1 What is/are the primary reason(s) for you to make work in the first
It’s a bit of a cliché answer, but the simple answer is that I can’t really do anything else. I came to art late, around my mid-twenties, and before that worked as a graphic designer and as a picture framer. At that stage I was interested in art but never thought of it as a career. I didn’t feel that I had any real direction in life, and was disillusioned with everything I did. It wasn’t until I decided to do an art degree that everything changed, and I realised that that was what I had been unconsciously aiming for all the time.
2 What do you intend your work to convey to an audience?
I want my work to have an ambiguous familiarity to them – to draw people in because they may see something in the work that makes them feel both at home with it and at the same time a little perplexed, or maybe even a little un-nerved.
3 Why do you work in your chosen medium and format?
I work in oil on canvas quite simply because I know it well. I know how it works and how to get the effects I want out of it. Also, although working in unfamiliar mediums can sometimes yield new and surprising results, for the time being I am more concerned with the subjective element in my work, and less so in the experimental effects that can be achieved though different forms of application.
4 Technically speaking how do you go about constructing your work, that is the image or object itself? What devices do you employ?
My paintings are derived initially from small-scale collages that are made from different found, or personally photographed images. The majority of these images come from anachronistic sources, such as daguerreotypes or old magazines, from the ‘40’s, ‘50’s or whenever. Almost always the heads are substituted, but often situations change in that the whole make up of the images are constructed out of incongruous elements that do not entirely fit with each other. For example, a photograph of a laughing child can be combined with an opposing image conveying the opposite emotion to produce a subtle, but unsettling effect. These small-scale collages are then squared-up in the old fashioned method to much larger-scale paintings on canvas.
5 Which period(s)/artists/specific works of art are you influenced by and how directly? How does this manifest in your work?
I have a great deal of artistic influences, but none of them are very specific to my own work in terms of appearance. For example, I am very fond of early 19th Century French painting, such as that by Géricault, Gros, David, Ingres, and Delacroix for example. In particular the large-scale paintings by these artists that are on display at the Louvre, such as Gericaults ‘Raft of the Medusa’, Delacroix’s ‘Death of Sardanapalus’, David’s ‘Rape of the Sabine Women’, and others. A list of more recent artists that have meant a lot to me would include the likes of Willem de Kooning, Cy Twombly, Bruce Nauman, Sigmar Polke, Gerhard Richter, Sean Landers and Neo Rauch, among others. However, comparisons have been made between my work and artists such as John Currin and Michael Borremans. This is not in fact due to direct influence, but rather, I think down to a tendency to look back on bygone eras, which I am certainly subject to. To my mind though, this is the only similarity that we share, and all develop from this starting point in entirely different directions.
6 What stimulates/informs your work from the world around you?
We live in a world of images, and it’s hard not to be influenced by them, being constantly bombarded with them from the moment we get up until the moment we go to sleep. A large part of these images contain the human figure, which comes as no surprise given that we spend all our lives interacting with other people. My work, as with many other visual artists responds to these two subjects in an instinctive way, not by consciously commenting on ‘images’ and ‘the human figure’, but by using the language that is familiar to us all in order to visualise a more personal understanding of what it is to be a human being in the world today.
7 What stimulates/informs your work from your own personal experience?
I have a tendency to want to record things that happen in my life, which may explain the desire for me to become an artist in the first place. Each painting I do can be seen as a diary entry for the person I was at that time. But I am also interested in history, and the past in general. This may explain my fascination with images, and particularly old images. There is something about a photographic portrait from say, 1850 that has an effect that you don’t get from a painted portrait of the same time. With the painting, what one sees is simply a representation, but the photograph captures something of the reality of that particular person and that particular time. This is not to denigrate the painting in any way, since paintings can also capture something of the reality of the sitter (think of certain portraits by Rembrandt, for example). But it’s a different kind of reality; one that I find stimulates me and spurs me on to want to produce work that captures something of this. It may be that in a painting this is impossible, but that doesn’t matter, since it is a starting point for me to explore such interests in the field of painting.
8 From where do you derive your other visual source material (i.e. non art historical) and how do you implement this material within your work?
See answer to question 4.
9 What are the main problems that you face in making your work?
Over the years that I have been painting, I have found that the more informed I am about what I want to achieve in a painting, the less successful the painting is. That is not to say that I am not informed about my work in general, but that I have to rely on instinct in order to create a successful painting. This means that at the time of painting I am often left in the dark about what it is that I am trying to do; only realizing the fact after the work is finished. But this also means that I can have no real formula in making work, and often go down a wrong path that yields only bad paintings, which have to be destroyed. But this is simply a learning process, which most artists go through, I think. In fact, I should probably be more worried if I didn’t struggle sometimes. The struggle, and the anxiety that this creates is probably one of the main ingredients that make the best work successful.
10 Where do you intend to take your work from here?
Although continuing with using the human figure as my main subject, I would like to branch out into other areas of representation that I have hardly touched on in my career as an artist, such as landscape painting and non-figurative objects. I certainly wouldn’t want to do this in a conventional, old-fashioned way, and have yet do devise many possibilities in this field that I am satisfied with. But it is always good to keep an eye on other options, so that when an idea comes to me, I am prepared and full of enthusiasm for the new possibilities that a different angle may propose.