Here is a snapshot of some of the work to emerge from two terms of individual research and development. The process of putting together this ‘grab’ of the group’s output began with a rewrite of personal statements to reflect more precisely current methods and intentions. These texts were presented at a series of seminars where images were selected collectively to best document each artistic project.
I am curious about people, their mundane activities and interactions. It is the little, sometimes quiet emotions that fascinate me: the essence of what it is to be human. Paying attention to the significance of small details and gestures is how I try to capture the mood of my observations and experiences. Noticing these things without judging them – allowing them just to ‘be’.
My work also relates to the aura of places. Frequently I am struck by the way that low-key, often repetitive tasks seem to have the power to colour our surroundings, and leave an echo, even when we are no longer present. Attending to these subtle cues, trying to capture something of the atmosphere of a scene, I’d like my work to sensitise and draw attention to what normally goes unnoticed.
I take site photos and start with quick sketches, working them up into drawings and paintings which become increasingly elaborate as I respond to the memories triggered. This might lead me to change the composition, the light or colour value to give space to these
significant details. I am drawn to opposites, old next to new, still against moving, past colouring present or quiet as opposed to busy. I might draw and paint such scenes many times over, trying to both determine and capture the particular emotions evoked.
In many respects my work relates to the disconnect between natural cycles and the organisation of contemporary society. I take fairytales to be a bridge to a more ecologically balanced past. Throughout history near identical myths have been present in every society around the globe and I’m intrigued by
history near identical myths have been present in every society around the globe and I’m intrigued by the extent to which most relate to the beginning of female fertility, the sheer quantity of blood-red symbolism: Red Riding Hood, Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty etc. The strong cyclical element in these narratives (life/death, sun/moon) is also striking.
Initially I revisited the Ladybird books of my childhood. I also thought about the ‘Disneyfication’ of these narratives and tried creating a ‘negative’ palette working
with complementary opposites to disrupt the saccharin sweet overtones of these cartoons. When I began making paintings I wanted no visible brush-marks. To achieve this I added PVA which caused my paint to look quite edible. I enjoy this ‘eat me’ quality (perhaps like the cannibalistic witch’s gingerbread house in Hansel and Gretel) and its nod to instinctive desire.
More recently I have started to put together a collection of costumes to reenact my own interpretations of these myths.
I’m interested in the extent to which the imagery can be pulled out of shape and yet still be recognisable. I re-stage these archetypal stories using drawing, my photographs and collage, before taking them into paint. My aim is to create a critical mass of these retellings, one which will ultimately allude to the primacy of the lunar cycle.
My work is autobiographical and explores the relationship between appearances and the psychological undertow often lurking beneath images. Specifically I am interested in transgenerational trauma and female identity in the context of growing up in West Germany in the 1960/70s, being brought up by parents who had to experience the horrors of the second world war as children and living in London since the 1990s. Photography is a vital component in my work. My source images are selected from family albums, some actually taken by me as a child. I’m very conscious of them as physical artefacts (light reflected into the camera’s lens and captured in photographic emulsion)
and I see an equivalence here in the way I translate these images into the physicality of paint on a surface.
In the first instance, mirroring the camera’s neutral eye, I use tracing as a means of unfixing my sense of a photograph’s content and meaning, destabilising it to discover its latent truth for me now. My painting process is like watching a picture gradually emerge from the developer tray, always prone to unexpected
change. And thinking about the mechanics of photography has caused me to consider working with over and underexposure of light in the same painting, radical re-cropping of images and the elimination of detail. It’s also caused me to think about the psychological aspect of exposing and being exposed, covering and uncovering, and increasingly I reflect on issues around ownership, consent, privacy and appropriation as I make these edits to a shared familial history.
I have an affinity with trees that reaches back to my childhood. The forest seemed enchanted in the 1970’s. Walking in the woods today, I’m reminded that we have consequential presence. The constant tread of sanctioned hours of exercise along the newly widened paths in Epping Forest has left an unmistakable footprint.
I leave the main path to seek sanctuary …
I avoid other people but find myself on the lookout for evidence of human presence. The wigwams, lean-to’s and stick houses that have mushroomed here during lockdown draw me in.
What started as an exercise in structural analysis as autumn leaves fell has become a study of the slow dereliction of man-made structures set against the longevity of trees. Come winter I experiment with taking frottage prints, make a lino cut series of local stick houses and then thread them onto a selected stick for the purpose of display. Outdoors, I prop the threaded stick against a derelict stick house. I arrange a temporary display of autumnal tree portraits against slender birch trunks using sticks from the fallen heap.
My interest in collectable sticks ranging in size from small-enough-to-stow-in-a-pocket up to big-enough-to-use-for-walking dates back to when I first broke out of the print room & started making monoprints at home. During lockdown, experiments with serendipitous sculptural assemblages – inspired by Derek Jarman’s Modern Nature (1991) – have taken on a their own life in full view of another viral landscape.
My intention is to tread lightly, not to radically alter or disrupt the landscape with grand gestures. I found a beautiful tree ornament hanging from a sapling recently. As I reached up to claim my prize, I notice it’s home to many tiny insects, so I
place it carefully at the foot of the tree and I take a moment to regard it as dwelling place. I leave it resting there for another week, before taking it home with me.
My current research is focused on process, repetition and muscle memory. I’m interested in how the body’s movement becomes increasingly unconscious when asked to perform even unfamiliar tasks repeatedly. I’ve worked extensively with ‘blind’ drawing (observing my source image but never the paper I’m working on) which seems to hasten this this tendency.
During lockdown I struggled to find a way of working. Initially I tried to recreate my large-scale gestural works on a smaller scale. I found this difficult because I was unable to convey the same energy and expressiveness at this scale. I decided to shift the materials and space in which I was working to create tiny cubes or 3-dimensional drawings. These crafted objects have become a bit of an obsession and mimic the process of drawing I am used to.
I move between two and three-dimensional work. The activities involved in each are quite distinct which changes the influence exerted by muscle memory on the emerging work.
It gives me endless surprises and opportunities as observed data is fed into these different processes of making.
My work hints at an observed drawing or diagram without obviously depicting an image. I enjoy the intrigue this ambiguity creates but also how this allows the physical act of the drawing or making to come across. I see all aspects of my work as interconnected presentations of the same essential method and I am currently considering ways of grouping my objects and how my drawing, painting and 3-D output is presented together to accent this fact.
I am interested in developing a visual language through the repetition and evolution of mark-making, to act as a personal calligraphy without words. Experiences of being and sketching in woodland feeds the mark-making process, which continues to develop back in the studio and evolves into something more reflective, through physical distance from the origin and the perspective of memory.
A question that frequently recurs in my work is the role of subjectivity in our experience of the world and which aspects, if any, of our visual experiences are universally shared. Spending time quietly sketching in the woods makes me feel far more connected to, and moved by, my
environment, and I want to try to identify and express some of the less tangible experiences this has enabled through my visual language.
Last autumn I began to isolate and enlarge specific marks, taking them out of the format of a developed composition and elevating each individual mark to subject matter. In January I lost access to usable indoor space to make artwork and began to focus more on exploring and drawing outside in local woodland. This has resulted in a sketchbook journal
of experiences of escaping lockdown, claustrophobia and over-thinking to roam through beautiful, unpopulated, natural spaces. I plan to begin to develop these experiences within a studio setting again soon, continuing the exploration of mark-making and visual language.
Edges, borders and liminal areas are the focus of my painting practice.
Initially my work responded to external visual stimuli, like fleeting images glimpsed from planes, those enjoyed on a walk along the seashore or examined in a rock or crystal. More recently, by experimenting with collages made of post-it notes as an impetus for painting, I realised that the point of departure itself is of little consequence.
Central to my practice is how painting functions as a process. Layer after layer of acrylic, often in neon-bright colours, interact with the later applications of thin oil glaze, predominantly in darker tones. Each is rubbed back vigorously, but still leaves its impression across the textured surface. A push / pull between the elements of the surface evolves. Rather than conveying a particular narrative or meaning, I’m driven by the focus on these formal aspects. Paper, mainly unprimed, remains my
preferred support because its ungiving surface can itself become an actor in the creation of the image as parts are scuffed or rubbed away and then react differently to the paint.
What’s happening at the margins is critical, where the painting reveals the story of its making. These framing passages of white at the limit of each work create a silence magnifying the intensity of the paint applications. I enjoy the resulting ‘off-centred’ quality, the way it pushes the viewer’s eye from the edges towards the centre and back again.
Drawing is the mainstay of my art practice. I use it to diary my experience, to capture the intensity and urgency of my inner world. I’ve been working mainly with charcoal and pastel to relate, in a quite unmediated way, memories, reflections and associations as they surface in a kind of stream of consciousness image-making.
It’s been a very difficult year, made much worst by the pandemic and a constant sense of being disconnected, and some imagery is disconcerting. My thoughts often loop, which leads to a repetitions of mark-making within a single drawing. This has emphasised gesture and surface quality, to an extent veiling the original narrative and imagery. It’s a bit like saying the same word over and over again, the way its meaning becomes lost in the pure, abstract sound uttered.
When thoughts don’t lend themselves immediately to image-making, I write them into my drawings. But I have no
desire for my work to be confessional and I mostly obscure or eliminate the words by scribbling over or smudging them. Sometimes they appear backwards and sometimes as fragments. Becoming increasingly illegible there is a sense that the specifics I’m responding to are being made to ‘unhappen’ leaving only the brut energy released.
To a degree these drawings are about transitioning from one state of being to another. The past cannot be changed or eliminated (its blunted imprint remains held within each image) but the marks being made on top bring new life and possibility.
This body of work, created at home during the successive lockdowns, represents a journey of exploration into processes and materials mainly focused on domestic settings. Making in situ, I notice small differences between what I think I know about my surroundings and what emerges after a period of contemplation.
In this series I work predominantly with printing and casting, often taken directly from the objects around me. I’m excited by the once-removed quality this creates, the way that very familiar things are made unfamiliar. Working with these prints and fragments, I try to assemble them in abstract compositions in ways that make sense in relation to their visual logic.
Over the last months I have sought out ‘home friendly’ methods and materials which has opened up new paths in my practice, moving me into a more three-dimensional space. Going forwards I’d like to continue the exploration of my surroundings, gathering traces of the objects in that space, studying the intimate relationship between the place and its occupants. I’d like my work to inspire a reappraisal of everyday experience, to show that how you look at something is as important as what you are looking at.
My paintings grow from personal experience and making them allows me to test and determine more fully my relationship with everyday life. I’m interested in the way that personal and domestic spaces can be overlaid with shadows and ambiguities, the way painting has the potential to take my familiar and make it feel almost uncanny.
During this year of lockdowns I’ve been working increasingly from memory. I continue to use the immersive act of painting to ‘feel’ my way towards something, but rather than responding to a stable image I allow the vagaries of recollection free reign to distort the structure of each painting. To what
extent my recent work remains representational is an open question. I allow personal imagery to gather on the surface of each painting, stacked almost, which moves it to the edge of figuration. Increasingly I can feel my paintings are becoming almost confessional.
June has arrived,
With bloom and birdsong;
We sit outside ‘The Traveller’s Rest’,
As the little brown nightingale sings his best,
While the thrush and birds of the bush,
Sing louder around.
I heard a dispute between two views,
One positive, one negative,
Between a couple of birds;
One praised them for their courtesy,
The other tried to bring them down by force;
You can hear that argument.”
The results are in,
And I count the numbers that make them sing.
One is the nightingale,
Who wanted to protect them from shame;
Two is the thrush who constantly attacked them;
He said they are all demons.
I swing the camera round,
Travel down the lanes I cannot name,
And gaze upon this blessed plot;
A sense of majesty and beauty and repose,
Blended holiness of earth and sky,
While the birds sing sweetly.
My work evolved from a lesson in weaving. We used recycled materials and French-knitted on large hoops around each other. The textures and colours, the physical act of making, combined with the repetitive rhythmical method, gave me a feeling of calm and unity. I began to see all things as a potential loom, from high rise buildings to fences and nets.
Like weaving, the process of making paintings and prints is very important to me. The discipline of setting out materials and working though tasks methodically is like a meditative practice. This creates a sense of order in a disordered environment.
The grids I create in my work are like the warps and weft of the loom. There is a rhythm to grids which is stable and unchanging. This provides structure and support to my pictures, in the same way grids seem to underpin the blueprint of in everything, from maps and building plans to dressmaking patterns
I feel we are mutually dependent on one another as we weave together our human connections in life. Working with masks and stencils relates to woven surfaces but also shows more of what lies beneath, alluding perhaps to these relationships and how we do or don’t reveal ourselves.
There is an inherent beauty and efficiency in the design of the body. This I find mirrored in the efficient construction and design of industrial objects and architecture. I’m interested in the depth given to these constructions by the collective human activity that informs their scale, making and use.
I am influenced by my upbringing in the working port of Derry and my work (as a
lawyer) on industrial projects in India (the construction of power plants, dams, the Delhi underground, factories for steel, telecommunications and the like). I also think my experience in sport has shaped my thinking, with its emphasis on efficiency, technique and teamwork.
My project involves drawing, photography and clay in response to the human form and industrial vernacular architecture. The common
thread relates to structure and purpose, the aesthetic beauty that arises from functionality. My work to date has been like a fact-finding mission where I have tested visually what I’m instinctively drawn to. I am starting to consider ways to consolidate and focus this research. One aspect I’m interested in is what abandoned working buildings tell us about community and culture.
My work relates to memory and space, the way in which we psychologically inhabit places, whether real, imagined or remembered. I begin by making roughly hewn cardboard models without particular
intent, adding to them as I go along. They grow both physically and in my mind: an extra room, markings on walls, structural changes to let light in. As I video, sketch and paint them, a series of believable places
seem to emerge. This raises questions for me about materiality and fiction: these models are obviously real, but rather than the rough-cut pieces of cardboard they so clearly are I respond to them as life-sized spaces.
Working in this way initiates echoes of recognition. I realise that the resonance of previously experienced places shapes how my work is seen, the way the artifice of my models (both constructed and painted) has
the potential to reawaken embedded memories. I’m interested in how these are projected onto my work.
Recently I’ve been taking more Covid-safe night walks. On one such walk I found myself captivated and confused by my response to the shop window and its multiple reflections. In its ambiguity I recognised much of the theatrical quality as my studio constructions. It seemed both real and unreal. This apparent contradiction, where the ‘real’ world functions like a stage set, has become my current focus.
I am exploring what it means to be mixed-race through my eyes, my experience, my history. Over one million people living in the UK are mixed race, by investigating my personal experience I also hope to uncover some universal truths.
At a time when it is dawning on our nation, slowly, in indigestible nuggets, that oppression and human rights
violations can be found very readily by those prepared to peer under the Axminsters of just one or two centuries of recent British History, what am I to make of the ‘half–cast’ me? Half oppressor, half oppressed? Post, post–colonial?
Brown at first sight, my reality is that of the ‘other’, the outsider. However, there are other worlds where crossbreeding does not have the negative connotations that miscegenation has. One of these is the World Of Roses. In this parallel universe breeding exotic hybrids is a highly valued skill.
The best known of these breeders, David Austin, named his first hybrid English Rose
after Constance Spry. She had arranged the flowers for the coronation in Westminster Abbey, and also created that curry flavoured dish, Coronation Chicken. David Austin’s English Roses have all been created in my lifetime.
I’m not at all sure where my exploration of English Roses will take me. Desdemona, Sceptre’d Isle, Lark Ascending, John Betjeman and William & Catherine are in my crosshairs. Fragrances, lusciousness, rosebuds and possibly hubris beckon. I’m looking forward to some fun and who knows, a possible epiphany to share with mixers and shakers along the way.