I am indebted to Surrealism and Dadaism. My process is one of automatism that exploits the opportunities afforded through the aesthetics of chance. To do this I texture a substrate by priming it thickly with acrylic gesso. I work rapidly and spontaneously with little mindfulness or more precisely a "Zen-like mindless concentration”. I firmly believe there is creative potential within the turbulence of chaos. Often the chaos can be read immediately by staring into the resulting "cloud" and trusting the mimetic function of the brain to seek patterns, shapes and forms from my imagination. The dialogue is psycho-analytic and akin to Rorschach blot tests. I seek something that I can call self or a self-portrait.
To facilitate the legibility of the marks I sometimes stain the gesso impasto with thin glazes of yellow ochre- a favourite earth colour. I use Atelier interactive acrylic exclusively as they are re-workable with special mediums. The composition is largely determined by accident. The forms are drawn using only the existing contours as guides until the picture or narrative asserts itself. It is a tentative negotiation between myself and the work as each artistic intervention closes off options and successively narrows focus toward conscious decision-making. Only when the cartoon or linear template is defined do I feel able to permit conscious decisions and rational editorial amendments.
My process is a creative readiness to wrestle with uncertainty and encourages an exciting journey of discovery. I have no preconceived notions of the finished product or of any of the images that will be discovered. Some reveal themselves readily while others take significant contemplation. However, I do accept I can never monitor my unconscious mind objectively.
This mining of the unconscious can easily be described as psychological archaeology unearthing truths about self. The works produced in this way are intimate and personal, and because they emanate from my inner world are uniquely autobiographical. They are self-portraits that for me, redefine the meaning of what self is and what constitutes a likeness.
My recent work results from a sustained interest in the paintings of John Bellany. I acknowledge that prolonged study of his figurative paintings, specifically a close reading of his three “Bonjour Professor Calne” self-portraits has had a profound impact on my own practice.
It is striking how the images produced through an exploration of the unconscious mind or liminal state mirror, translate and transcribe what occurs in the quotidian aspects of daily life. However, their meaning, the disclosure of the "hermeneutical situation" is conveyed through personal symbolic language, metaphor and analogy. Under Bellany’s influence, the resulting imagery is difficult for me to interpret. Often times they contain violence and abuse or the scatological that are challenging for me to accept as author or even relate to as progeny.
My encounter with Bellany has had a significant contribution to the increase in the scale of my paintings, the selection of a high key primary colour palette and more fluent mark-making in my painting style. In my process I am no longer looking for the pure self in the autonomous process but the Bellany within the image or more precisely the new me shaped by my encounter with Bellany. Not corrupted or diluted -but modified.
The logical extension would be to immerse myself in a wider range of Bellany’s oeuvre and apprentice myself more fully; monitoring what results through greater commitment as I attempt to walk in his steps, see through his eyes and think through his thoughts.