Tell us a bit about yourself and your practice, how would you describe the work that you do?
I work mainly as a painter, but I also produce drawings and sculptures. My work is concerned with the ways in which stories are re told and re imagined, whether those be visual, written or verbal narratives, and the ways in which narratives are altered and transformed as they are repeated. Painting is always at it's most interesting for me when it is able to take something well known and familiar and present it in such a way that it causes us to reconsider what we call our 'normal'. I think that art is a form of recollection. We are all of us haunted by the wish to recollect what we once were and what we once knew and experienced. Just as we cannot wish for that which we have never known, so when we take the idea of a story or memory and make it again it takes on a life and identity of it's own.
Your work refers to a lot of old folk tales and allegory, which stories do you think are particularly relevant to re-tell in our hyper complex contemporary moment?
I'm reminded here of a quote by from Jacques Maritain's 'Art and Scholasticism' which I think answers this question far more articulately than I ever will.
"But now the modern world, which has promised the artist all things, will soon scarcely leave him even the bare means of subsistence. Founded upon the two unnatural principles of the fecundity of money and the finality of the useful, multiplying it's needs and servitudes without there ever being a limit......imposing on man its puffing machinery and speeding up of matter, the modern world is shaping human activity in a properly inhuman way...for the ultimate end of all this frenzy is to prevent man from remembering God."
He wrote this nearly a hundred years ago but I think it's truer now than it ever way. Stories of hope, redemption, and slow perseverance achieving a promised goal are now more than ever needed. The stuff of myths and Faery tales.
Corvus Corax (St. Anthony), 2018
What does your use of abstraction bring to your figurative source material?
I'm not sure to what extent I would classify myself as either an abstract or figurative painter. I'm interested in turning a gestural mark into an object in itself, through the use of shadow, lighting and detail, and I guess for this reason I would be more interested in the edges of both of these - the point at which they might merge. When you get up close to Velazquez for instance, the painting no longer becomes figurative but is instead about a selection of gestural marks and blobs and I love this interplay. Painting is such a bizarre process in a way - squeezing out coloured mud and pushing it around on a canvas until it somehow looks and feels no longer like a complete disaster. I don't really stop to think where figuration ends and abstraction begins.
How important is process in informing the content of your work?
My process involves an interplay of contradictions - spontaneous gestural mark making that is then fiddled with and adjusted over days to enhance certain aspects and reduce others, large canvases painted with tiny brushes, and vice versa, deliberately choosing and working with garish, sensuous colours to make paintings that refer to an ascetic, supernal subject matter. Through the process of making, pouring paint, gestural marks, sanding down and adding detail, the original idea is always adjusted and altered and the final picture thus becomes something different and removed from where it began, which is an important way of getting me out of the way of the painting.
The Coven, 2018
Can you tell us a little more about your position as artist in residence and Art Psychotherapist at Trinity High School?
I work as an Art Psychotherapist with teenagers who have had emotional trauma. The nightmares of faery tales - parental abandonment, abuse and neglect are the stuff of their everyday lives and these experiences mould quite naturally with pre-existing folk tales and faery stories. The existing tales form a kind of framework within which to make sense of these stories that the children are passing on, and their artwork is something that is their own kind of container for their experience. A while ago I made a literal framework - Il teatro dei Leviatano, which was a drawn theatre that contained many of these tales and experiences. There is a cross-fertilisation between the work the children make and my own practice, and vice versa, but it's hard to be able to define to what extent that occurs.
The Disasters of Peacetime - Bien te se esta. , 2018
Which other artists do you admire?
My favourite artists are Soutine, whom I admire for the urgency and desperation of his work, and Goya, for his ability to leave things out - to economise and edit. Contemporary artists such as John Bellany, Norman Adams and Cecily Brown would also feature highly on my list of favourites.
What have you got coming up?
I'm going to be showing a series of ink drawings based on Goya's Disasters of war, that take as their subject matter the peacetime ' disasters' of abuse, greed and other horrors at The National Gallery of Poland in Gdansk from March 2019. I'm a part of the Contemporary British Painting group and Priseman/Seabrook collection that will be staging a major exhibition of British painting there in 2019.