Lost In Space
Cobalt Blue, Ultramarine, Lemon Yellow, Cadmium Yellow, Alizarin Crimson, Cadmium Red, Magenta, Viridian, Titanium White
Aluminium stretcher bars by Jacksons and duck canvas
I’ve always been interested in human behaviour, particularly the subtle nuances of body language. This new work also explores human expression through home decor and the domestic environment, in contrast with previous work where ‘beings’ populate a fantastical landscape.
Lost in Space has been a slow burner. The finished painting can be viewed as a floating community of connected but disconnected people. It is a fusion of ideas inspired by contemporary culture, medieval paintings, 20th century monologues, space travel and bric-a-brac.
I had a lightbulb moment when my son introduced me to “Gogglebox”, a reality show featuring families and groups of friends reacting to television shows from their own homes. Sitting rooms are as much an expression of personality as the clothes people wear. A useful device for my work.
Recent visits to the National Gallery have been particularly rewarding. I am currently drawn to mediaeval and Renaissance paintings and especially the ‘San Sepalcro Altarpiece’ by the Sienese painter Sansetta. As well as the wonderful architecture and the interesting perspectives, I also adore the minutiae and detail. With tiny brush in hand, I have recently embraced fine detail in Lost in Space, juxtaposing the decorative elements with sweeping more painterly brush marks.
The Starship Enterprise has provided unexpected source material. Originally I had imagined the building/rooms/cells to be firmly rooted on terra firma. However, the notion of an intergalactic spaceship offers more scope for the imagination and follows on neatly from the fantastical landscapes.
Alan Bennett’s monologues – ‘Talking Heads’.
Raymond Carver’s ‘A Small Good Thing’, a short story dealing with the theme of isolation (‘Cathedral’).
Painters – Sanam Khatibi, Joan Eardley, Philip Guston, Hilma af Klint, Katherine Bernhardt, Piero della Francesca, Gustav Klimt, Poalo Ucello
I work in silence or listen to radio 4.
My ideas are shaped in sketchbooks. Over many months I draw and collage different ideas – from the sublime to the ridiculous. Thoughts flow freely, unselfconsciously and unedited. Like many artists I am never off duty and often jot down ‘flashes’, phrases and notes on my phone.
The decision to build a floating community probably didn’t crystallise until I started a large drawing (150 x 150 cm) for a forthcoming solo show at the Rabley Drawing Centre in Marlborough. Using pencil, tape and glue I collaged, tore, cut and glued the cells, rooms and gardens together. Loose scribbles, smudged and sanded areas contrast with more graphic and precise marks.
I close my sketchbooks when painting, preferring to use my imagination or work from direct source material. I never plan, I always respond.
I have particular people, real or fictitious in mind. The characters evolve with the rooms.
For Lost in Space I started gridding, then painting the decorative pink area (bottom left hand corner). I followed on with a sweep of yellow paint on the right. Other decorative elements followed. Whilst I painstakingly grid designs and copy, I am also prepared to destroy or edit precise areas to keep the painting fresh and immediate.
I gradually build up layers whilst leaving some areas of bare primed canvas. I like the contrast of decorative bits with sketchy elements and the lightly worked areas juxtaposed with impasto.
To unite the disparate elements I applied black (alizarin and viridian). Using masking tape I ‘cut’ into all areas of the composition and apply the dark paint with a 3 inch brush. Some lengths of the masking tape are torn. I love the pealing off. Edges are important. If they are too hard, I may smudge or soften.