Can you tell me about your practice? How do you get started on a piece of work?
I work on large scale canvases, historically in oils though I recently moved to exploring acrylic paints to reduce my use of solvents. I work instinctively - I never plan my paintings. It is always a journey for me to discover the image. I usually start with abstraction, placing colour and making marks to get the painting started - to have something to work with or to work against. I will build up a surface until an image begins to suggest itself and then I may draw it in. Sometimes it will stay sometimes it will get erased. I keep going until the painting settles into a composition that I am interested in, and then I will make slower and more nuanced decisions to resolve the work.
Who or what are your biggest influences?
I used to look a lot at art history, particularly Renaissance painting and also figurative artists like Rodin, and I would reference certain images or artists more directly in my work. Nowadays I don’t look at anything when I’m working in the studio, other than perhaps my own paintings. Of course I research artists all the time – I read a lot of biographies and go to a lot of shows, and everything gets absorbed in one way or another. I recently spent some time in Margate and when I came back to London the paintings I made looked like figures submerged in water, so I think seeing the sea every day had influenced me, but it didn’t come into the work until after I had left. So things like that happen, but it’s usually subconscious.
There is a beautiful tension between your desire for intimate engagement with the canvas, you can feel the physicality of your gestural stroke, but then your need to work through a process of erasing your mark making, can you talk a bit about this?
Thank you. Surface is really important to me. I want the work to reflect an emotional state as well as contain a sense of time passing, and this takes time to create. A lot of physical and emotional energy goes into it. The erasure is important because I want that sense of the painting having a history and an evolution, so that you can get a sense of the journey I’ve been on to discover the image and bring it out. The erasure means different things at different times. Sometimes it’s about shame, scrubbing out a mistake or something I don’t want seen. Other times it’s because the image is good but I feel the surface hasn’t been worked enough or doesn’t have the feel that I want, so things need to be sacrificed and painted over in order to move the painting on. It means that painting is endlessly engaging and interesting because I never really know what’s going to happen in the studio. When I finish a work I have this strange sensation of being deeply connected with it but also estranged from it - as if the painting is this separate thing that came into existence by itself.
How important is the choice of material in relation to realizing the concept of your work?
I am obsessed with paint, and my work is also about the materiality and the history of painting, so paint is pretty important! My process involves continually reworking and rethinking (or re-feeling) the image, so at a conceptual level I am using the paint in a way that makes that approach visible.
What is your most important tool? Is there something you can’t live without in your studio?
Big floppy paintbrushes, and also old stubby brushes for drawing. I never throw away brushes because as they wear out they often make better marks, and each one is unique.
Can you give us a book recommendation that has been important in your practice? And tell us why it’s important.
I have read Art & Instinct by Roy Oxlade many times. His ideas about painting and drawing as metaphor really shaped my thinking when I was at art school. Also Amy Sillman’s essays.
Finally, is there anything new coming up that you would like to tell us about?
I’m in a group show at JariLager Gallery in Cologne until 24th April and my solo show at Annka Kultys just closed. I have a couple of projects in the pipeline so keep an eye on my Instagram for more information about those!