How would you describe your creative style?
Post apocalyptic romanticism.
What’s your inspiration?
Nature’s incomprehensible mysteries and our relationship to it over the centuries. The fact that I separate myself from nature shows how I’ve been indoctrinated, and I suppose I’m interested in that as much as anything else. I find it frustrating that my relationship to nature seems distorted by preconceived images and technology, these frustrations are an integral part of my work, it feels that my work and experiences are possibly whittling away at this facade that I know isn’t there, yet struggle to break through it.
What is art to you?
Art is everything we do that we don’t have to do! (based on Brian Eno’s recent definition). For me personally the visual arts are about using materials to make sense of my surroundings without written language, whether the work actually enables a clearer understanding of the world is not the point, it’s the attempt to comprehend that I find meaningful, in fact I think the best art is often inconclusive.
How long does it typically take for you to finish a piece?
I usually work on a few works at a time so it’s difficult to say, they take less than people think, as I try to create details through washes of looser layers of paint rather than detailed brush work. That’s not a good answer I know, if I where to break it down into hours I’d say between 20 hours for a small work up to 100 hours for a larger more detailed piece, this would include making the stretcher and priming the linen.
How do you keep motivated?
I am my own worst critic, and after every show or body of work I think about the strengths of it and the weaknesses too before I start new work. My work is always changing as the inputs are always changing too, for example, where I’ve visited recently, what films I’ve watched, what books I’ve read, music I’ve listened too, conversations I’ve had and so on. It also helps that I am obsessed and addicted to painting so I can’t go long without being in the studio.
How would you say your surroundings have influenced your work?
I’ve been lucky to have lived in some amazing places, Mexico, Ecuador, Granada and Barcelona in Spain, Cornwall and now Derbyshire. They’ve all left a mark on me in terms of how I respond to being in that landscape and environment at that time and some of those spaces still have repercussions to what I do now. I’ve only just moved to Wirksworth a small town on the edge of the Peak District in Derbyshire, it was an old mining and quarry town and there are a lot of quite dramatic physical scares in the surrounding landscape and large areas of hinterland where abandoned quarries are being retaken by nature. I’ve spent a lot of time wandering round these spaces and have only just settled into a new studio, so I’m very excited about what’s to come.
What do you hope to accomplish with your work?
I suppose I want to portray a representation of nature that looks both to the distant past, maybe to a primordial time before human beings, and to a future where I hope we’ll be forced to act more as a curate of it. By combining the images of romantic painting together with post apocalyptic sci-fi films, I’m not only trying to discover a model of perceiving nature outside of this present moment for myself, but to question the audiences own models of perception. Having said that I also want my work to be full of mesmerizing details that an audience can get lost in.
How have others reacted to your work?
I like it whenever someone gets really close to the surface of the painting and spends ages examining how I’ve painted the images. Although the journey for me is over on that work, it’s nice to see someone else picking it up. I’ve had some really great feedback over the years, the best is when someone actually wants one of these crazy things in their house, being asked about my work like this interview, is also great.
What, if anything, would you tell your younger self?
Be more focused and work harder!
What’s the best advice you’ve been given?
“Make work about the things you’re interested in.” Given to me by my critical theory tutor on my MFA.
What are your thoughts on art school?
I’ve been lucky enough to have done a three year BA in Fine Art and a two year MFA, my experience of art school is a very positive one and it’s allowed me to channel my passion for the act of painting to have a more critical and contextual relevance that personally keeps me motivated to continually redefine what I do. This education has been liberating and allowed me to have the courage to have become the person I’ve wanted to be, without compromising my ideologies. I’ve also had the good fortune to have been teaching on a post graduate course for the last 7 years and I try and challenge my students to make the most of their time there.
What art supplies do you use?
I make my own canvas supports and take pride in constructing them, especially the octagonal frames. I have started using English flax as the material I paint on, it’s quite rough so needs a lot of layers of priming, but it smells amazing, like hay! I did used to use real gesso on my work but it proved a bit temperamental so I use acrylic gesso now as a primer. I paint in oils and don’t particularly have a favorite brand but I do use the more expensive pigment heavy artist paints. I use a lot of glazes in my work so the paint is thinly applied, so a small amount of paint goes a long way. I’ve still got some paints that are 15 years old when I splashed out on some Old Holland paints during my degree.
What’s your process like?
I’ll start by giving the background primed canvas a colored or tonal wash, the images of the paintings are worked out as digital sketches which I project onto the canvases, these are very loosely under painted, so far quite classical and traditional. Now comes the really fun part as I build layers and washes over the under painting to bring the image to some sort of resolution, often my paintings can have in excess of twenty or so layers, and it is hard to know when to stop. As I work on a lot of paintings at one time I have time to reflect on when they may be finished as I don’t want them to seem overworked.
How could the art industry become better in your opinion?
In Britain at the moment the current government is obsessed with monetary figures as a way of accounting for something’s value. Although the arts do bring in a lot of money to the country’s economy, this shouldn’t be the only way to assess its importance. There needs to be a better way of valuing the arts, and that probably means taking the word industry out of it. It has to be valued in relation to how intrinsic art and culture are to us as human beings and how we use it to express ourselves and make meaning of the world around us. Something done by everyone and not an elite few, there needs to be more funding for artists and a greater understanding and comprehension of the importance of it.