Tag Archives: painting

Painted Verse

This series of paintings comes from a collaboration with poet and soundscape artist, Sh’maya. Fragments, on-the-move, are taken from Sh’maya’s past; haikus drawn from travel notebooks, poems scrawled on work-break napkins, thoughts lifted from diaries, paper scraps, back-pocket sketches. These are not add-ons over pre-painted surfaces, but the formal/conceptual mechanism driving the process throughout. The stencil set became a structural devise to introduce routine and technique to the painting process. Words form the concrete basis; stenciled to the surface, painted over, edited, lost and found til they speak synonymously with the form of the paint. Poetic imagery breeds pictorial language. An unashamedly Romantic approach binds this relationship; a language of longing, mystery, hope, space and sea. It emerges an exploration of ut pictura poesis, ‘as in painting so in poetry.’


Last May I discovered a metal stencil set hidden away in a cupboard. I was fascinated by these old and redundant sets in two sizes, and wanted to incorporate their use into my painting.  Text has often crept into my work and there seemed a lot of scope here.  I dug further and also found a plastic school stencil set.  About half an hour later I received an email:

‘I have an idea which could be a proposal…….I sometimes come up with little poems which plant themselves in my head. They don’t feel right to be performance pieces and I get a little bored with standard read poetry -I was thinking that a really interesting way of releasing them would be joined with art – they are short enough to fit on canvas and I guess are quite invoking of visual response….’

This timely email formed the basis of a collaboration with Sh’maya.



Last October, Sh’maya came over for a few days and wrote some poetry in my working space as I continued to paint. He was particularly inspired by the old books piled up on the wall and made a list of the titles that grabbed his attention.  I tried to memorise the titles and remove the ones I could remember from the pile, whilst listening to something he was creating on his loop station.

We created an installation by categorising the books by title and then incorporating them with other objects that seemed resonate with the categories.

This collaboration is continuing in the context of an Accident and Emergence project called ‘Pistols and Pollinators’

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The happening

Lee Mitchell band

Recently I was asked to take part in an arts evening with The Furnace at The George in Balham, London organised by a group of people exploring collaborative enterprise between different art forms. I was asked to do a live painting performance as a spontaneous response to the music of the Lee Mitchell band. They were the main act for the evening. The invitation came on a Saturday morning for the event that Wednesday night.


Over the last year I’ve built up a body of work in silence and meditative solitude, overworking and re-working, abandoning and embracing over an extended time scale. Although daunting to change the pace and environment so drastically, I realised this was a great opportunity to unleash some of that creative build up at a specific moment in time surrounded by a specific community of people. It had to be about that moment in time, irreducible and unrepeatable; a conversation between a painter, an audience, some musicians and a canvas (2 metres high x 6.5 metres long.)


Not having ever painted anything that big before I was concerned just to cover the thing, hoping that the acrylic paint would flow freely across it. The staff at Bird and Davis were extremely helpful in advising what materials I’d need and how much. Once all the technical issues were sorted out my nerves evaporated into peaceful calm, and on the actual day I was able to really enjoy all the other acts before me. The only thing that kept bugging me was what I would paint. Every time I came up with an idea I had to let it go, sensing that it would impose itself on the unplanned moment and wreck the phenomenology of it all. Someone said ‘just make sure you paint from your head to your feet.’ I thought ‘once the music starts I’ll let my body do the talking’ and that’s how it happened. The musicians started out in mellow tones and I started with broad sweeps of blue and then green. Gradually the pace of the music picked up and I began to introduce warm oranges, pinks and yellows.


Later it culminated in red, black and white.


I became quite ecstatic at points during those 25 minutes, especially when I started splashing pink onto the green hills and swiping black figures into the surface in the final few minutes. I was really intrigued by peoples’ comments afterwards, especially those where their experience paralleled mine at those points of heightened intensity; a truly shared dynamic. I’m interested in the dance expressed in paint. I painted a small picture called Dance which depicts a joyful ecstasy of bodily movement. Other paintings also approach human interaction through ritual/ceremony/dance. I want to re-visit that subject, but have wondered how it might be achieved figuratively.


During the event as I drew from the music and the audience and allowed my body to respond to the immediacy of the moment, I sensed that I was actually becoming in reality, the subject I had wanted to depict in paint; quite a liberating feeling. The next day I ached.

What emerged was a kind of landscape with figures dotted across it and in the middle a huge all Seeing Eye.

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Art and Fear


Above is a drawing I did (or my sister did) when we were small – these tickets enable the bearer to go anywhere and do anything. Fortunately they have come to light again.

Here I’ll be recording the artistic activities and projects that I’ll be involved in, as well as any insights and thoughts I might have along the way. By jotting it all down I aim to keep myself ‘falling forwards’.

I studied at Newcastle University, UK graduating in 1997 with a Fine Art degree. My work at that time was created by observing theatrical performers. I sketched all the students rehearsing at the other University (which had/has a strong drama department.) Later I would develop these impressions into compositions which explored elements of the human condition represented by ‘types’ caught in the interplay between spiritual and material realities. The ‘Cloud and the Pillar’ series title was taken from the biblical exodus of the Israelites from Egypt. They were guided by a pillar of cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night. Within the scope of this story I saw the journey of life played out; states of awareness and being, vision and doubt, knowledge and unbelief, going forward and turning back. I worked on a small scale, very intensively wanting some of the energy of a mysterious drama to unfold.

I’ve been working in different fields outside of artistic practice since then, so it’s an exciting leap to return on a second wind. I have just read an inspiring book called Art and Fear by David Bayles and Ted Orland, 1993 which talks about creativity in the face of different kinds of obstacles, reconciling oneself to them and continuing to create.

With my series ‘Painting the Numinous’ I have been using solitude as a needed counterpart to community; a way to re-familiarise myself with the personal and material process of making art. By solitude I mean its role as a discipline and its rejuvenating effects in slowing down time.

My experience of solitude as a spiritual discipline involves moments of still contemplation prior to and during painting. This is centring myself. There is a play between meditative deliberation and decision making. During the painting process itself I have used no pre-gathered visual source material. Instead I have been interested in the role of the imagination in its relation to visual memory and spontaneity; similar to my own experience of musical creativity. It’s a process that embraces personal permission giving toward play and abstract experimentation.


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