Relocating and moving abroad comes with it’s own fantastic
mixture of chaos, excitement, intrepidation and annoyance.
For the past twelve years life has been
pleasantly spent in a cool Bristol enclave with the comforts of familiarity,
work, friends, love, a cat and the spiritual safety valve that is my art
studio. This is the longest I have stayed in one place since I left home at the
age of 18; I am now 41.
You get used to comfort and familiarity as you get older
but once again, by hook and by crook I am out of my comfort zone.
My partner and I have upped sticks and moved
to Bratislava, slap bang in the middle of glorious, historic, weathered,
experienced and sunny Europe. Falling
into a foreign land where the road signs are incoherent, where the buildings
are alien, where the tongue is twisted in different tones. It is exciting and baffling all in one
The move has been on the cards for several months and we
are not adept movers. I come from a
family of collectors; from guitars to gramophones, chairs to pictures and this
doesn’t even cover the 200 paintings which I have created over the past
Sitting here, gazing out the window at our new gloriously
overgrown garden this is the thing that I am craving the most; the unsung
saviour of my studio space; the great alleviator of stress and strain. With boxing up and moving my creative output
has been put on hold and as each day goes by I can feel this strange, surreal,
untold presence building up in me; that subconscious, desperate longing that
resides in the artist when he/she/they cannot paint. Freedom is found in the flow of the oil paint. The application of paint, the abject standing
in front of the canvas searching for meaning becomes the very definition of the
meaning itself. It rumbles on, pouring
out of the hand, the arm, the mind, the body until it is plastered there in
vibrant, visual colour into some abstract, Surreal semblance of meaning; often
I do not know the meaning of the work itself, only that it has meaning, if not
to anyone else then at least to me. To
become freed from the shackles of mundanity, to liberate the mind from its
consciousness, to seek and explore some kind of clarity, to open oneself up to
the very challenges of the self and the great world beyond. To be liberated to be able to comprehend
everything else going on in the world when very little makes sense and disorder
and chaos become the norm…
They are backed up!
Back to back in lines
With forward facing side-wound eyes
Towards the inevitable
Distinct, dull, decibels of time
With that thick, heavy
Pall Mall of coarse rope
Swinging in the air with time;
Hang it boy!
Keep it Ringing!
Hold it steady,
Keep it true
Gathered here are all those before us
Hand in hand,
Until the Church
They all walk here and there
To and fro
Shadowy Walls of people
Their thin, translucent skin
By their extended passages of time
Looks upon the faces where fascinated strangers sit
With blank searching high-browed eyes
In the bleachers, the dug-outs, the celebrity boxes
Full cheeked with sandwiches, caviar, bubbles
With one eye
Cast behind them
Over silken shoulders
Towards the vast gruel of life
Hang it girl!
Hold it steady!
Past the slip roads
And the red light rooms
Hold it steady
Under the passage of the night
You are awakened by the abandoned
Promises of tomorrow
To begin a new painting you have
to spend time with the canvas before it is primed, before it has been worked
upon before there is even a mark on the blank, vacant, empty space. This is uncorrupted fabric, pure and
reverential and you must respect the journey you are about to take in bringing
something new and powerful into the world.
Unpacking the canvas I rub my
hands over the flat surface searching for any blemishes. I then roll it up into a loose roll and
standing on a chair unfurl it directly against the wall, pinning the top and
corners with drawing pins so it is flat against the wall. I don’t like working on pre-primed or
stretched canvases as I like the solidity of the wall directly against the
canvas as it is easier to work on, stronger and more forgiving.
I choose a 12oz un-primed canvas
as it is malleable and has the strength to fight against and unify with as the
The preparation process involves
smoothing the canvas from the centre to the edges, pinning the edges with
drawing pins until the canvas is flat against the wall without any loose
Smoothing the canvas with both
hands to search out and correct any blemishes commences a close relationship
with the canvas; that connection builds a trust between you and the canvas and
is the start of the formulation of ideas.
Using light grey water based house
paint I then apply thick applications of paint working from the centre of the
canvas in circular motions from the middle to the edges; the paint is quickly
absorbed but the motion from middle to
edge ensures that the canvas naturally stretches itself and ensures that the
canvas does bubble and warp out of control.
As the paint is drawn into the canvas some sections at the edge of the
canvas may stretch and the pins may need to be re applied or additional pins
Once this has been completed I
wait for 20 minutes to check the canvas isn’t warping then leave it for 24
Returning to the canvas the next
day I stand and look at it for sometimes 5 to 20 minutes just searching its
blankness and reflecting on my journey so far.
This is the cathartic commencement of creativity; the reflective highs
and lows of what we have done as a human being; an animal of small victories
and regrets, a small cell of limited but optimistic consequence.
I then sand the canvas down
smoothing it with rapid circular strokes before applying another coat of grey
paint which is much more rapidly applied now the first coat has been absorbed
and has dried.
I chose grey paint because I like
working dark to light and I feel this is the best colour for me to balance my
bright colours against. There is no
golden rule to this but you need to experiment to find out what works best for