The reality of juxtaposition.

It has been just over 3 months since my Degree Show at Wimbledon College of Art (UAL). I had so much planned once this was over, so many projects I wanted to get started but in truth I have been like a fly trapped in a milk bottle – buzzing around wildly but achieving very little. It has been said to me that in order to make progress it is best to focus on one thing at a time.  This is all well and good, but I think for many of artists this is just not viable. I need to earn some income, I need (and want) to produce some art, I want (and need) to collaborate, exhibit and experiment. I also have a family, so hence have all the activities and responsibilities that entails. So my mission in respect to my art practice these days is to try and focus on just a few things at a time, and to try to relax into it more.

I have recently been playing with making small collages, physical and digital. They have tended to try and evoke a sense of place, a quick escape route in my head. One is based in Spain; Andalucia region. I have juxtaposed and transferred images of photographs I had taken on past holidays onto a solid oak wood block that I had previously primed with a mixture of rabbit glue and marble dust. It is relatively small; approximately 27 cm square. In keeping with my usual practice, I painted and drew upon this. I wanted the surface and image to be deliberately rough and incomplete in parts – as if an artefact with the surface showing through in places – like touching the walls of an old city, the heat of the sun bleaching the paintwork and drawing delicate cracks upon its history.

The other is a ‘New Zealand’ digital collage -in a wildish sort of state. I am from New Zealand originally but have not been back there for quite a number of years. Living in London, whilst I love it, there is a reassuring primal ruggedness about New Zealand which I miss and wanted to capture.


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Following on from my large paper collages combined with paint, I have moved on for a bit to working on small archival pieces of paper. I was given a small bundle of these a few years ago when I did a demo as part of the Discerning Eye exhibition in the Mall Galleries.

Firstly I created different coloured grounds on these surfaces and then set about collaging shapes I had cut out from a magazine onto them. So far I have played with oil, acrylic and watercolour paint as well as ink when mark making on top of and alongside the collage. I work pretty fast on them, painting instinctively. In other words, there is no plan apart from exploring the interactions between the painted ground, collage and layered mark making. It’s quite exciting coming back the next day after working on them the day before, as I am always surprised by what I see. It feels very fresh and open. I’d like to work back into some of these little works  a bit more, adding some intricate detail but this will be done on a case by case basis.


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What is it in art that inspires you? Have you seen or experienced something recently that has made you want to run back to your studio or kitchen table to start making?

I’ve been feeling a bit flat lately and didn’t really have any ideas as to what I was going to be making next. I’ve been finding the process of exhibiting rather an empty experience so I have been seeking a way of instilling some more focus, gravitas and thinking within my work.

To do this, other than reading, attending talks and a wider spread of exhibitions, I have been looking at courses to see whether there was something there, specifically focusing on art and philosophy.

There are definitely a few avenues I could follow but then there is the reality of cost. I’m not sure I can justify the expense, particularly when I have kids who are accumulating considerable student debts that seem likely to need even more from me going forward in this downward turning economic climate.

There was a glimmer of light a couple of weeks ago though. I was on a short trip to Paris with my other half and we went to the Cubism exhibition at the Pompidou centre. I can honestly say it is possibly one of the best exhibitions I have ever been to. It was extensive and incredibly comprehensive including work leading up to the Cubism movement and later work having been influenced by Cubism. It included a fantastic range of artists, paintings and sculpture.

I was blown away by a Cezanne portrait of a women in a blue dress (darn it, didn’t write down the exact title). Anyway this painting absolutely glowed. It was at the start of the exhibition and set the tone in terms of the level of quality to expect going forward.

Among my favourite pieces from the exhibition were a few from the collage and assemblage sections with work from Juan Gris. These were quite small, very quiet and subtle. It is these pieces that have got me thinking about what I’m going to explore next, perhaps not surprising given the nature of my own work.

A friend of mine had given me lots of sheets of paper that was used for packing furniture and these are perfect to stick on the studio wall and start collaging. I have started to play with the collages and mix them with paint and drawing and investigate what the interactions between these might suggest. As it happens I had just completed a much larger collage in my studio, doing exactly this (but on canvas), so have some idea as to some of the outcomes of some of the mark making. The difference going forward is that my new work will be on the packing paper and this adds a different, more temporal and fragile feeling to the final pieces. There is less planning to what I am doing, and more a case of working instinctively.

As for the course, I’m still definitely thinking about that one but would welcome any suggestions.


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As I write, the uncertainty surrounding Brexit continues. Like many people, I am finding it hard to digest, to understand what means what and what I should believe. There is no stake in the ground as the political surface we stand on feels shaky and kind of like quicksand. I get the feeling that this constantly shifting paradigm is going to be the way forward.

My current painting efforts attempt to capture this. I’m not trying to be deliberately political. It is more of a reflection of a state of mind. Entities move back and forth. Brush marks suggest variations but no sooner appear than fade away. Twisting, swirling, falling, fading. The more you peer, the more you see and it’s impossible to unpick the ends. These uncertainties are set against much more definite shapes and marks that make their statement and display an energy.


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Last time I wrote I was going back and forth deciding how I should approach the 2 large blank canvases that were resting against the wall in my studio.

I finally decided I was going to approach one by using collage and the other as a pure painting. It is now nearly the end of December and not a lot has happened – certainly in respect to the collage anyway. Christmas, family commitments and 2 exhibitions I have been involved in rather took over.

However, before this hiatus began I did do some painting. I used a digital montage I created as my starting point and then very quickly and loosely tried to respond to this using just paint. My idea at the time was just to get some marks down onto the canvas and then use those marks and the spaces in-between to trigger further development and experimentation. This has not happened though. The initial marks I have made definitely have a life of their own and created a barrier preventing me from moving forward. I am hoping when I return to the studio my artist block will have diminished. However I do like this initial painting. It has an energy about it and portrays a kind of language I wasn’t expecting.

Shown here are 3 compositions. The first is an earlier painting on which I have managed to play with the space unheeded by my own painting restrictions. The other 2 are the original digital composition I created and the resultant painting which somehow is doing things for itself.


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I am carrying on making art using primarily 2 different processes. The first is using my usual photo montage technique, but then ripping the image up, collaging it on to a surface and then painting within it. The second way is pure painting, using thin layers of acrylic paint, followed by oil paint, then playing within the dynamics and images I see and imagine within these layers.

I have 2 large blank canvases sitting against a wall, waiting to be worked upon. I am undecided as to what technique I should apply to each of these and am wondering whether I should simply just do one of each. My experiments have been confined to quite small pieces and I am relatively happy with both lots of results. No doubt switching to a much larger scale will bring its own set of issues. Also I have to bear in mind, that normally it is entirely appropriate that my work is small scale. The subject matter is the ordinary, the mundane, and the overlooked. But do I take my subject matter to a larger scale? ‘I am not sure this will even work?


Scale can say a lot about a piece. I am fairly sure that the insignificance of my original image will be lost, but so what! It may make for an interesting dynamic. Process will dominate and lead the way I suspect so the piece will become a transformative exercise. Let it go, I say!


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