I’m often asked what inspires the compositions and narrative of my paintings.
Many years ago, while on a camping trip through a remote part of Northern Ontario, I began making small, primitive constructions on the beach using the pebbles and driftwood I’d gathered, and photographed them ‘in situ’. Using these photos as source material, I made finely detailed drawings and developed them into paintings back in my studio.
These were my first attempts to find a way of assembling natural forms into a composition, placing them in relation to each other in unexpected ways so that they might take on fresh, new meaning. That they might become animated, ‘spirited’, come to life as symbols, metaphors of something quite removed from what their surface appearances might suggest.
This has been a recurring area of interest for me in my work, and over the years I’ve kept returning, exploring it in greater depth, drawing from this same rich source of inspiration. My current “Knotted” series has flowed naturally from this.
I try to give the work a dynamic quality by these means and to engage the viewer in some form of dialogue. I do, however, try to resist the urge to “formalise” my subject too much, as that could tend to produce work that appears static or frozen. The challenge then, in my ‘still’, meditative compositions, is to give them a quality that makes the subject reverberate and convey a life-force, something of the spirit, beneath the surfaces…
I’ve always preferred to remain a quiet presence, behind the image. I hope to give the viewer a sense of unease, of mystery, of what might be lurking between the lines – behind what is seen on the surface… but the mystery isn’t some secret hidden within the image, rather a kind of questioning within the viewer about how we look at things.
All of the above oils are included in the current show at the Gullane Art Gallery, which runs until the 27th May, 2013.