Can you tell me about your practice? How do you get started on a piece of work?
I tend to work with groups of paintings which cluster around a vague idea. After a while, a new idea begins to occupy me, and a new group begins to emerge, partly in response to the previous group. I think the word is heuristic. Nothing is ever the ‘answer’. I look at white canvases for a long time, trying to figure out what to do and still being uncertain. In the end, I have to jump in.
Who are your biggest influences?
There are too many names to name. Like most painters I’ll take what I can from all the greats and not so greats. One can learn from and take from not very good art as well as good art. If something strikes me, I’ll remember it. It is also true that I am influenced by painting that is not ‘art’ – painted signs, scribbles, spills, and also painting that is used in a decorative context. Influences are so complex – it is not easy to track where ideas come from. Naïvely, we tend to assume they are our own.
Can you talk about the role that ornamentation plays in your practice?
Ornamentation and decoration have always been part of the world of painting. The question is to do with their status – whether these things are peripheral or central. In my view the elements of painting are not hierarchical and neither central nor peripheral. Ornament and decoration are an important part of the whole ‘vocabulary’. Furthermore, the element of pleasure that they suggest or embody, appeals to me.
How important is material in your work?
Painting is above all a material thing - marks with pigments on a surface. For me the pigments have a magical quality to them and to a large extent my painting is an exploration of how to celebrate these pigments’ qualities. Almost all painters are similar in this obsession with pigments and different kinds of surfaces and techniques. The potential beauty of the materiality of painting is surprisingly easily lost in a big mess of effort and good intentions.
What is your most important tool? Is there something you can’t live without in your studio?
A studio without a chair and without good light would be hard going. I love the light, and my indecision means I need a chair to sit in, in order to figure things out. Luckily I have both in my studio.
Can you give us a book recommendation that has been important in your practice? And tell us why it’s important.
I recently spent a lot of time reading the work of Hubert Damisch, a French art historian, philosopher and theorist. It was hard work! His grasp of the complexity of what painting is, was, and therefore, implicitly, might be, is extraordinary. The problem for me is that what I read with interest I forget with alacrity. Poor Hubert Damisch would find me a bad student.
Finally, is there anything new coming up that you would like to tell us about?
No, I don’t really work with ‘projects’ and I don’t project much into the future. The next thing is always small things in life and the next painting, and that always goes wrong. I’d like to be peaceful, if that is possible.
All images courtesy of Arcade: