The influences on my work.
Two ideas have dominated my thinking for the last five years. Self as a social construct and responses to entropy in its various forms. My most recent self-portraits can be described as psychological archaeology where I have tried to use automatism in my process and practice to explore my unconscious mind. We are often strangers to ourselves and much of the truth about ourselves is hiding in plain sight; unable to be accessed by the conscious mind.
Entropy is the tendency toward chaos. As a sentient being I am aware that my life is finite but my art, viewed as progeny extends my existence beyond my natural span. Entropy, as a subject is fascinating, but I have come to realise that a fuller picture of myself can only be achieved by viewing self in social context.
In my exhibition, with the working title, “Homo Eclectus” I hope to prove that Joseph Beuys was right when he said;
“Civilisation is an artwork and we are all artists.”
We shape each other and fashion society by encounters with others. My identity and how I view the world is a collection of influences which I curated through assimilation of life’s experiences. Since art is autobiographical; it is a curious notion that I can paint a self-portrait of a stranger and the encounter means I live on longer by the impression I leave by my influence on others. Which raises an interesting question.
Is the artwork the finished piece or the encounter?
Art experience and education
I studied art at St.Aidan’s R.C. High in Wishaw passing Higher with an A. My teacher was an inspiration. I studied a B.Ed at Moray House, Edinburgh from 1986-1990 and received instruction in ceramics and drawing. I was told never to use charcoal and work with clay ever again. And I didn’t. This was not a positive experience. As a Primary school teacher I taught weekly art lesson from 1990-2016. I work with great visiting art specialists and used the experience as CPD latterly becoming a visiting art specialist myself from 2004 onward. I began studying a B.A.(hons) Painting in 2012 and am an advocate for life-long learning. My studies reacquainted me with charcoal and clay and the excitement of creativity.
Concepts and philosophy
My personal manifesto is complex as I am and is articulated more fully at
I believe there is no heirarchy of media and techniques with oil painting at the apex. So any material is appropriate for a professional exhibition. Everyone is capable of creativity and that good and bad as criteria for qualitative judgements do not exist. There is like and dislike but not good and bad. I believe that incompleteness can be part of an artist’s intention; it is certainly a useful metaphor for the canon of art history. Finally in this summary, heuristics is to be extolled as a virtue. I am not looking for the ideal solution to my artistic problems. Enough is sufficient and this notion includes the reworking of previous work to obtain a multi-dividend.
Artistic knowledge and insight into specialist techniques?
I work exclusively with Atelier Interactive Acrylic paint in conjunction with other non-paint media. It is a relatively new technology that permits reworking. It is also useful for layering and acrylic transfer techniques that feature in my work. My usual process is to tap into my unconscious by creating a textured surface with gesso or modelling compound. Sometimes this is heavily impasto and then stain it normally with yellow ochre. I use a limited earth palette of sienna, ochre and umber. I stare into the resulting chaos and look for things that will work upon my imagination much as a child sees shapes in clouds. I then use thin glazes to emphasize of conceal areas but with no fixed idea of a completed composition. It is a dialogue between the work and myself that results oftentimes in the logic of free association typical of the dream state.
For “Homo Eclectus” however, I intend to encounter individuals, spend time in their company and record the encounter through portraiture. I hope that the experience will shape us both. Concurrently, since I am eclectic, I would like to communicate with others how I see myself. Being complex, contradictory and disparate, I foresee potential for conceptual work.
Aims and goals for exhibiting
I think my main goal is didactic. Firstly I want to explain how I see myself in an attempt to understand myself and be understood by others. To do this an audience would have to experience rather than merely observe, Be active and interactive rather than passive consumers. Not just to see through my eyes but also to think through my brain.
Secondly, I would like my audience to think about the idea of social construction itself. There are dangers associated with entropy applied to social theory. Social media is having an impact on how people encounter, engage and build self identity. The “Homo Eclectus” exhibition would encourage people to come together as a spectacle and perhaps even work produced for it in a social residency, with workshops and collaboration, would best illustrate that the communion of community is the agent of social construction necessary for a healthy sense of self and of identity.