My imperative to interpret the world through the medium of paint is an assertion of my take on the nature of being human in this present time – a time when everything seems to be walking around on hind legs. War, trafficking, slavery, rampant capitalism and materialistic values devalue our humanity and it is through reconnecting with the natural world and ancient cultures that we can re prioritize and re-position the focus of our spiritual core. The ancient art of painting provides me with a pathway to do that. I suppose, for me, it is a form of prayer. I feel my work in some way acts as a counter to the slick determinism of much of modern life and provides a means to interpret the rural landscape and see it anew with responses to its historic and contemporary form.
After 2010 a number of works were produced employing a method of painting directly onto the human body and then making direct contact onto the paper or canvas, depicting the human form articulated in ritualized gestures and stances. The suggested human shapes in the images, to me, embodied the notion of totems, or figures engaged in what might be primitive rituals and dances and by 2012 the tribal body and male / female archetypes had distinctly Primitive overtones with life-size figures standing and crouching amid imagined tree – lined glades and water courses, ponds and springs – places that once represented places of cultural significance, where spirits were honoured by our ancestors.
Burren Liminals 2015 Oil on (4) Canvas 304 x 101.5 cm
The process that gestates my work is essentially an agitation of the relationship between the past and the present, exploring through personal marks and gesture, a symbolic reference point from which to view the ancient or natural world and to communicate the essence of that to the onlooker. The paintings open up narratives often, but not always, set in enclosures of imagined notional natural landscapes. The work references a spectrum of anthropomorphic states; the primitive elements in my recent work express for me, aspects or traces of our ancient instincts.
Tree Liminal 2015 Oil pastel on Fabriano Accademia paper 200gsm 46 x 36 cm
I am interested in how these elements interact with the fate of living in a modern world.
One interpretation of our current state of being is that almost everything today seems so intent on lurching towards hell in a handcart. Fundamentalism, secularism, rampent materialism, capitalism have triumphed over soul and humanity – it seems – and authentic creative arts fragmented and morphed into mediocrity by a combination of technology and the passing off of prevalent corporate culture as the mainstream diet fed to the masses with the result true creativity has become undervalued and undermined in what is at best a populist, but more usually sterile and sometimes hostile environment.
Through my work, I continuously search for an element of fulfillment and meaning, something that borders on the metaphysical, to counteract the Zeitgeist.
We live with our present tied up with our past. We value life and destroy it simultaneously and yet have the capacity to be quite unaware or unconcerned of the existence of the soul. This dichotomy is explored in the traditional pictorial form of my painting which has elements of the construct of time in its performance and ritual in its making – the resultant images suggest a primitive energy embracing qualities of ritualistic dance and visionary states.
Incidentally the work casts a voyeuristic light on the nature of the passivity of elements of modern life. The viewer becomes a passive voyeur to the dance of life.
Concerns of the present day are referenced in archetypes alluding to perceived tribal elements observed in primitive and evident in society to-day.
My creations occupy the same space and announce their presence by way of an expressive use of colour and form to convey atmosphere in the narratives set amid the glades and water pastures – although the rural bucolic is not the main focus but more often a backdrop (or stage) for the scene of visionary antics (the Shamanic Clown) and entrances and exits of mankind (as depicted, for instance, in Shakespeare’s Seven Ages from As You Like It. Time and mankind’s procession through it, indeed the “Whirligig of Time” as in “What goes round comes round” make appearances in the ritualistic tinged imagery.
For me, the images form part of my visual lexicon to voice my riposte at the world we live in and at the same time let fly ancient elemental forces.
Studio work in progress on residency at The Burren College of Art, Co. Clare, Ireland 2015