'Table with Dark shape', 2011, oil on canvas, 41 x41 cm
What are you working on right now?
I am not working on a specific series as such; mostly I’m just throwing paint around in an attempt to find new forms and relationships. This is what I’m always doing and I never feel complacent about how much I have to learn. The forms I am using at the moment are not so directly referential although I am vaguely aware of elements from nature, interiors or the urban landscape.
Can you describe your work routine?
Unfortunately I can’t be in my studio regularly due to family and work commitments but still I try to spend at least an hour every day except weekends when I can spend longer. When I have a good stretch of time I get straight into it and tend to work on several things at once, moving between drawing and painting. I mostly make quick paint sketches and this is a habit that I find to be invaluable because this process always helps me find solutions to any painting problems that may arise. It helps me to keep open and fresh.
Works in progress - studio
Can you describe your studio space and how, if at all, that affects your work?
Before I moved to my current studio, which is a 3 x 3 meter basement without windows, I worked in an attic that was cramped and had very little wall space. That situation forced me to work quite small but now that I have a bigger space with walls that reach the ceiling I can spread out a bit and also work on larger formats. Sometimes I work on drawings pinned to the walls but mostly everything ends up on the floor. No matter how hard I try, this seems to be my preferred way of working. I’m really enjoying the ability to group things on the walls and being able to step back from them. This is helping me to find some continuity in what I’m producing and to see a larger common thread weaving itself through the work. I find that this is giving my work a new kind of energy that I’m enjoying.
Even though I have a bigger studio I still manage to be very messy and despite intending to be organized and neat, I never am. This doesn’t really bother me so much and often I’ll find myself inspired by some shape or colour combination that I might spy amongst the clutter of paint rags, pencils and jars that I’ve managed to arrange around me like some kind of magic circle. The fabric collages I’m beginning to make came about when I spied scraps of painted canvas on the floor – my first one made a satisfying combination and so I literally left it assembled as is.
Tell me about your process, where things begin, how they evolve.
It’s probably poor practice but I don’t set out to paint something with an end game in mind. I regularly destroy paintings (by which I mean either scraping back, if I’m using oils, or repainting if I’m using acrylic) not because I don’t always like the results, but because I like how this services the painting. It’s also a liberating way to work because then I don’t feel beholden to the original intention.
Sometimes I catch myself trying to save some little element – a nice pattern in the left hand corner for example – which I realize is holding me back. If I destroy that little bit suddenly I find something far more interesting. I like the idea that there are many layers in the painting and that each one informs the next, indeed could not exist without the one that preceded it. I also enjoy the energy and body that previous marks, colours or shapes might give to the final result. I used to eschew paint build up but now I welcome the way the patina adds a new dimension. Obviously I’m after a balance – or my own notion of a satisfying balance which might mean an off kilter or even tenuous relationship between a colour or a form or a mark which creates a tension that satisfies in some way.
I think a lot about graffiti and the way that the layering of spray paint over markers or posters or whatever creates a riot of mess but somehow, if you look closely, there can be a dazzling little discord going on which really pops out. I love the frenetic and unplanned clash of fat black lines with scratches and fluro blobs. I think that painting is a controlled version of that – not in a contrived way, but more as a process in which the artist is thinking about the history – what to cover, what to leave. Drawing is crucial to my process too. It helps me to stay fresh and not get too precious. I also regularly make collages out of old ‘failed’ drawings etc. Lately I’ve been using fabrics and painted scraps of canvas in my collages.
What are you having the most trouble resolving?
Like most artists I have good days and bad. Sometimes I want to throw it all in and take up something less hazardous – like skydiving! To me something is resolved when it becomes it’s own entity – like it just happened, as opposed to looking affected. I like to get out of the way of my own work – this is when I feel like I’m working at my best. But it’s a balancing act. If I let the work become too much of its own master it will lead me in directions that don’t necessarily result in continuity. Some of my work can be somewhat geometric – exploring shapes in a more design orientated way, while other pieces can be looser. As I keep learning I find new ways to resolve things and I think damn, I wish I could use that on that painting from two years ago. I am sure that I will read this again in the future knowing something, some trick of the trade, and laugh at myself. I wish I could know it now!
Fabric collage 30 x 21cm
Do you experiment with different materials a lot or do you prefer to work within certain parameters?
At the moment I’m working solidly with acrylic because I find it helps me to work larger. But I also like to use oils. When I’m drawing I use ink, pencil and sometimes textas as well as sharpie pens. I work on canvas or board but lately I’ve been experimenting with old bits of discarded wood. I’m very conscious of format sizes and how any change in size can affect the way I work with paint or whatever. Small works always attract me because I feel like I can be more direct but larger formats ask me to take risks, which I really like.
'Tumbled shapes' 2011,acrylic on paper 77 x112 cm
What does the future hold for these pieces?
Everything and nothing. I Guess I would like to keep building on the things I learn as I make them.
Is there anything else you would like to add?
Thanks for the opportunity to do this interview and I’ve learnt a lot about my process and the things that are important to it.