Can you tell me about your practice? How do you get started on a piece of work?
Fundamentally I am dedicated to exploring 'Painting' in its widest sense with a strong commitment to keeping it alive and relevant today. This obsession often leads me into unknown territory where I feel I’m working in the dark and relying on my intuition to look for clues on what steps to take next. Conceptually I am concerned with bringing a new 'form into being' that’s never existed before, and I predominantly use ‘paint’ as a material to explore this idea. I’m after a kind of ‘pure’ painting- free from size and surface restrictions that pushes away from the pseudo and any pictorial illusionism that a lot of contemporary painting still gets caught up in. This has led me to discard traditional paint supports like canvas and make my own instead by building up layers of paint onto polythene sheets that are dried out and peeled off to create an acrylic paint ‘skin’ that I either use as a core material to manipulate into a three-dimensional form or to use as a surface that houses my geometric or monochrome compositions.
Who or what are your biggest influences?
Influences and inspirations become relevant and important to me -mainly when I’m trying to solve specific problems in my practice or need a sense of connectivity in my studio. I find myself returning to the pivotal artists of 20th century abstraction- particularly the non-objective works of Kazimir Malevich, Piet Mondrian, Theo van Doesburg, Frank Stella, Robert Ryman, Richard Serra and Anne Truitt who all sought a factual 'realness' in their work - independent of any referential crutch.
I have become increasingly fascinated by esoteric, theosophical, and spiritual concerns in art -particularly in early modernism which I feel has been overlooked in favour of its more formal attributes. This fascination has led me to Yves Klein and his ideas around The Void, Agnes Martin - who explored beauty through ‘Inspiration’, Mark Rothko and his ideas around the Sublime, Josef Albers and his ‘Homage to the Square’ series and Hilma af Klint and her relationship with The Spiritual. The Californian Light and Space artists Mary Corse, Robert Irwin, Larry Bell and Joseph Turrell are also major influences on my practice and I love some of the works of the next generation of this movement in- particularly Olafur Eliasson and Anne Veronica Janssens’ large scale installations.
Can you talk about how the materiality of paint blurs the boundaries of your practice between painting and sculpture?
When I’m applying wet paint with a brush to polythene sheets, I think what I’m doing can be classed as ‘painting’ in the traditional sense, but once the layers of paint are built up, dried out and peeled off the polythene it becomes a robust, versatile paint sheet or ‘skin' that is capable of being crafted into a three-dimensional form. This hardened plasticised sheet is where I initially see sculptural elements seep into my practice.
I use a painter’s tools and materials to make the skins and I believe I have a painter’s sensibility, but this sensibility is stretched into something else when I fold, bend, and crease the skins whilst using weight, gravity, tension, and touch etc to direct the pieces - taking the work further into the sculptural realm. Furthermore, the paintings often protrude from the wall or escape into the surrounding gallery space, which transforms the viewer from a passive spectator into a sentient participant through an active engagement with my three-dimensional paintings. This is akin to a experiencing a sculpture displayed in space, yet, despite these crossovers- I still believe what I’m doing is very firmly grounded in the ‘Painting’ genre.
How important is the choice of material in relation to realizing the concept of your work?
Materials and their uses are at the core of my work -particularly the substance of paint which can take on many guises and gives physical form to my ideas. Whether I’m exploring the sensual and tactile qualities of this versatile medium or dissolving the forms I’ve created with globs of paint or with non-tangible materials like light- material investigations are at the very heart of my process.
Using paint as a material to signal bodily or corporeal sensations or using paint as a building material to make large paint walls for a piece of paint architecture that you can literally walk into has been some of the ways I wish to show the importance and relevance of paint as a material today.
My ongoing ‘Red Heart’ series were intended to be given as gifts to embrace in the hands of loved ones who can’t be with us - especially in covid times. I felt virtual reality was never quite enough and was served as inadequate substitute for a real or haptic experience that I believe is at the very core of being human.
What is your most important tool? Is there something you can’t live without in your studio?
I’d say paint brushes are the most important tool to me in the studio. I see the brush as an extension of my body that allows sensual repetitive actions to take place. I like to keep the brush marks visible overall and evidence the tools I’ve used and the moment the marks took place. I use a huge variety of brushes including large house brushes that I often extend with a brush shank to enable a longer reach when necessary. I use a selection of small soft nylon or sable brushes to make my geometric works and slightly knackered old brushes to create a kind of ham-fisted visible mark in some of my sculptural tactile works.
Overall, I see the brush as an essential studio tool that bridges that important gap between myself and the surface I’m applying paint to.
Can you give us a book recommendation that has been important in your practice? And tell us why it’s important.
Finally, is there anything new coming up that you would like to tell us about?