During May and June I spent time away from the studio. Instead of painting, I was incubating. It is a now familiar pattern: I work intensely for months, then once I have shown the work, I return to the studio intending to get on with things once more but a magnetic force repels me. The blue studio door appears, instead of a happy beacon, a doom weary dragon. My feet are heavier, the walls encase and enclose, even the light is grey and flat. If I force the process I make bad paintings that need to be sanded back and bad drawings that are over painted / drawn/ or pushed and pulled until the paper tears. I leave the studio to run or walk and feel the liberation of sky against my skin and birds overhead. Gradually, incubation leads to curiosity, intuitive hunches and play back in the studio. Momentum builds and the energetic shift in my body is similar to the change a runner experiences before running up a hill. I can feel my legs preparing for the incline as the balance of power shifts into my pelvis and thighs ready to commit and begin the climb once more.
I have been working with sky and land since 2015. In making the paintings I typically cycle between abstraction and something more representational. More recently I have felt inhibited by external expectations that the paintings will be landscapes or skyscapes. I don’t perceive them in this way because whilst they employ the visual language of land and sky, they come from a physical engagement with being outside. On an artist’s retreat this weekend with My Next Chapter the original intention for the paintings resurfaced. I was able to rearticulate this as:
“The intention to create spaces of deep listening, embodied reflection and transportation for the viewer. The paintings are an invitation to breathe more deeply, to be alert and present, to step out of the mental noise of everyday life.”
The challenge when working with land and sky is to paint not what is expected – “the where is it” answer to landscape – but instead to make what feels intuitively right.
In moving from incubation to making, at the corners of my imagination are soft graphite lines, dense records of movement that anchor the gaze through their simplicity. On the gesso surface the pitted bubbling of water-diluted ink exhales next to the scoring lines of sandpaper, the crinkle of coarse wire wool, and the hairline whispers of a finer grade. In all this mark making there is desire for a visceral grounding. The new work seeks to navigate visual noise through a looseness of mark making and retain some simplicity of gesture.