show. I feel privileged to be allowed to paint and I guess you could say that life is good.