Bad Boy

There is no doubt that I like to have a bit of fun in my paintings and this one is no exception. In ‘Bad Boy’ I have played with images of a vacuum cleaner (yes, again), a duvet and a metal bed head.

When I was manipulating my original photographs in Photoshop, I selected bits of the pattern within the duvet and produced a kind of virtual stencil which I carried over on to other parts of the image. I found it amusing that to create this, I have to delete bits. Erasure becomes a key part of the composition. I played around with the bed head to emulate the same directional pattern.

The colours are dark with diagonal scatterings of pink. ‘That’s a bit sexual looking’ says one of my friends. Hey ho, so be it. I did say I liked to play. The duvet is exploding across the canvas and yes, the hose of the vacuum cleaner is dominating. Bits of the black within the painting are very black, so impenetrable that it is cruel – there is no getting through it. There are elements of design to it with the way the pattern cuts across the piece.

There is always some decision making to be had when I am choosing which elements to paint and which elements to leave as purely photographic and digital. I spend an inordinate amount of time just looking at the piece. To be honest, perhaps I should be called the lazy painter, as I probably do more time looking than doing anything else.

Within this looking I begin to see things. Movement, pulses, rhythms, patterns, caves within caves, levels within levels. It is these I play with close up with paint, a dot here, a squiggle there. I step back and go back to looking all over again. It takes me ages.

I have worked out that whilst it is important to think about what I am doing in my painting, to interrogate my practice and the processes that I use, it is equally important for me just to get lost within doing it. Perhaps it is about letting the unconscious just come out or to let chance make its magic. Whatever it is, I am not afraid of this process, I like it – a mixture of control and absolving myself from that control. It allows room for other possibilities to reveal themselves to me. If it all goes belly-up, then there is always another day to let my imagination see something else.

‘Bad Boy’ is a playful intervention between images, space, colour and paint.


Albert Oehlen, the Futurists and the poet Ted Hughes were on my mind when I was making the Painting ‘Crazy Bitch’. That domestic machine the vacuum cleaner was my muse.

It sits in the corner, brooding, making me feel guilty that it should really be put to more use. When I do use it, I frequently battle with the thing, bits fall off constantly, I get tangled up in the hose and it no doubt needs to be emptied so lies in wait with full dust explosion potential. It doesn’t help that this make has a face on it which smiles at me. ‘Naff off’ says I, feeling pretty stupid that I am having discussions with a machine. But such is the solitary life of an artist. We get to have these conversations with all and sundry. Doesn’t have to be alive.

So clickity click with my camera, it becomes the subject for my latest work. The real transformation is within Photoshop where I play with repeating the form and emphasising the menacing nature of the hose – the idea of the trappings of everyday objects taking over. I have fun imitating pen lines with my mouse, creating virtual detritus upon the surface. I also fragment and distort both form and direction, some bits become like collaged inserts or small windows into something else. The vacuum cleaner becomes both threatening and dynamic – imbued with the power and savage cruelty of the animals in Ted Hughes poems.

I transfer the resultant digital image onto canvas and further transform it with paint, playing with arcs of the hose, the different shades of greys, the smouldering heat of the brown/black cleaner body, the glowing pinks and purples, trying to find that tentative balance between paint and digital image. I try to experiment with these ideas in a suggestive way so that the final painting crosses somewhere between the real and the imaginary. I am influenced by Albert Oehlen’s work – where it somehow plays with ‘that space between’ as well as grittily referencing technology, representation and abstraction.

As it shakes and shudders like some sort of Futurist painting, I cannot help but think – ‘this is where I am!’ Just a few weeks to go until my degree show, and I am all over the place in my head and in my actions. What to do….?