Can you tell me about your practice? How do you get started on a piece of work?
When embarking upon the making of new works I prepare a number of same sized canvases which relate to one another and hold similar intentions and a system of criteria. They begin with calm and order but often collapse into extreme uncertainty before I bring them back into their completed state. Ideas and intentions for new works emerge from the previous works. I make decisions on colour and materials but, it is time and process which determines the outcome. I do not wish to know in advance the final outcome of the work.
I do not research outside of my practice for specific inspiration as the work is very much about itself and its construction. I believe that everything I observe in the outside world comes into the work indirectly. My intention is for the painting to be about its making and the surface, not about external worldly matters or illusionary space created through line and depth of field. However, I have discovered that any mark will of course create a degree of depth and the human eye looks for meaning in even the most abstracted and non-representational of paintings. So, this results in a process of considered elimination until a minimal amount of detail remains. Layers of oil may often form a shutter or screen to block a sense of depth. I have a constant battle to prevent being seduced by the detail of mark making and then I often think I must reduce the detail even more. The works hang as a suggestion of a painting as I add and remove paint and textile until the works find their own internal logic, their own truth and resting place. I’m curious to explore how much paint is really required for painting to become a painting. Recently, I have observed gestural marks becoming more prominent and though I have fought against this in the past I am now curious to see how this develops my constructions.
I make numerous drawings and oils on paper, which will often inform the larger works on canvas, however each painting on canvas is initiated afresh. I approach them as separate aspects of my practice and I do not enjoy overlapping this process.
Who are your biggest influences?
When I first discovered Robert Ryman’s work I was shocked with the simplicity of his thinking. Realism was not a photographic representation of a scene or object in paint: that is illusion. He claimed he is not abstracting from anything, his works are about painting and about paint. This notion provided a lot of freedom in my own approach to painting. My own work is nothing like Ryman’s but it was the thinking behind his practice which influenced my own path forward.
Julia Rommel, is another contemporary artist, working in NY, whose work has greatly inspired me. Her process of deconstruction and reconstruction highlights the mechanics of painting. She has a fascinating methodology.
Inspiration from other artists is continuous, especially with our constant use of tablets and Instagram. At times I must pull back and let myself look deeper into my work, so not to become too sidetracked from what it is I am trying to achieve.
How important is the process of construction within a painting?
Construction is at the centre of my practice and thinking when embarking upon a new work. I emphasis construction, not merely through the painting of the painting, but through assemblage of textile, and a process of folding, stitching, tearing and building up an additional skin. This results in the works appearing quite bodily. I intend to leave evident my decision-making during construction, deconstruction and reconstruction, exposing the mechanics of painting. I utilise the surface as a site to activate upon; a tableaux, allowing incidents to occur, resulting in the surface becoming a landscape of decisions upon which I navigate. I enable difference and contrast to sit side by side, as if a duality of forces are at play. This duality is often presented within the boundaries of a vertical division. Oscillating between excess and restraint, hesitancy and assertion, privacy and disclosure, I intend for the works to be about themselves and of themselves. With an emphasis on the periphery and supporting sides, the paintings expose weaknesses, salvage and repair as the structure is wrapped and bandaged
How important is material in your work?
Material, and colour, are the most important elements in my work. I have a background in fashion design and working with textile which has greatly influenced my practice. I find every stage in the construction of one of my paintings hugely pleasurable and integral to the completion of the work; from sizing the substrate to the stretching of a painting onto stretcher bars. The process I mentioned about folding and stitching into the substrate calls on previous skills and times. I was naturally drawn to using such methods, but it was never a conscious decision to incorporate these skills into my current practice. It was not until a fellow artist commented on how comfortable I looked when handling the various canvases, and textiles that I realised the extent of these past influences on my current work. Excitement remains when sourcing various materials and this enthusiasm is one the driving forces behind my practice.
What is your most important tool? Is there something you can’t live without in your studio?
If I am to choose one tool that is utilised more than any other, I would say it is one particular palette knife. I use it for mixing the paint, applying the paint and at times removing the paint. It is the perfect size and form, and I although I have tried to find a duplicate as a safety measure in case anything ever happens, I cannot find a replacement. But, I actively choose large brushes, rollers, squeegees and palette knives to prevent being distracted by small detail.
Can you give us a book recommendation that has been important in your practice? And tell us why it’s important.
There are so many, many books which have been hugely inspiring and informative, but if I was to choose two I would recommend Isabelle Graw’s chapters in, ‘Thinking through Painting, Reflexivity and Agency beyond the Canvas’. She discusses the focus on painting’s indexicality and agency. The bond that we encounter between the product and the (absent) person of its maker.
Secondly, ‘In Praise of Painting’ by Ian McKeever. This small book I have referred to on so many occasions. Opening it to any random page will provide a nugget of painterly wisdom.
Finally, is there anything new coming up that you would like to tell us about?
I have been represented by a gallery since my BA at Central St Martins 8 years ago, but the gallery has recently closed. This has presented an unexpected opportunity which I decided to embrace, to reconsider how I position my practice and secure opportunities. Excitingly, several art consultants and advisors are now presenting my work to private collectors in the UK and the US, making this an interesting time for me.
Last year was frustrating in terms of exhibitions, with two being closed within 3 days of opening due to lockdowns. It will be a great feeling to have our plans and intentions stabilized and our freedom of movement back, and I look forward to exhibiting in a more public setting again. I am now focused on building a new body of work and using this time to reflect, consolidate and develop new ideas.
I've decided to be part of Dorset Art Weeks (DAW), a two week open studio and gallery art fair in Dorset that opens later this May. I spent almost the entire lockdown periods in Dorset and consequently my Dorset studio has become equally as important as my London studio. I look forward to engaging with other artists in the area.
Image credit to the artist
"Duality 2_, 2020", oil and scrim on canvas, 140 x 70 cm
"Duality 2", 2020, oil on linen, 140 x 70 cm
"Duality 1", 2020, oil and scrim on canvas, 110 x 140 cm
"Slippage 12", 2021, oil on canvas, 85 x 85 cm.
"Slippage 11", 2021, oil on canvas, 85 x 85 cm.