I seem to have always been concerned with the big abstract ideals like energy, vitality, exuberance, gesture, colour, dynamic structure, rhythm, equilibrium and imaginative solutions to resolve formal tensions in my paintings. The elusive nature of the act of painting itself is the constant challenge for me.
Current works continue my ongoing interest in the garden as subject matter. The garden itself is a controlled landscape, a constructed form of nature which offers me an inexhaustible supply of motifs and ideas for my painting.
Recent past works were concerned with garden ornamentation: garden statuary, conservatories and glasshouses and floral depictions. Some had a more narrative response to the theme where an element of kitsch was investigated and how neo-classical statuary emphasises how gardens can become ‘civilized’.
However, since those last exhibitions the paintings’ subject matter has become much more a vehicle for further formal exploration rather than narrative symbol. Anatomical, architectural or spatial mimesis was not my interest then and is much less so now. Yet I don’t want to throw out the figurative reference, because I still feel that subject matter is a natural development of painting’s traditional values and this seems always to have given me inspiration to make the works, whether it is a garden, some buildings or the sea that I paint.
The painting of the garden involves the logic of how each part fits together – the organic with the structured architecture. I enjoy the constant struggle between the idea and how to make it into a painting. Aspects of the ‘making’ process, where every gesture counts, are registered on the paintings’ surface in an approach which is methodical and improvised.
Various ideas are contrasted. Some are eloquent while others are more expedient and makeshift. One hopes that this process reveals a world that only paint can generate. The constant Interplay between the imagery and how it is treated in the painting process is the major concern; how to make the technique fuse into the motif, coupled with the abstraction of paint as colour and gestural marks and the spaces between the forms, as well as the forms themselves, is the resultant composition.
Earlier paintings relied on a more staccato method of expression and construction, whereas these recent works attempt a more evocative and economical expression, less multifaceted but attempting to produce an ambiguous place which ‘suggests’ nature rather than explains it. It’s an indeterminate physical location.
Colour (sometimes saturated) is meant to heighten the emotive content and diminish the constraint of representation and this colour (and forms painted with colour) attempts to give a sense of light that is chromatic and modulated as is in the works themselves. Many of these works follow a “theme/variation” pattern, probing and pushing the motif to arrive at new solutions. The appearance of the initial image is only the beginning of a dialogue – a series of analyses and modifications before arriving at a sense of rightness – of structural integration with sensual resonance.
Some titles of the paintings are deliberately meant to be unhelpful to those seeking a narrative explanation – such as Arrangement in Blue, Composition in Yellow, Structured Field, however, there are enough remaining visual clues to recognise the sources of the works. The subject matter is extended to the edges of the surface of the paintings minimising the distance between the space of the viewer and that of the depicted imagery. From a scrutiny of the subject the process develops as a translation towards a kind of recollection, depicted almost cartoon-like, with an informal embracing of studied awkwardness and calligraphic gesture. The subject from which the painting derives is in itself of little importance to me, except as a beginning.
What counts is the power that is behind it.