Can you tell me about your practice? How do you get started on a piece of work?
My practice in recent years has been influenced from my time working in an art shop, and collecting the tiny scraps of paper used by customers to test pens and pencils on. I first became interested in these scraps aesthetically – with the layered compositions made by multiple hands, and then conceptually as they riff on ideas of hierarchy within the art world, art history, and ideas of knowledge and value.
In my time working there I collected maybe 500+ scraps, so I’ve plenty to work with as a starting point. The process after that becomes much slower, in scanning, photographing, playing around with composition and colour, and then painting them.
The painting process is deliberately quite painstaking and detailed. I like the idea of really studying someone else’s mark, their hand and their way of making.
Who are your biggest influences?
I work in a way that is quite magpie-minded. I’ve got a huge list of bookmarks of artists on my laptop, and also an ever-growing folder of images and screenshots I take on my phone. It might just be something small that has interested me, but I’ll have a compulsion to document it and file it away. Whilst they are not direct influences, all these things tend to get lodged in my mind and drip filter down into my work, taking little bits of influence from here and there.
In general I guess I’m interested in artists who manage to fixate on and elevate the mundane and ordinary into something more beautiful. But to give some indication of the variety of work I’m into, just going through this folder of images, some artists work I’ve really enjoyed recently include: Corey Presha, Angelique Heidler, Joseph Yaeger, Rema Ghuloum, Zoë Carlon, Matthew Peers, Caleb Considine.
What role does chance play in how you gather images for works?
Chance is integral in my paintings made from the art shop papers, but it also provides the framework for the works as well. I was originally drawn to these bits of papers as some of them were so close to being finished paintings already, and didn’t need much interference to become a standalone work of art. Of course, people could also draw and doodle whatever they wanted, and I found that incredibly freeing to work with.
After that initial stage, the formal elements of playing around with colour, composition etc come into play, and once a layout is settled on, the process is much more tightly controlled. That being said, there is still time for alterations, changes of mind, and accidents that lead to something different.
How important is material in your work?
In my paintings, material plays an important role. The tension in the works comes through translating these thrown away scraps of ephemera into larger, time-consuming artworks. In a wider context, because I used to work in an art shop, and I am a painter who enjoys the mechanics of painting, I am naturally interested in materials and that side of things. How a paintings surface can be seductive or distancing. I’m interested in technique as well, I find it amazing to be able to look at a work and find little tropes and tell-tale signs of a particular artists hand.
At the same time these things are not necessary for me to enjoy artworks. The huge joy in art is that you can just pick up a bit of burnt wood, and sheet of paper and you’re away, and it feels great.
What is your most important tool? Is there something you can’t live without in your studio?
Over the years I have definitely fine-tuned the tools I work with, and there are so many that I have a real affinity for and use regularly.
Two recent discoveries have quickly become studio favourites and might be of interest for anyone who is a painter – Michael Harding’s Refined Walnut Oil is a game changer, and also Tesa 4333 Pink Masking Tape is king.
Can you give us a book recommendation that has been important in your practice? And tell us why it’s important.
When I was a teenager, my mum bought me Painting Today – a massive weighty survey book on painting. It’s not the most exciting choice, but I’ve still got it today, all battered and taped together as the spine’s gone and pages are falling out. Although now I’m not too interested in all of the artists in it, at the time it was the first book that opened my eyes to this huge world of artists and painters who were actually alive, creating exciting pieces, and definitely played a part in encouraging me to continue my interest in art.
Finally, is there anything new coming up that you would like to tell us about?
I co-run a gallery called Slugtown, and we are finally opening again in 2021 after understandable delays. We’re moving to a new space in Newcastle, and have a really exciting line up of exhibitions planned. It’s been a long time coming, but I can’t wait.
I’m working on a new body of paintings as well, so look out for them!
Crown, oil and acrylic on linen, 30 x 40cm, 2019
Untitled, oil, spray paint, gouache, epoxy, acrylic on canvas on board, 58 x 37cm, 2021
Untitled, oil on panel, 57 x 39cm, 2021
Ton, oil and two-part epoxy on canvas, 183 x 142cm, 2019
Untitled, oil and fruit stickers on panel, 57 x 32cm, 2021
Fox and the Moon, oil and acrylic on canvas (in three parts), 1843 x 142cm, 2019