A shifting uncertainty

This article appeared in ‘The Jackdaw’, a bi-monthly arts magazine, in February 2015

It might be considered perverse that, living in a part of the country which provides unsurpassed natural beauty for visual inspiration, I choose to turn away from the view when I paint. But perhaps the dazzling Cornish seascapes outside my window, are the very reason I have chosen to consider a more inner, psychological landscape. Why make a poor copy, with inadequate materials, when the real thing is just outside? Instead, my practice revolves around ideas of subjective and objective reality: perception and memory; and the difference between painting and photography.

To live in the modern world is to participate in a shifting uncertainty. Experience is fragmented, meaning ambiguous. What seems to be apparent on the surface, can prove to be something else entirely underneath; interpretation varies from one person to another. Information is received through a jumble of influences, much of it photographic imagery. I am interested in the nature of the reality we construct around ourselves from the fragments of information we receive. I am also interested in the representation of reality, through painting and photography, and the differences between the two.

My practice involves exploring the way images change when translated from photograph to paint, as well as the alchemy which seems to occur when context is altered and when fragments of images are combined.
I’m not interested in just copying a photograph, although it is a starting point. My aim is to develop a visual language that reflects contemporary concerns, as well as the memory and history which underpins where we are now.

My working process began with collage; combining fragments of images to make new connections and different meanings.This developed into the fragmentation of a single image through a variety of visual languages. Sources could be a pose from an old master painting, a graphic shape from a design brochure, the pattern from a scrap of fabric which has lodged in my memory. The apparent obsessive use of plastic acts, for me, as a metaphor for the idea of the ‘second-handedness’ of experience received through mediated photographic images – the idea of seeing something through something else – as well as emphasising the fragmentation idea in a painterly way.

The youthful figure seems, to me, to speak directly to the viewer, but for my purposes, it needs to represent something unidentifiable and speak generally about universalities and the transient nature of the human condition. Often the figures are posed to echo art-historical characters. When context is removed the figures become something else, oddly familiar; occupying an empty pictorial space, free from imposed narrative; timeless and unadorned.

Ultimately though the content, sources, visual languages, method and materials I use can only be suggestions. It is the viewer who completes the work. I aim to create a contemplative space where the viewer can make their own connections and interpretations and construct their own version of reality.

“What we observe is not nature itself, but nature exposed to our method of questioning.”
Werner Heisenberg