Here are a few of the paintings I have been working on for my upcoming show at the Sarah Wiseman Gallery in Oxford. That starts on 16th October 2021
In a world of increasing information overload, I find the calm continuity of nature more and more compelling. The dance of light on water and through green leaves, provide sanctuary to the human spirit that goes deep into our subconscious, fulfilling a primal need to retreat to woods and river and cave. Trees are endlessly mesmerising. They shape the world around us in such a beautiful, ever changing way, creating restorative and immersive environments that support an intricate web of abundant life, while marking time with the turn of the seasons. The exuberant vibrant green of a wood in spring moves into the heavier, oxygen laden experience of the darker summer forest, the rustle and jink of falling leaves amongst a sea of yellow dots as autumn rolls round, and the endless fractal like detail created by a mass of twigs and branches against a winter sky, create a cycle of renewal that I find incredibly life affirming.
Walking and running through the local woods and surrounding countryside is where most of these paintings begin. Despite repeated returns to the same spots, the constant shift of light, weather, season and the endorphin fuelled state I find myself in, mean that different details capture my attention on virtually every trip.
I get excited by small moments of transient light and shade, or the discovery of a new path with a childlike wonder that I never seem to have lost.
Recording some of these moments on my phone, I often use the pano feature, which has a fascinating way of expanding time and space. This works best when moving though the intricate complexity of the woods while taking the photo, so that it’s no longer a frozen moment but an unfurling stretched and sometimes fragmented narrative. In this way, the images can take on an almost cubist, multifaceted quality which are both visually interesting and disorientating. I often accentuate this further by pushing the algorithms and colours of the photo, which can have the effect of fragmenting them even more. This digital ‘solarisation’ process can create startling colour combinations and almost jewel like artifices which hide in the minutiae of the noisy digital jungle.
These messed up images, combine with memory and imagination to provide the starting point for many of the larger paintings in the studio. In a process that is almost a mirror reverse of the photos, I start with an energy filled exuberant mess and gradually try to reveal the imagery and detail hidden within it. Happy accidents, mistakes and serendipity play a role and the painting often takes a divergent lurch away from the source material. Painting over completely different previous failed attempts can sometime provide surprisingly spontaneous juxtapositions, repurposing marks to create intriguing and ambiguous results. As the painting progresses, I often become preoccupied with a search for visual balance through colour and form – using rhythm and dots to push it one way then the other until a final mark can create the elusive state of equilibrium. Throughout all this protracted distillation, I still try to hold onto the initial energy of the first gestural marks made on a blank canvas, because I really want the paintings to imbue, and transmit, the shimmering life force of nature and the natural world that I love so much.