I’ve just sent an email to a student in art and design, in reply to the following questions. It is apparently to help with her visual research journal (perhaps that is how she found mine). I’ve received a few emails like this from time to time and I thank her curiosity or interest in my work for helping to add a new entry to my journal…
Why do you choose to work in mixed media?
I am not sure it’s always a conscious choice to use mixed media, it’s more intuitive than that, based on what seems right at the time. However, I am very concerned with the physical presence and tactile qualities of materials and the creative possibilities contained thererin. I did my Masters Degree in printmaking and learnt how to grind pigments for ink, pulp paper and use chemicals to alter the physical surfaces of things. I began to enjoy more the experimenting with raw materials (copper, wood, paper, etc) than merely visualising finished images for prints, which could be made by knowledge of a particular process. In my degree show, I did a series of cast paper reliefs on the thirty-six longest rivers of the world and constructed very large composite prints from contour lines of maps using deeply bitten copper and etched linoleum – even then the theme in my work was to do with the topography of the landscape. I still use a lot of basic printmaking methods in my work, such as transfer, surface engraving and monoprinting but these tend to be embedded within the layers of the finished work. Sometimes I am uneasy with calling them paintings since I rarely use a brush!
How does your photography link to your paintings?
Photography is often (but not always) more immediate in terms of realising an interesting image than painting. On some occasions I have been back to a location at particular times to take more photographs so that I get the image I want – light plays a big part. Whilst they are standalone images they do influence my other work to a degree – as ongoing visual references. Photography definitely provides a clearer narrative (its a real situation not reconstructed), but mixed media has a unique visual language of its own – a strong physical presence through the combination of media used – straight photography sometimes lacks these more emotive and visceral qualities. I do not consider my photographs to be artworks in themselves since they are so easily arrived at – but they do provide a complementary glimpse into my artistic concerns. A big influence on me has been the work of the Boyle family – their painted constructions are breathtaking, living photographs in 3D, if that makes sense. I would absolutely love to get a glimpse into their working methods! However, in my paintings (as mentioned above) the materials seem to take control, and so none of them are a direct copy or facsimile of a location, though of course I could not paint them without having first observed some object or detail in the landscape.
Why do you title many of your paintings edgescape with a number but the photographs have different titles?
It’s a word I made up (though it may already exist!) – edge refers to locations or places which are marginal, peripheral, and to the physical edges of materials (even a simple line has two edges), scape signifies the lie of the land (as in original meaning/origin of landscape). Together they seemed to sum up my feeling of being both an observer of something real and yet also to do with the visual perception (and memories) of such subject matter and the finished artwork. As mentioned above, although derived from landscape, something changes in the translation from looking through to making so that I end up with something which only hints at its origin, which could also be perceived afresh when pictorial logic is removed (ie, a representational image). I also didn’t want the works to be misinterpreted, rather they are very open to interpretation (to illicit a more intuitive or abstract response). So, the numbering system began – they link in many ways – in timescale usually (date started or completed) but also it helps to see them as an ongoing series. I’ve often felt duty bound to add a subtitle but these usually refer to the influence or use of a particular material in the making of it (as in Sylte for silt). Leonardo Da Vinci said in his Treatise on Painting, to look at the mud on walls, ashes from a fire, for here you will see beautiful new things – pretty advanced thinking for the time, but he was a scientist of sorts too. Regarding the photographs, as mentioned above, they’re real, truthful, so the title is merely descriptive and are not intended to influence any reading or interpretation of the image.
Which artists have inspired you and why?
Da Vinci, as mentioned above for starters. Rothko was one of the first modern artist’s work I saw in the flesh at the tender age of seventeen – I was astounded that pure colour could generate so much contemplation! Pollock too at this time since I really connected with the physical making of the work and the heartache behind it – not everyone gets it of course, but I think it’s quite lyrical in essence. Over the years, I have been inspired by the work of many artists but perhaps more recently I would definitely say late Constable and Turner for their abandonment of formality, Schwitters, Tapies, Burri for their unconventional or unorthodox use of materials, Twombly for sublimely poetic works which have a genuine, unadulterated touch of hand, and now Anselm Kiefer – whose work is brutal and visually arresting but also quite intriguing and beautiful to look at on a formal level, despite the quite deeply moving subject matter. I suppose I must also thank Picasso for using collage in his Cubist painting period – prior to this, painting had very much followed a trajectory of pictorial illusion.
Thanks for your questions – it’s been good to sit down and answer one by one – I almost feel like a student again too – validating my work to my tutors!
P.s Anyone reading this, feel free to email similar (or different) questions. They make for easy journal entries!