Tuesday, September 11, 2012


Landscape of Choices,
oil & acrylic on canvas, 91 x 61 cm, 2012
What are you working on in your studio right now?

I am making a series of black and white paintings and small watercolours, to explore compositional questions that have emerged while working on some of my recent larger canvases.  I like the way that painting opens out new concerns, new questions and meanings, and I enjoy being pushed to explore further. As these 'notes' are smaller than many of my oils, the change of scale allows me to reassess the picture arena very fast, and make changes quickly. They also result in a lot of 'spin-off' drawings, which are very small, and generally play with compositional ideas. These feed back into the canvases. I will use these small works as a starting point.


Can you describe your working routine?

I like to start as early in the morning as possible, to have at least 4 to 5 hours to paint without the distractions that usually come later in the day! I work in series as I like to allow ideas to bounce off one another, from canvas to canvas. This way I don't get blocked by any particular canvas, and also elements from one may suggest ways to resolve another painting.  When I am working, I have about 5 or 6 canvases around me, and various notes and sources of reference scattered across the floor. There's a lot of coffee drinking going on. As I paint, one or two canvases pull me in and I will work intensively on these. They possess me, even when I'm away from the easel.


Can you describe your studio space and how, if at all, that affects your work?

At the moment, I work in a corner of my flat by a north facing window, with a view onto my patio area. I don't get distracted easily, and the strange thing is that the view out of the window doesn't influence my work. I tend to be quite focused on the questions and dilemmas brought up by my sketches and notes, and inner images. I also like to work with my painting on the floor, and walk around it, especially when working on large canvases.

Studies, watercolour on paper, 29 x 21 cm

Tell me about your process, where things begin, how they evolve etc.

I trained at 17 with a very good landscape painter. She taught me so much about oil paint and technique but when I went to Art School I suddenly discovered that it could be used in a multitude of ways for self-expression, and to reflect ideas and experiences. I used to work a lot in the landscape, with oils and watercolour, but then my hand and eye wanted new things that had to exclude certain landscape references. My previous way of working had suddenly become restricting.
There are several doors of entry for me. Sometimes I work in black and white or watercolour to catch images which were suggested by earlier painting experiences or elements that are evolving in my mind. A lot of these drawings and watercolour notes are semi-automatic. Other times I may start from a word or phrase or from areas of colour that resonate with meaning. I often like to lay colour on the canvas and see where it leads.
I tend to call my works 'Inscapes,'  'Paintscapes,' or 'Landscapes of Choices,' as these titles reflect my interests.  For me, painting is a like a journey through a landscape of doubts and adjustments. It is multi-layered. Colours become trails of searching, doubts, and adjustment, until an image has a particular resonance for me, which may be an equivalent for landscape or more often an inscape. Sometimes shapes or juxtapositions of colours on the TV or in newspapers will suddenly suggest a starting point. I start by working into wet gesso, and let the paint layer itself, or I work onto a coloured surface. At a certain point the image makes its own demands and starts to offer possibilities for development. I keep in mind that it is an 'Inscape,' though if some other references enter the work, that's ok too.  Sometimes the traces of a horizon line enter the work, sometimes the space becomes its own entity. I like the idea of paint choices, erasures, adjustments forming a kind of paintscape, so instead of alluding to actual places it refers to a journey through paint. I have spent most of my life travelling, and my first memories are from when I was 3 and living in Lagos, Nigeria. I remember well the deep shadows and bright colours, so always at the back of my painting experience some memories filter into the work and direct the use of the materials.
I make most of my judgements away from the act of painting, when I will ask 'does it work?' At the same time, I don't want to base my judgements on formats or past experiences, I want the painting to offer its own terms. I also like to make my own canvases, because I like particular shapes.  Long rectangles allow me to express the sense of a paint journey, and I like squares because they challenge my response to certain compositional dynamics. I like contradictions, off-balance compositions, and the contrast between impulsive calligraphy and stabilising shapes, and large areas of calm. I like changes in scale, to trip myself up! My work undergoes many changes and points of destruction, until it 'feels' right.
Spring Valley,
oil on canvas, 40 x 30 cm, 2012

What are you having the most trouble resolving?

I always have trouble resolving the colour transitions and composition, and have to work a lot to find the painting! At the moment, I am being very strict about what I allow in the painting, so there's a struggle for simplification and much over-working.
Do you experiment with different materials a lot or do you prefer to work within certain parameters?

I'm not as experimental as some artists as I like the qualities of oil and acrylic and find that they suit my needs. My paintings often emerge from the dialogue between thick and thin paint, acrylic layered with oil paint, frequent scrapings with a large palette knife, and generally I like to push my materials around. I want to try out oil sticks, and am trying out various mediums that can be mixed with oils or acrylics. I find a whole breadth of possibilities within these materials but at a later date I may experiment more.

What does the future hold for this work?

I want to explore calligraphy and drawing with colour much further. I have just been selected for a Mark Rothko residency, at the birthplace of Rothko in Daugavpils, Latvia. I am one of 15 artists from different countries to be selected, and I am looking forward to intensive studio time, discussions, and artistic debate. I believe that this interaction and new environment will challenge my artwork, and help me to explore the possibilities of colour further.  Also, working with other artists always opens up new questions and horizons.
Is there anything else you would like to add?

I'd like to thank you for including me in these interviews, and to say that reading about other artists' working experiences and ideas challenges my own ways of working and has been very positive and helpful. I have really enjoyed answering these questions.


oil & acrylic on canvas, 70 x 50 cm, 2012

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