Can you tell me about your practice?
My practice is fundamentally rooted in painting. However, I shift between mediums, blurring the edges between disciplines. I combine painting with sculpture and the made with the ready-made. Carefully selected objects such as discarded scrap metal, Formica table tops, headboards and dusty panels have previously been presented as paintings. Some works have become installations or sculptural pieces but all have an acknowledgement or ‘nod’ towards Painting. In addition to the found object I have also introduced found images to my work to create alternative collage pieces, these images have predominantly been sourced from vintage National Geographic magazines. Lockdown has seen me reflect closer upon these found images and, as a result, a return to painting on canvas and aluminium to create a new body of work.
How do you get started on a piece of work?
Discovering the medium I wish to use next is critical in how I get started on a piece of work or series of works. So, time spent outside of my studio is part of my creative practice. Sourcing and finding materials from a range of different places; house clearances, junk shops, hardware stores or scavenged from scrap yards will see me accumulate and surround myself with different materials, all with the potential to be a ‘painting’. Investing time with these materials – moving, composing, testing and seeing what the material can and can’t do. Things will come and go or be put away. There will be a period of editing and tweaking arrangements in a similar way to composing a painting.
My recent series of paintings are informed by my archive of images. Sifting and filtering the images with some jumping out to be painted, while others are more of a ‘slow burn’.
Who are your biggest influences?
At the moment I’m making paintings and so my biggest influences are painters. Like many artists there are the ‘legends’, the artists who have been ever present since my formative years of studying art and art history at school – Rembrandt, Goya, Velasquez, Manet, Cezanne, Braque, Picasso, Matisse, de Kooning.
There are also certain paintings that I return to – Matisse’s Piano Lesson, Rembrandt's Bather, Bonnard’s The Boxer (Self Portrait), Mondrian’s Tree’s , all of Philip Guston’s late work. I’ve always loved Nicolas de Stael’s work since seeing an amazing show in my first year at university. Diebenkorn definitely, Vuillard, Rauschenberg, Ellsworth Kelly, Donald Judd, Raoul de Keser, Cy Twombly, Mary Heilman and also on my radar are Hurvin Anderson, Fergus Feehily, Lois Dodd, John Armleder and Jennifer Packer.
Can you talk about the role that the found imagery plays in your practice?
I first used a found image in my practice in 2012 with a work called Still Life (Chrysanthemum). The image had been on my studio wall for several years (a little bleached from sunlight) but I used it to complete the assemblage. It just worked. Since then, the use of found images has seen me use them as part of plasterboard works, installations with examination desks, collages on copper and Perspex and more recently as references for my latest paintings. I have exclusively been using National Geographic magazines, in particular copies from the 1950s, 60s and 70s. For me, there is a strong nostalgic pull towards this era of the 20th century, a slow passing of time, when the world was a smaller place and magazines like National Geographic were windows into far-away places. There’s an aesthetic appeal too, the saturated colour and other print qualities, the reportage of the subjects and the documentation of each subject, whether it is a museum collection or the unusual viewpoint used to capture a subject.
How important is material in your work?
Material is extremely important. The shift away from using oil paint on MDF and aluminium around 2008 saw me embrace the possibility of using a wider range of materials to inform my practice, but always considering the painterly qualities of that material. It could be the structure of sterling board, a faded Formica pattern or the tone of a green baized card table. Seeking out and replacing paint with another material became a key element in my work when thinking about painting in the expanded field.
What is your most important tool? Is there something you can’t live without in your studio?
Working across different practices, the tools and materials I use to create work are extensive. I became a little obsessed with builder’s caulk, coloured masking tape and the different shades of plasterboard a few years ago. There are certain oil colours (lemon yellow, rose madder, phthalo turquoise) that I love. I couldn’t live without my studio. Having somewhere I can step into, shut the door and have the space to make, experiment, think and fail is vital.
Can you give us a book recommendation that has been important in your practice? And tell us why it’s important.
The short story Gillette or The Unknown Masterpiece by Balzac is a favourite. I discovered it at university and it has stayed with me for years, there is something magical about it. The main character, Frenhofer, the reclusive old master has been brilliantly imagined by Balzac, whose own circle of creative acquaintances inspired a complex and flawed character. What is all the more remarkable about the story is the way in which Balzac foreshadowed the work of Picasso, Giacometti and de Kooning years after it was written in 1831. I’d recommend reading it.
Finally, is there anything new coming up that you would like to tell us?
Having time in my studio feels like the most important thing for me to be doing at the moment. What is ‘new’, will be my next series of paintings. Working through ideas, testing, failing…a little like Balzac’s Frenhofer! Workplace Foundation are launching a new Gallery space in Newcastle (keep your eyes peeled) and I will be exhibiting as part of their opening group show….which feels exciting as we come out of lockdown. Also, on my ‘to do list’ is an update and relaunch of my website to get these new works out there. Another side project is to seek funding for a publication of my card tables Below The Line.
Image order - All images courtesy of the artist:
Lagoon, 2020, Oil on Canvas, 152cm x 152cm
In The Dance Of The Skeletons #39 , 2019, Collage on Perspex , 21cm x 16.5cm
In The Dance Of The Skeletons #7 , 2019, Found Image on Copper, 21cm x 16.5cm
The Rowers (If There Is Hell Below, We’re All Gonna Go), 2021, 2 x 121cm x 182cm, Oil on Canvas
Untitled (Chrysanthemum), 2012, Plywood, Melamine, Powder Coated Steel, Found Image, Pins, 90cm x 122cm, The New Art Gallery Walsall Collection
Untitled (Fargo), 2021, Oil on Canvas, 152cm x 152cm
Warrior, 2015, Plasterboard, mastic, found image, 63cm x 63cm x 5cm