The starting point for my work is usually my own photographs of places I have travelled to, sometimes incorporating found images and referencing the work of other artists and film-makers. During the making process these references can become partially buried under successive layers of paint, sometimes re-emerging in an altered state, sometimes leaving only a trace of their original form, and sometimes a more literal interpretation presents itself. My intention is to capture a sense of the places I am painting and to evoke visually the texture of a memory.
In March 2017 I went walking in Southern Patagonia for three weeks. On my return I immersed myself in the thousands of photographs I took, and embarked on a series of sketches, studies and oil paintings which I hope do justice to this extraordinarily dramatic, beautiful and varied landscape.
The Simien Highland region of Northern Ethiopia is known as the ‘Roof of Africa’. Vast high-altitude plateaus of scorched golden grass are fractured by vertical escarpments and split by towering crags. Thousands of metres below on the hot lowland plains, mud and straw huts sheltered by thickets of blue eucalyptus are dwarfed by a seemingly endless recession of violet cliffs and towering volcanic plugs.
The ancient Himalayan Kingdom of Upper Mustang, western Nepal is a starkly beautiful, dusty land of wind-eroded cliffs in earthy shades of rust, ochre and slate. Sparse clusters of crumbling mud houses and Buddhist Temples, in the same hues, appear to emerge from and melt back into the earth.
Interspersed with these immersions in unfamiliar, distant cultures are works based on more prosaic, closer to home subjects: Scotland, The English Lakes, the sea, the British countryside and seaside........
It is the multi-sensory memories and pleasures of walking, cycling, sailing and living in these varied landscapes that have inspired these paintings.
The works in the 'Drowned World' series are either painted in response to reported images of natural disasters (for example, Hurricane Irene and 'Tohoku', the Japanese Tsunami of 2011), or fabrications and elaborations around my own photographs of places I have visited (NYC series, Waters of Leith') In addition, my rediscovery of some old photographs taken during a site visit to Battersea Power Station in its pre-development days of dereliction and reclaimation by nature, prompted a series of paintings.
My earlier paintings, ‘Italian Neo-Frescoes’, are an amalgamation of the stylised, naîve landscapes glimpsed as a backdrop to the iconic religious figures in frescoes and paintings of the Italian Renaissance; and my own photographs taken while walking in Umbria.
The emptiness inherent in all of these unpopulated landscapes is a recurring characteristic of my work. There are no figures to imply narrative possibilities. I want to offer a visually seductive canvas for viewers to engage with on their own terms.