After art school in London, I worked for some 30 years as a graphic designer. In my current work I have returned to a lexicon of shapes and forms that I developed some thirty years ago. This visual language emerged out of drawing practice (landscapes initially) and repetitively drawing the same subject. I reduced to a minimal set of marks that were as much to do with handwriting as drawing. The cross or X is a particular form that repeats. A cross can be a vote, a negative, a crossing out, a selection on a web form, a kiss, the signature of a person who cannot read or write, or have religious connotations. It’s a simple shape made of two strokes –– one step above the fundamental prehistoric human marks of handprint stencils found in the caves of the Ariege in South West France.
I’m not trying to replace painting or mimic painting, more like bringing painterly process to digital. Instead of contemplating the next mark or colour or composition on the studio wall, a working screenshot might appear online, on Instagram or as a desktop background, and I will ‘live with it’ for while. Friends might ‘like’ a piece and unknowingly become part of the process. I might see a work on a phone screen with a fresh eye and consider areas that need work or colour changes. ‘Painting out’ whole areas involves manipulating layers or adjusting colours, removing, recomposing, adding new. The artistic decisions are the same. Even trashing a whole work where the delete button is the same as painting out a whole canvas.
I’m interested in challenging the ‘idea of painting in the 21st Century’. What painting looks like and how people perceive and consume images; what happens to them when they appear online. Equally what is ‘painting’ to programmers and app designers – the ’paint’ tools – and how inadequate they usually are, bearing little resemblance to actual paint, ink or pencils. I’ve often been asked if these works are ‘oil on board’ or ‘acrylic on canvas’ or ‘can i buy the original?’ For me these are wholly outdated perceptions developed in the 500 or so years up to the 20th Century about what painting is, the function of the art and what artists actually do today.