I began by painting landscapes.
I concentrated on places that brought out a strong emotional response in me; margins, edges, sea-bitten western coastlines – the wild and lonely places were where my encounters with the physical landscape felt most direct and meaningful.
Closer to home in Northumberland I relish the power of the River South Tyne in spate and the havoc of debris left in its wake.
So am I seeking the wild energy and excitement of those actual moments of encounter or perhaps a more considered distillation of that experience remembered?
Both are important and my practice usually entails an exciting, ozone-fuelled field trip followed by a longer and more meditative time in the studio.
I use a variety of materials. In the field, because colour and the drawn line are both important, I might take out watercolour, pastels, charcoal, graphite and occasionally acrylics and the work produced is energetic, responsive and messy. In the studio I love the malleability of oil paint, the subtlety of colour and the way it can be pushed around over time. I also use a lot of collage mixed with other media.
During 2016 I had a period of ill-health which I used to take stock. In September of that year I attended a wonderful event called ‘Landline: Five Walks in Skye’ put on by Atlas Arts and led by Caroline Dear. The overarching concept that emerged from and linked all the experiences was that of interconnectedness and particularly the connections between our inner selves and the outer physical landscape – how we physically interact with the land and experience our place within the landscape. These connections were made through the paths of botany, poetry, history, anthropology and language. It was a brilliant way to kick-start my thinking and get back into my practice.
Since then I have thought more about the layered and complex ways we experience landscape as we move through it or spend time within it. The work of contemporary nature writers like Kathleen Jamie, Robert Macfarlane and Tim Dee resonates strongly with me. I think about the way they bring together experience of place and the natural world, awareness of history, archaeology and geology and put all this alongside everyday experience.
I have been using collage and other media to integrate energetic hand-made marks with strong compositional elements which are resonant of place. It is proving to be a productive way to say several different things at once and I love the way that these pieces take on an ‘objectness’ of their own (see Beyond the Bothy gallery one). The resulting surfaces are fragile and I am now investigating ways to achieve more resilience so that they don’t need to be confined to a protective frame and can take up space in their own right.
Another recent area of interest has been to look at multiple images (polyptychs) as a means to explore the passage of time, as in the idea of moving through a landscape. For this I have been using sparse, pared down imagery with strong texture and emotive colour (see A Walk along the River gallery two).
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