Artist of the Month
What images keep you company in your studio space?
Only what I’m currently working on - anything else would be a distraction. I'm distracted enough by the view from the huge studio windows - I'm at the front of the building on the third floor - and every day see a huge chunk of beautiful sky. I've got about a thousand photographs of clouds. Also, where Phoenix is positioned, everything that comes into Brighton passes the window - as well as all of human life - from altercations, fights, car crashes, day-long screaming sirens, the naked bike ride, vintage car rallies and recently, pro-Europe demonstrations and climate change demonstrations..
Could you tell us a little bit about your upcoming Window Gallery exhibition?
The idea of a ‘black firework’ is one which darkens the night as opposed to illuminate it.
A black firework painting uses this as a metaphor to reflect contemporary or personal events that have affected me.
Over the past three years global events have created an increasingly negative impact on both social and environmental issues.
During September 2019 I endeavoured to make one Black Firework Painting a day - representing any number of dark events on that particular day. For example, the illegal proroguing of parliament, or Jacob Rees-Mogg contemptuously slouching in the House of Commons or smaller human stories that demonstrate an increasingly darker post-shame, post-truth, post empathy world.
This show is an edit of the 30 paintings created during September.
Each painting is created by throwing a small balloon filled with paint from the top of a ladder onto spikes placed through some board.
The violence and unpredictability of the action represents a collective frustration at the current times in which we live..
Would you say that colour is a vital part of how you work?
I'm only just learning about colour.
Your Instagram is full with references to current events. Do you draw a lot of inspiration from contemporary British politics?
As the late great author Toni Morrison said: "I like art that is in the world. Art can be both beautiful and political at the same time.." Similarly, I like being in the world, I like being in touch with what's going on. I like newness and nowness although remain crucially aware of history and context. I think currently we are living through an increasingly darker period of human activity which is having an undeniably negative impact on people's well-being and how they behave. 70 million prescriptions were issued for anti-depressants in England in 2018 - hate crime has increased 123% since 2012. [ONS statistics]. I've been inspired by social and political events to make work for years - for example a portrait of Nadya from Pussy Riot in 2012 - but as an artist to observe and live through what's going on currently, and to feel so strongly and be so affected by it - it can't help but seep into the work..
A lot of your paintings seem to combine precise geometric forms with more unruly, disorderly approaches to image-making. Would you say that the balance of these two methods is central to your practice?
I've realised lately that a lot of my work has a duality - whether it's in the earlier text works where visual images were created solely from writing - or more recent works that combine tight bits of painting with unpredictable, visceral action painting. Most obvious is in a diptych painting I made last year called 'The Thinker' where one canvas is painted blurred and out of focus and the forms recede into background pictorial space, while the other has a tromp l'oeil painted neon effect that creates an illusion of coming forward through the canvas. It wasn't necessarily a conscious thought, more something that's evolved - but I like the tension and energy between the two contrasting elements. I believe there is a balance between all things. Coincidentally, I've just read A Fine Balance by Rohinton Mistry which, within the story, is a study of the balance between hope and despair. As an artist, the line between hope and despair is a familiar one. Generally, though, I'm more often hopeful.
See the full Artist of the Month archive here and check back next month to see who's featured!