In the next few posts I will share details and thoughts from the trip under the simple and yet broad themes of time, light, space, material and sound.

I hope to share artworks made since my first trip in 2014 as well newer works made since the AN bursary in 2016


The central idea to the road trip in Iceland in 2016 was to spend every night on a west facing coast to appreciate the full length of each day and catch the lasting hours. We were travelling west every day, covering a vast 1600km in a week and I became very aware of the changing direction we were travelling in as we snaked through the valleys. One evening as we drove into the Westfjords in the remote north west of the country, the strength of the summer sun was repetitively broken as we drove on switch-back roads facing west, east, west, east…  There was a sense of being plunged into shadow on an east facing side of a mountain and re-emerging into startling sun facing west, even at 9pm at night. At one moment blinded by the light and the next blinded because you are wearing sunglasses in the shadows.

The dilation and contraction – an oscillation from one binary to another in quick succession, is certainly disorienting and exhilarating. The different approaches in my painting and photograms also seem to exist in this ‘binary dance’. At times they are bold, strongly directional and graphic and at others they are more illusive, ambiguous and indefinable with insecure gestures that conceal their identity by process of removal or use of reflective pigments.

Direction of movement, angle and light were already conscious concerns within my practice but since this trip they have become more geographically concentrated. The concerted effort to maintain a particular direction of travel has begun to inform the direction of a brush stroke on the surface of a painting and the surface itself seems like a kind of territory to be explored.  Compositional studies could be seen as mapping out a painting, mentally tracing your path before you execute it.

The arrow is such a strong form and feels abrupt in it’s clarity. As my strokes bounce from one edge of the canvas to another, formal concerns begin to govern the process. These arrow forms are quick and chance led, exhilarating in their speedy and anxious execution. I become self conscious of the edges as I feel all painting movements should move from right to left aligning themselves with my direction of travel or perhaps the movement of the sun. I feel I need to be faithful to this directional painting with it’s strong correlation to my experience of Iceland’s geography. It takes some time to ‘un-think’ this symbol, realising that you set certain rules for yourself in the studio but it is also important break them in order to forge new ground.

I had hoped to drive into the Westfjords because it is one of Iceland’s most remote areas, a real sense of escape perhaps. In the clear, Arctic sun it was hard to believe this area is seasonally submerged in show and impassable in winter. Occasionally driving the long roads and pothole laden tracks we would encounter a road going ‘nowhere’. Throughout the trip we were of course reliant on a road map and we predominantly stuck to it with very occasional Google map panic usage! Using Google maps you are constantly zooming in and out and it seems like a spatial confusion happens as you choose whichever ‘viewpoint’ or axis you need, becoming ambiguous and changeable. With the paper map however we were constantly aware of our position in relation to the totality of the island country which allows you a sense of your own smallness.

For me this felt particularly interesting to be focussed on the materiality of the map, the paper as something you do not want to get wet, to tear or to blow away in the wind. Without it you are ‘lost’ and I find myself thinking that the prevalent use of GPS means that getting lost is a thing of the past.  I am particularly interested in this as much of my recent practice has invited chance. Being lost is important because it allows you to learn about your environment and yourself, helps to create memory and without it we are entirely reliant on devices. I find now that I want to actively invite a sense of being lost, to understand it’s importance in creating ‘organic experience’ that is not premeditated. I think I shall endeavour to find more ‘signposts to nowhere’.


The vastness and remoteness of Iceland attracts me as I search to distance myself from urban speed and to get on geological time. This attempt to find a slowness that I associate with landscape is not really ‘slow’, as Iceland is alive with activity both geothermal and climatically, but might be an attempt to find a mental stasis; something that involves less human interaction. There is something about aloneness that slows you down.  I often feel carried along in the urban tide like flotsam, unable to fight the currents that govern your body without your consent. And so place and geography has a huge part to play in our physical and mental rhythms.

Time and light as themes are intrinsically linked and I find myself wondering how the never ending day (and consequently winter darkness) affects populations at similar and more extreme latitudes both biologically and psychologically. Obviously this circadian shift creeps up slowly on you as the seasons change and so is less pronounced than my short experience of it. How might it affect emotions like optimism and pessimism? The darkness and lightness within are not culturally new themes yet they have renewed context in our daily relationship with artificial, screen-based light.

Artificial light gives us the capability to extend the day and be mentally productive 24/7, yet with the seasonal light shift I feel we become more aware of our body than ever.  After long days on the light filled Iceland roads, my eyes were exhausted and yet my body was still awake. This was particularly apparent during our regular dusk walks at about 11pm when the light was lowest, hugging the horizon and a jet lag feeling set in.

This natural extension brings to mind the physicality of the painting process; a brush or tool perhaps acting as an extension of the artist and for a painting to act as an extension of the self. Painting is a particularly interesting medium for exploring this relationship between internal and external rhythms. The fluidity of the medium allows for intuitive response, time becomes malleable and within your control. Process and temporality have therefore become defining areas for my exploration of paint, yet the many processes within photography, with it’s capability to capture ‘permanently’ also invite a different set of questions which I will explore in future posts.


The theme of impermanence has always captivated me and it seemed only a matter of time before the subject of light would come into my practice as it did during my first trip to Iceland in 2014. The late autumn there feels like being submerged into a Turner painting. Brooding, dark clouds give way to bright sunlight before folding in on themselves and engulfing you once again. My resounding memories of that trip are the shifting layers of fog, mist and geothermal vapour which render you without full sight and make you aware of other senses more acutely. In the earlier trip while engulfed by fog, I started to manually un-focus my lens to make the camera react to the same conditions as my eye. This began an enquiry into the process of seeing rather than capturing any particular subject.

Travelling there in 2016 with the AN bursary, the strength of the summer light surprised me as I had prepared for the lashing rain of Atlantic weather systems rolling in. Instead we found uninterrupted, blue sky and stable conditions for a week which allowed me to focus more intently on the length of light and the never ending day. The trip became less about the instability of changing climatic conditions and the process of seeing and more about the duration of light and it’s effect on the body.

These long, stretched days give a feeling similar to jet lag where you tend to be active for a longer period and we wouldn’t go to bed until midnight at the earliest because it still felt like mid afternoon.  I questioned what this does to productivity as your mind feels capable of continuing until late and yet your body begins to slow down. I find this divergent experience between mental and physical capability is particularly interesting in the context of our relationship with technology and artificial light, which undoubtedly stretches us beyond our normal limits. Iceland can seem to be a place of binaries, either plunged into long dark winter where the sun only rises at 10am or in summer where it can’t bring itself to touch the horizon. Although not nearly as extreme in Britain I find I am still very aware of the changing season and this circadian shift is something I intend to study in more depth and incorporate within my studio work.

The artworks featured here are entitled Refocus and Blind Light 12. The photogram series Blind Light began as a way to explore the theme of fixity, working in the darkroom with paint and layering multiple movements, shadows and moments in one, unique print. Refocus also explores a similar idea though in these paintings a viewer’s perception is challenged and the light is reflected off multiple gloss and metallic gestures.


Untouchable yet ever present, I find light to be one of the most exciting and enigmatic of subjects. I visited Iceland in July 2016 with the help of the AN travel bursary, to experience the length of the Arctic summer light and to immerse myself in the vast, open spaces that characterise this country.

My earlier trip to Iceland in 2014 brought the subject of light firmly into my practice, which I think of as a personal geography that compares the speeds of different places and considers the effects of time and light on the body.

The plan for a return here was to drive west and spend each night on a west facing stretch of coastline so as to experience the full length of the summer days. We drove 1600 kilometres in a week from Akuyeri in the central north, towards the remotest part of the country, the Westfjords and on to Snaefellsnes Peninsula and the volcanic west.  Although not in the high arctic we still experienced the never ending summer days where the sun would set at about midnight and hover lazily on the horizon for a few hours until rising again.

Bright sunny days and a perpetual dusk in the evenings gave us the sense of being saturated with light and colour and physically confused in the evenings. Light has the potential to skew time and so ideas of absence, presence and permanence began to resonate and have since become present in my painting and photography.

I am grateful for the opportunity to present the beginning of these findings in an exhibition coming up in February 2017 at the Royal Geographical Society. Uncommon Ground: New Art from the Landscape will showcase a wide selection of mediums and approaches to this complex and eternal relationship between artists and our environment. Full information on the exhibition can be found here.

15th Feb – 2nd March