As students at art college in the 1970s, we were challenged to critique notions of art and art history especially as Modernism appeared to have signalled the end of figurative art for most ‘serious’ practitioners. However, through the 1950s, 1960s and later, artists such as Giacommetti, Auerbach, Bacon and Freud maintained an approach that still involved references to what could be described as the ‘real world’. And, like these artists, I still needed (and still do need), to root my practice in a dialogue with an objective reality. And, I suppose at that time, I could have been considered a sculptor rather than a painter, as I was involved with making structures that investigated the illusion of three dimensions, using transparent materials in layers that were able to hide and reveal so-called reality.
After leaving art college, I continued to make art, but given the constraints of earning a living and raising a family, this translated into more of a painterly approach as I could more easily attend life drawing and painting workshops whereas creating large structures was impractical. During these years, what has interested me most has been the desire to capture that elusive quality of what it is that makes us human, not just a likeness, but some essential inner quality that can be grasped and understood and is communicated via that outward likeness. But this still relates back to my earlier fascination with the illusion of three dimensional reality or realities. And as I get older, it doesn’t get easier, in fact, it gets harder. So whilst I try to respond to a quality I can interpret by using charcoal on paper and paint on canvas for example, explaining this through words might sound trite to those who are not involved with the struggle to ‘make art’; the artist’s intuitive response that can be analysed but only really makes sense when seen.
oil on canvas