1 What is/are the primary reason(s) for you to make work in the
The primary reason to make work was a nurturing through my parents activities with the Porthcawl and District Art Society’s Summer Exhibitions in the Esplanade Hotel during the 1960’s when the seaside town would host evening lectures from Artists and University Lecturers on colour, psychotherapy, composition, portraiture…Producing art became a method of functioning optimistically within or on the side of society and continues to be so. The existence or not of the coast/beach in my work is always a conscious decision, its push and pull continues to draw me both consciously and subconsciously as does the memory of Sundays which started with church followed by the merry-go-rounding sound and sweet smell of toffee apples, candy floss and pink coconut ice from the funfair that hovered on the back of every fine summer day of that childhood. Optimism and pessimism are close bed fellows at the coast where a good summer can bring so many pleasurable memories, while the sea obeys its own rules of nature taking lives and ripping ships on the rocks in winters storms and summers drag tides, but still the amusement arcades echoed their bingo calls across the town where the church bells merged to ease another day into the continual sunset upon sunset at Rest Bay. It is the ceremonial symbolism of the church where I carried the Incense and the drama of that Sublime constant of the coast merged with the kitsch memorabilia/souvenir of fun fair that still causes me to try and make a piece of work that tries to hold onto a fragment of those memories before they fade forever.
2 What do you intend your work to convey to an audience?
A resonance of place, not of my memories of place, that would be impossible, but of the viewers connected, fragmented equivalents. I hope to make images that resonate optimistically, with pangs of nostalgia and the reality of pain creating a yearning for a place ungraspable but still desired. A place not so much known - but felt, somewhere to stop for a moment and remember.
3 Why do you work in your chosen medium and format?
The work dictates itself, the large scale works have their place in the talk of murals and frescoes while the smaller intimate works are more to do with the ideas around medieval prayer votives or personal books of poems. More recently I have been merging materials and methods of rendering images using both traditional drawing and painting techniques and methods in the same work. This evolves mainly from ideas around Conglomerates that in geological terms are rocks constructed out of fragments of other rocks held in a medium such as clay. The researching of imagery and subject for painting brings so many methods and possibilities to the work, that to break down the multi faceted possibilities would be to deny the richness of experience and possibility to express this fascination with that seen and experienced by the viewer.
4 Technically speaking how do you go about constructing your work, that is the image or object itself? What devices do you employ?
Most of the imagery and composition is already rendered before approaching the canvas, paper or board in sketchbooks, where the ideas and research are taken from thoughts and words with pencil or pen onto the pages until they begin to resonate back to me. The paintings/drawings are then rendered in a traditional, historic manner using a process of drawing, masking and painting. The works are always reworked in some way through glazes or the adding or taking away of images until the required special atmosphere and balance is achieved.
5 Which period(s)/artists/specific works of art are you influenced by and how directly? How does this manifest in your work?
The Isenheim Altar Piece by Mathias Grunewald painted in the 1500’s is an obsession of mine, so much so that I am currently undertaking Doctoral Level Research at the Royal College of Art into it and its relationship to my work. I have also been influenced earlier on by the Island of the Dead paintings by Arnold Bocklin, the pathos and optimistic pessimism that surrounds the rocky outcrops haunts me back to the wintry coast of Wales and the feelings of loss and desire that remembering brings. The Grunewald also has this optimistic pessimism but his is infected by both the stench of Ergotiic disease and the sweet perfume of the erotic that has drifted from this altarpiece for half a millennium and continues to do so. The recently deceased Jorg Immendorf's paintings are a source of inspiration and guidance in the use of mixed language in my works, along with the attic paintings of Kiefer, both with their political narratives conveying a nostalgic reading that moves me beyond the individual wish of the artist into a collective reading of my own journey and reflections on society and that of a societal past and of course these artists bring us face to face with ourselves here and now.
6 What stimulates/informs your work from the world around you?
The landscape, especially the coast of Wales and the many journeys/pilgrimages my wife Debra and I have undertaken in Europe, researching and visiting the forests, the museums and galleries of Germany in an attempt to understand and learn from the evolution of Northern European art from pagan, through mystical enlightenment at sacred sites, churches, cathedrals and museums through to the stunning contemporary collections of art in the contemporary museums that owe their debt to this past. It is the every day ordinary stone on the ground and the now and then sublime experience of landscape that makes it all worthwhile. Of course books and movies are inspiring, but the journey with it possibilities of the unexpected experience and glimpses of the unknown are so stimulating, informing and enlightening.
7 What stimulates/informs your work from your own personal experience?
Is there a difference between the world around me and my personal experience? Surely my personal experience is within the world around me – they can’t be separated. We are it and it is us. Our inner thoughts and emotions are the result of all that is, be it temperature, image, dialogue, memory, thought, star gazing, eating, participating, abstaining. Injustice, I hate injustice, I see it and hate it so much. I see the crucifixion as an injustice, a symbol of human inhumanity. The points of wounding in my work are metaphors for that injustice that hopefully doesn’t dominate – but It present in society and therefore cannot be ignored or hidden away.
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?
This can be from anywhere, in a movie, a journal or on a journey something seen or read about will either trigger a memory, an image from the past that can be reused or a new image will become possible through its just being there at the right time. Being asked to make a painting of a pomegranate for a show having not painted one for years causes an indecision, but then suddenly the pomegranate becomes the holder of a whole new set of possibilities of picture making. Its symbolic depth is deepened as it becomes a more mainstream symbol relating to my interests at that moment, it becomes Grunewalds gnarled scabbed Christ with is wounded fruit echoing the wounds and the erotic found within the Isenheim Altar Piece. The pink of coconut ice becomes an eroticised kitsch memory of innocent indulgence, it’s too sweet, it’s too pink, it’s perfect, I use it in the paintings…a trip into the fog filled forest which counter acts the expected experience of the forest to bring new imagery and possibility to the work….sitting in the theatre watching the sets, the curtains, the stage and actors. The ceremonial and symbolism of the pope’s funeral.
9 What are the main problems that you face in making your work?
Just a niggling doubt that wonders and wanders around and around till the moment when the work starts then there is no problem to face, it just is.
10 Where do you intend to take your work from here?
It’s more where will it take me? It’s a question better asked of the work.