Sue Elliott came to vist me in the studio and kindly wrote this thougthful article about my work in the Summer 20167 copy. Venue Magaizine is an arts magazine about East Anglia. It can be picked up at arts venues free, or by subscription at: www.venuemagazine.co.uk
The “Nocturnes” series grew from twilight drawings, done mainly while waiting outside my son’s piano lessons. I have therefore borrowed the title from musical vocabulary to imply the closeness of night in many senses; the passing of the light, the ending of something, the phase after the active one. This is played out in works which I combined into a small studio show in winter 2015, from the more obvious context of evening windows to those which reflect on stages in our later life.
I am hoping to share my experience of people’s humanity, with all the pain and beauty that is involved in that. My aim is for the image to help the viewer find that extra bit of humanity in themselves in resonance with the struggles of figure of the painting. Some of the paintings have no figure, but there is an implication of human presence through a dwelling or an interior.
To communicate human presence without restricting its freedom and life, I use arrested moments, condensed in observational drawings, and then expand them in my mind and practice as I paint from them. I explore the potential of memory and attention to transform awareness from banality to something more fecund. There is often considerable delay between initial drawings and making a painting.
The intervening time creates new perspectives on the source material, leaving me free to use it in an emotionally unencumbered way. This then opens up the idea of creating my own references and archive, and on the process of selection in autobiography. It also raises questions about the nature of time, the point of time represented becoming more fully realised than the moment was in itself. There is the opportunity to take it further and reveal aspects which were not originally visible, within the new time/space that the painting makes available. I have done this with a number of personally charged experiences, and found the work resulting to be able at the best times to span the tangible-intangible divide.
I am inspired by Marcel Proust and his returning to episodes, people and places in a very fluidly created time and space. I would like to be able to develop this aspect further, extending time backwards and inwards, and by depicting the spaces in which the images occur with contrasting precision in detail and abstraction. I hope to find ways of working more with photographs alongside drawings. However, the fact of having been and drawn to something and making a handmade record of it, using only my own history and capacity at the time to do so is an integral part of the rules of engagement.
I spent sixty consecutive nights drawing the reflection of my own face under a fluorescent bulb. The emotions that my face revealed came and went with the passing of time, and I was able to separate myself from the emotion that I inhabited and see it as something which belonged neither to me nor to anyone else, but just was, and could be inhabited, or inhabit us, for a time and then pass on. I also became more aware of how concentration and presence, sustained over a time, created the work in a deeper way than any conscious intention could do.
The 20 images which resulted from this study were exhibited in Turning In, at Murray Edwards College
Although I currently work only in painting and drawing, I have previously used drawings and paintings in animation to explore change through time. Two short pieces can be viewed on the Vimeo website, following the links below.
“One Body” was a contemplation of the Christian communion “…though we are many we are one body, as we all share in one bread.” It was made with the participation of the congregation of St Benet’s Church Cambridge, in 2011.
“Through a Glass, Darkly” dates from 2003. It looks at a young woman, turning in circles, pondering her own relationship with herself and with motherhood.