Can you tell me about your practice? How do you get started on a piece of work?
My work tends to stem from an intuitive place. Often, there will be an image or a concept bouncing around my head, and I’ll need to find a way to get it down.
The source for that initial spark varies. Sometimes it could be a phrase I hear in passing, or read in a book. Other times, I’ll want to re-imagine a detail from a painting or a photograph. Sometimes, I want to get down the tone of a dream, or an emotional state, or even just record something purely aesthetic; the shadow on someone’s face, or the way water looks on skin.
Once I have an initial idea, I work through varying sketches, and then often find that I am missing important pieces of visual information. To fill in the blanks, I then turn to reference imagery; works from art history, screen shots from films, photographs I’ve taken.
The final image is usually a sort of patch-work or composite, encompassing elements from my own biography as well as outside sources. I like to play with the contrast and similarities between the personal and the universal.
Who or what are your biggest influences?
I constantly look back to art history. Goya was a first love, and I still always think about his honesty and directness when I work. I love icons for their preciousness, medieval paintings for their symbolism and alchemical drawings for their strangeness. Rembrandt for his light. Vuillard and all the Nabis for their dense, claustrophobic palettes. Co Westerik for his strange vision. I love John Singer Seargent’s watercolours. Henry Moore’s wartime drawings. Kathe
Kollwitz’s prints. Rodin’s plaster sculptures.
If I could steal a painting and keep it in my home it would probably be a Tapiés or a Twombly.
There are a lot of contemporary painters I really admire too; Mama Anderson, Andrew Cranston, Lynette Yiadom Boakye and Michel Borremans.
The psychoanalyst Carl Gustav Jung has also been hugely influential on my work and my way of seeing the world.
Your work is incredibly evocative and emotionally intense. Can you tell us a bit about this? What draws you to this in your practice?
I’m not sure whether the emotional intensity in my work has ever been an entirely conscious choice, but is rather a by-product of my general disposition. It’s what I’ve always been drawn to, both in art and life. It’s sometimes got me into trouble.
Saying that, though, lately I have been thinking a lot about the way religious ecstasy has been portrayed in art history, or the way that art was historically used to induce spiritual states; I’ve been drawing on those tropes in an attempt to induce parallel states in contemporary viewers.
Recently, a stranger on Zoom told me that she observed an intense desire to connect in my work. I think, ultimately, that’s what my imagery and its emotional intensity is about.
How important is the choice of material in relation to realizing the concept of your work?
Working in an instinctive, tactile medium – like pastels or paint – is integral to my work. And is ultimately the reason I personally want to make art. I really enjoy watching an image unfold in its unpredictable way, and the call-and-response pattern a painting or drawing demands.
It’s also amazing to not have to rely on technology or other people when I’m making something. I’m generally quite an extroverted person, and so having a private world I can return to is incredible.
I suppose, if everything goes well, it can sometimes be quite a meditative, peaceful state too; a flow state.
What is your most important tool? Is there something you can’t live without in your studio?
I’m obsessed with all my materials, and tend to become quite superstitious about exactly what I will use. But, ultimately, my two most important tools are my journal, which I write in every day, and my sketchbook, where I figure everything out.
Besides that, music. I’m not sure whether I’d even be capable of working without the right music. I’m a huge fan of a DJ on NTS radio called Perfect Sound Forever, who plays a lot of cosmic and psychedelic electronic music.
Can you give us a book recommendation that has been important in your practice? And tell us why it’s important.
Books have always been a huge source of inspiration for me. “On Longing” by Susan Stewart played a huge role in shaping my practice. Throughout the text, Stewart looks at the tropes of the miniature and the giant throughout cultural history, and reflects on, amongst many other things, nostalgia,
fantasy, exaggeration, scale and significance, interiority and exteriority, desire.
Whenever I’m stuck in the studio, I’ll often re-read one of Miranda July’s short stories. Her writing is painfully honest, bizarre, and sometimes really quite uncomfortable, but also incredibly tender. She picks up on so much of humanity’s weirder psychological quirks. I’ve always wanted to achieve with images what she achieves with words.
Recently, when on a residency in Almeria, Spain, I re-read Laurie Lee’s autobiographical work “As I Walked Out One Midsummer Morning”. Laurie Lee’s language is a painter’s wet dream. He can alter the way I see colour.
Finally, is there anything new coming up that you would like to tell us about?
It’s not been officially announced yet, but I’m very excited to be having my first solo show at The Sunday Painter in London this January.