I have been studying at the Royal College of Art since October, and this painting was the last to be made in 2016.
The painting began with a few drawings I made whilst unwell at home in bed. The drawings were made with an effort towards breaking down rules I had set in my practice over the last three years, to allow the work to grow without as much restriction. My previous paintings had become a bit one-dimensional and reliant upon singular methods to foreground incidents that might complete a painting, or searching for accents or nuances that bring the painting together. Ultimately the aim now is to set up a more complex pictorial relationship in the paintings through introducing other painting and pictorial registers.
The drawings naturally necessitated precision and slowed things down. At first I was not aware but after finishing a few drawings I had in my mind the possibility of translating them into paint. I was intent on discovering what might happen if I was to give all the elements of the image detail, and if each component of the image could be just as interesting as each other. I was also drawn to the opportunity of playing with illusion and ways of creating space in an image.
Alongside the drawings I have photographs and found images that I am drawn to that lay around the studio that can act as stimulus, a point of departure, reference point or as a prompt/reminder of the things that excite me. These images sprout anywhere from biological journals to photographs of graffiti removal.
Having been kept out of the studio for quite a while, I approached the painting with lots of energy. This was the largest canvas I had ever worked upon and was eager to wrestle with that challenge. I began with a rough outline in charcoal directed by a drawing or two then went straight into the painting with washes of colour and built it from there.
Cadmium Yellow was first and created a soft skeleton that might have echoed eye floaters or algae on which to work into and on top of, and then out of this I began to describe suggested forms with washes of nuanced reds, browns and greens.
I remembered profound childhood hallucinations, became particularly nostalgic, remembered certain parts of conversations with painters, Rose Wylie’s Stealth Bomber, plant growths in slow motion, Guston’s legs and feet, cell behavior, eye movements, relationships. Instinctive marks met descriptive strokes and heavily worked areas found life next to sharp lines from the tube. Organic qualities in the washes of paint were preserved where needed and cast aside in the hope of new territory and depth. Frank Auerbach came to mind destroying all that’s nice about an image, and Terry Winters visualization systems, the painting changed rotation frequently as forms displaced one another, paint dripped and splattered.
I then began to feel familiar and eventually became restless; the painting was far too instinctive and known, a warning sign to walk away. I take a walk out of the studio and lunch comes in the form of a baguette from the local cabbie hut. Walking always seems to give me perspective and allows free thought, perhaps keeping the right side occupied so the left side of the brain can think a bit more clearly. Once the painting has begun I find it hard to stay still for very long, and whether it’s walking outside or around the studio I am nearly always on the move, even when I’m looking.
Back to the studio and I sensed that something could be close, I felt exhilarated but that I had been controlling the painting too much, and needed to keep myself on the tender brink of potential between knowing and not knowing…let the paint have its say again. I worked with thicker and wetter colours, thick Raw Sienna fused with Indian Red straight from the tube, loaded brushes describe, accentuate and destroy, pushing and pulling the image in and out, arming and disarming myself and itself.
I stepped back to assess what had happened, moved forward again to make a move to control a slip in the paint and second-guess myself; something stopped me in my tracks and I sit down to look with headphones out. I felt that something is coming to life and decide it feels about right to leave it there.
Cadmium Red (Hue)
Cadmium Orange (Hue)
On Not Knowing, How Artists Think – Elizabeth Fischer and Rebecca Fortnum
The Space of Literature – Blanchot
Bridget Riley – The Eye’s Mind
Usually I will listen to a playlist I have made for the studio on shuffle, and I’ll skip the track with the clicker on my earphones if it doesn’t feel like it matches the tempo of where I am at with the painting. Sometimes I need a kick into gear, whereas sometimes I will need something reflective/nostalgic etc. Occasionally I might listen to a podcast or two but recently it’s been electronic music. I can give you the first few songs I had on today to give you an idea of what I might listen to..
Chino Amobi – The Prisoners of Nyamphaion
Them – Gloria
Eliphino – Isabella Road
Morgue – Wiley
Bonobo – Kerala
Wu-Tang Clan – C.R.E.A.M
Rose Wylie at David Zwirner
The Infinite Mix at Southbank Centre
Nicole Eismann at SMAK
Malcolm Morley – Xavier Hufkens