Can you briefly describe what you do?
I paint with acrylic on canvas. Occasionally I work on panel and sometimes use pumice and charcoal with the paint. I also draw; little notes in a small book I carry around with me, and bigger things drawn and painted on paper.
What drives you to make work?
Pretty standard answer: It’s all I really want to do, even when it’s going badly. Most of my ideas/paintings come from something I’ve seen, heard or read. Where I’ve been, what I’ve noticed, and what I make of it all. Over the past seven years I’ve focused on painting about a family story of migration.
Can you tell me something of your day-to-day working practices?
I have two part-time jobs. I teach on average two days a week and make stained glass windows (traditional leaded lights) one day a week. I’m usually in my studio all day on the remaining week days and as much of the weekend as possible. I normally arrive early and stay all day/into the evening. I work on a few paintings throughout the day and usually paint (or at least begin paintings) from small drawings and notes, and sometimes from objects and photographs. I often re-work paintings over months and years. Others come together more quickly. I used to paint in oil and scrape a lot; now, in acrylic, I wash off or layer colour, which I prefer. My studio overlooks Deptford Creek and I like the colour of the mud and detritus. Living and working in a city like London it feels good to still be able to witness what the tide is doing. Occasionally I see a kingfisher.
How long have you been working in that way?
The routine above since moving into the studio in 2003. In terms of the working methods, longer.
Which artists have had the greatest affect on your work?
I’ve been looking at Sienese painters for a long time – the Lorenzetti brothers and Sassetta in particular. Other than that, far too many to mention, but: Corot, Braque, Matisse, Marquet, Milton Avery, Forrest Bess… Of artists working now, Geoff Rigden and Mali Morris are inspirations. Recently I was asked to give three ‘desert island’ artworks. I chose Matisse ‘Interior with Aubergines’, Sassetta ‘City by the Sea’ and Michelangelo’s ‘Pieta’.
What, outside visual art, informs your practice?
As mentioned, my work for some time has taken as a point of departure my family, in particular my Grandmother. I also like flags. Mid twentieth century design and architecture. Poets, such as Elizabeth Bishop, Pablo Neruda and Robert Lowell. Travel – and residencies in particular I’ve got a lot out of in recent years. I am a serious football supporter and made some paintings about stadiums. I like the shapes and they were also about my childhood/family – I remembered evening games under floodlights, getting in early to see all of the red seats and the grass, the brightest green imaginable.
How would you like people to engage with your work?
Maybe remind them of something they caught out of the corner of their eye. My aim is not to represent a narrative (or what’s informing the ideas) emphatically, but to be a bit evasive, work on representing the sentiment, rather than facts, simply, through colour and shape. This is challenging for me and the viewer. Ultimately I can’t control how people engage with my work, but, given that I aim to keep recognisable things somewhat vague, perhaps to engage with them formally.
Have you seen anything recently that has made an impression?
Van Gogh at the RA a couple of years ago was brilliant. Fairly recently, some strange and fantastic folk art in Nova Scotia. Most recently Klee and Picasso at the Berggruen Museum in Berlin and re-familiarising myself with Monet’s ‘touch’ in Paris. I also thought Merlin James’ survey show in the summer at Parasol Unit was very interesting – some very good paintings.
Do you have anything exciting on the horizon?
I’m writing this from Cyprus, where I am currently in a group show in Larnaca with some of my ex-Professors – Stass Paraskos and Geoff Rigden. The island is important to me for so many reasons. I have a solo show ‘Fragmentarium’ at dalla Rosa Gallery, London, 11 October – 9 November. Next year (April) I’m very excited about ‘Necessary Monsters’, a two-person exhibition with the excellent sculptor Lee Grandjean at Stephen Lawrence Gallery, London.
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