Screen (Yellow Band), 2013, acrylic on board, 24" x 24"
What are you working on in your studio right now?
Well, first I should say that, working mostly in a spare room of my house, or sometimes even in some hotel bedroom (My other job as a freelance learning consultant means I am away from home a lot of the time), I hesitate to use the word ‘studio’. I have two series on the go at the moment. One involves covering high-colour patterns with a secondary black and white diagonal chequer pattern. The other, which is new enough to have no finished pieces yet, is a series of text-based grids that start out in high colour and become a sequence of different blacks. In both cases colour is supressed, pushing it to the edges or covering it almost completely.
Can you describe your working routine?
I have numerous paintings on the go at any one time. Usually, a small painting travels with me and I work on it when I get chance, and then there are larger ones scattered around the house, that I work on when I get whole days at a time. I paint almost every day even if only for an hour. When I get whole days I start early in the morning, 6am in the summer, and work until about 5pm. I have countless breaks for cups of tea and I usually have a half hour lunch break. When I am in a hotel, I might have a couple of hours late on, say 10pm to midnight. The light isn’t so good then and that can be very frustrating.
Can you describe your studio space and how, if at all, that affects your work?
Years ago, when I had a bigger space I used to make much larger paintings than I do now. However the best were always the smaller ones that I did at home so, when I came back to painting in 2010, I determined to keep the work on a small scale, and to work at home. This choice affects the space, which in turn affects the work, especially its scale. The room I work in most is about 12 by 10 feet, so a 4 foot square painting seems large. The room is empty which means I can work on the wall or on the floor and I do both. I also work in another area that is really my office and that space is smaller still.
Veil, 2013, acrylic on canvas glued to board, 12 1/2" x 12 1/2"
Tell me about your process, where things begin, how they evolve etc.
The grid is nearly always my starting point because that seems the most rational way of dividing the surface to create a pattern that relates to the dimensions of the support. I think in terms of pattern and surface as opposed to ‘picture’. If I wasn’t using a grid I would likely make only colour monochromes, always an alluring alternative for me.
At present I either take canvases that were once finished and paint over them, Or, I deliberately create a new pattern which I then paint over. In both cases I attempt to obliterate what’s underneath, whilst knowing that residual elements will show through, becoming incorporated into the completed piece. What gets painted is determined by a system or pattern, whereas what gets incorporated is largely determined by chance.
Most of my decision making takes place between paintings rather than as the painting is progressing. I deliberately resist improvisation, which I equate with the illusion of freedom. I always work in series and each new painting is a variation on the theme of that series. What interests me is the ‘free play’ that can be introduced into a pre-determined system.
What are you having the most trouble resolving?
In my new series I am making use of gridded patterns based on sentences, each letter being coded as a colour, eventually becoming black. That they are different blacks means they can be differentiated, whilst the overall view is a black monochrome. The colours become seductive and I find that I want to leave them in their high colour state. So, I guess the trouble is in having the courage to follow through. Whilst they are in this high colour state they remain unresolved in relation to the system I am working with.
Truth is subjectivity,
acrylic on plastic covered MDF, 9 x 9 ", 2013
Do you experiment with different materials a lot or do you prefer to work within certain parameters?
I think it would be fair to say that I experiment with materials only a bit, preferring to work with stretched canvas or board, and almost always using acrylics because they dry quickly and because I like their synthetic or artificial quality, vs. the seductive beauty of oils. I think I have phases of experimentation and then I tend to settle down into something more fixed. For example earlier this year I was working with marker pen on tracing paper and gluing it to board with the underside of the tracing paper uppermost. This allowed me to work over the colours without them physically bleeding through. In the process of gluing it down, the tracing paper stretched and creases developed which became incorporated into the pattern, almost like a pattern of interrupts. I was also using household paint for the top layers. This led to me making a few paintings on board using this process, and more recently on canvas I have borrowed from what I learned in the earlier experimental phase, for example getting my paint to the same consistency as the household paint I had been using.
What does the future hold for this work?
I have no idea. I think abstraction is rather unfashionable and I often feel alone in continuing to find a systems methodology very appealing. So I just keep attempting to make the paintings that I want to see. Perhaps it’s something of an obsession. I don’t want to be cured.
Is there anything else you would like to add?
Only that I have enjoyed answering your questions. How is it that questions are always more interesting than any answers we might give?
Envelope, 2013, acrylic on canvas, 20" x 20"