Thursday, December 25, 2008

holiday work

I'm here on holiday on Anguilla in the Caribbean, not exactly where I grew up (Trinidad), but similar in some significant ways. The sun shines most of the time in a cloudless sky, meaning the light is rarely diffused as it in the North's flat grey winter weather. And there are more reflective surfaces - on a sunny day in Asheville NC, the trees and greenery seem to absorb the light. Here, visually the environment is high contrast. Shadows, of course, but also shaded areas, and the way dark and light intersect with each other when seen from inside buildings, around natural shapes.

The quality of light and the kind of shadows produced are part of the experienced world, coloring the time of day, the kind of weather, your location. Life is obviously easier to live outside when it is warm.

Here are some images I've collected, not sure how I will end up using them yet. Maybe develop some of the ideas here on the blog....

Quite a contrast to the candlelight ambiance of my last post's image. Contrast is not only visual... Christmas day may involve a casual beer at the beach and evening turkey cooked in the BBQ on a patio looking out towards the sea. The oven maybe went kaput a couple of days ago when snapped power lines draped across our driveway, causing an "outage" in the area. Not an uncommon experience. This last week we have often driven by the first mall on the island - the El Dorado, unfortunately perhaps many malls are now under construction - where DJs have been broadcasting calypso style carols and religious christmas pop so loud that it vibrates within the chest cavity as you pass in the car. We've also seen several inflatable and endearingly snoozing (there's a stiff breeze) santas on the lawns around the bank. Music from bars and nightspots is heard long into the night, and there's always the slight chance of a fatal road accident, or, very occasionally, a robbery at gunpoint at the busy chinese corner store. They have a security guard now, so hopefully not. Never mind, for us visitors there's turquoise water, endless white sand, and maybe the lobster brunch of the dream holiday before we jet off back to ordinary life.

And I'm taking pictures of palm frond shadows!?? I do have other shadows in mind, using car headlights to capture the guys playing dominoes on the corner, and a cement truck's silhouette on a warehouse wall, but it takes a while for things to come to fruit sometimes. I intend to make some gravitygrams using sand and cardboard - slightly more accessible.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

coming events

In the grey days of January I will be filling the Holden Gallery with light installations and generally insubstantial or "unskilled" artworks.

The work separates value from saleability.... The pieces are put together as vehicles for ideas rather than as conventionally valuable art products. You don't have to buy it, to get it. The ideas are free.

The first idea is that value often gets equated with elements that make an object desirable, and justify its price (via demonstrations of skill, perfection, expensive materials). Hot on the heels of this is the idea that most of our available technology is harnessed to create products that are for sale, and therefore subject to variations of these same commercial criteria. This has an effect on our perceptions of value, and what is worthy. In the commercial world, if people don't think something is worth paying for, then that item is not worth making. The whole thing revolves around what people believe they need to own, and what they are willing to give up to achieve that. The cost of making the product has to come in under this figure - if not... forget it.

Buying and the evaluation preceding it distill our perceptions of the world into tangible form. But if we can separate it out from this cycle of product manufacture, technology is just a tool, and if we could use it in a different way, by asking what it is we would REALLY like our lives to be like, we might start investigating other ways to consume. Doesn't mean we won't pay for things, but we might perceive that a greater part of our consuming, and ownership means different things. We already understand that with sports, or watching a play - there's no material benefit, but we recognize the experience is worth paying for. We've all seen the bumper sticker saying The best things in life aren't things...

The work in this exhibition has been able to disregard the criteria that keeps work "up to standard" somehow, for the viewer - which relies, of course, on the idea of desirable ownership. In contrast, this work I am showing is made out of cheap or free materials, it has required little or no skill (or rather, it demonstrates "poor craftsmanship"), and it questions the idea of perfection. Just what makes us decide that something is perfect, or flawed? Perfection seems to be a particularly industrial concept, that dictates that the correct product is exactly the same as all the others. Otherwise it is a mistake, and they are conning you into paying for substandard goods. Yet we then pay over the odds for customized items - or versions of customization... limited edition, special collection, hand appliqued, signed by the artist, certificate of authenticity etc. It is interesting.

So, the exhibition provides me with an opportunity to explore some of these ideas, allowing me to discard some of the measures of what might be acceptable. The prevailing - or dominant - assumptions have a powerful hold.

This work grows out of an interest in wider, cultural concerns. My understanding is that examining the way we use technology has a vital role to play in cultural development. This area is not one that we are encouraged to explore but is actually open to all humans with imagination. This makes change, and a change of consciousness within the power (and responsibility) of individuals, not just corporations, scientists and politicians.

As an artist, or individual, it may be enough to allow an idea houseroom - each contribution may work in small ways. The seeds of an idea may bear fruit many years or decades later, filtered through new technology, different philosophies and other, brilliant and focused individuals. Ideas don't have to supply all the answers, just show that something different is possible. The Wright brothers showed flight was possible, but could they have imagined a jumbo jet with 500 passengers in the air for 22 hours, with movies and meals? Or landing on the moon?

Thursday, November 20, 2008

deskilled process

Drawing (coca cola crate), 2008
cast iron grindings, acrylic, Fabriano paper, 10 x 13 inches

Well, the wood grain in the last picture is not the real thing, but it looks like it. Here the coca cola crate does look like the real thing, and was actually created by the real thing, but it doesn't look the way we expect it to.

This is one of a series of "drawings" created using various powders, and gravity. We are familiar with photograms, which use light sensitive emulsion to record the effects of an object deflecting light. Here gravity is used, and the object concerned deflects particles - just not photons, but physical particles that accumulate showing the effects of that deflection. The result describes the object quite faithfully via its edges, so can be considered a drawing, but is not created as traditional drawings are, through the mediation of the artist. Its a kind of factory drawing.... more direct than the "Leonardo Drawing" you can buy at the mall...

And very much in tune with my paintings - that use particles of paint set in motion by the compressed air in my spray gun - that record the deflection that occurs to paint particles when a stencil is placed on the canvas, obstructing their path.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

faux grain

Faux grain and egg dish, 2006
oil paint on board, 14 x 14 inches

No spray gun used here, I was back to stenciling with a soft bristle brush - over contrasting colors of oil paint squeegeed into wood grain patterns by that clever little tool from Home Depot.

Emulating the appearance of another (usually more expensive) material is a "traditional" decorative technique used on furniture and interiors. Interestingly during the 20th Century this practice has also been used to distress paint and surfaces, furniture, carpets, etc to look older and more traditional than they are - as older has been associated with craftsmanship and rarity in the age of industrial production. The idea of falseness or pretense, and trompe l'oeil also ties into the fine arts with the surrealist movement. The difference is that decorative faux finish is (kinda) meant to pass as real, whereas surreal faux is meant to surprise by obviously being unreal. The use of replicated imagery also links to Picasso's first deliberate collage using printed chair-caning pattern, using industrially produced imagery to play with the notion of real and unreal...of both the pattern and whether a collage, especially using such a lowly material can claim status as art.

It is fascinating to experiment in this area, with so many ideas to play with and new ways of combining and expressing them. All because pigment has been concentrated in particular layouts!

Like my other work, Faux grain and egg dish is unmistakeably created using deskilled techniques - the graining tool and stenciling round a plastic dish - but more so than my other work this one creates a (semi) realistic illusion. There's a luscious gravity to this, and yet a childish delight in the wooden shapes that seem to be lifting off. Flowers, even, where no flowers would be. To be real, as the illusion suggests, the wood and the shapes lifting off from it would have to be crafted by a skilled artisan...or a factory router...referring back to different methods of production.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

more process, and other discoveries

Tires and circular objects, 2006, 36 x 36 inches, acrylic on canvas.

As far back as 1997 I was trying to create softly diffused areas of color with the "end grain" of a round brush. I inherited a compressor when I moved into a studio in Knoxville in 2003 and a spray gun created that diffused area in an instant. It made certain paintings possible as I explored what it could do.

People have been fascinated by this painting, curious about how it was made and the softness that pervades it. The fact that the grey layer went on first, and the pink layer last is like a puzzle also. The sprayed pink appears to be a background but it is the top layer of paint. Its like thinking backwards, figuring out what each set of objects will create when stenciled around.

I discovered the painter Tomma Abts earlier this year, with an announcement about a showing in NY. I love her work. She won the Turner Prize in the UK in 2006 - why didn't I hear about it? Not doing much net trawling at that point obviously, working through my own path towards maturity in art practice - often that has to be a journey you make alone. Anyway, she creates paintings in a back to front method with stenciling and has similar conceptual concerns in some areas (images are not derived from reality but create their own reality).

Tomma Abts. Pabe, 2000, acrylic & oil on canvas, 48 x 38 cm. (left)

Tomma Abts. Luhr, 2004, acrylic and oil on canvas, 48 x 38 cm (right)

Wednesday, October 22, 2008


Space (tags and inserts),2006
acrylic on canvas, 36 x 48 inches

My work could be thought of as process-based though not in an entirely pure sense . My method revolves around deskilled processes but with a wider focus.

Deskilled processes are those from which the skill has been removed. Industrial production relies on particular actions repeated indefinitely and mechanically, each the same, each having the same, perfect outcome. Industry moves towards perfection in this way (no "unskilled" mistakes) because it speeds things up, increases profits, cuts down on waste. My interest is in using these deskilled processes for different reasons, obtaining different outcomes. Stenciling and printing are basic forms of deskilled processes.

Stenciling is also used in homes as a deskilled way of creating yards of customized decor. It has a domestic flavor, low end. Craft magazines. You, too, can have a beautiful home with this easy project. Country cottage, cottage industries. It can however be hugely impactful and effective if designed or applied by someone with an eye for color, composition etc. So the creation of the design could be called skilled (there's a whole can of worms here about taste and evaluation but we won't go there), and it can then be applied by someone else who doesn't want to bother with, or hasn't thought about those other factors. Who isn't being paid to have those skills etc. There are numerous cultural references woven through the idea of deskilling.

So, to create shapes on the canvas I take a shape and stencil round it - shazam! Done. No drawing, observing from life, imagination, anything. Deskilled... but not deskilled. What happens next? Why am I using it, what for? I love the effects - the hard and soft edges, the crisp curves. I love that it is actually creating a particularly contemporary shape, lifted straight out of my daily life. The deskilled process used in industry is importing the direct evidence or traces of an industrially produced object, but the same method has been seen in cave paintings from the dawn of history. It is thought that a mouthful of pigment was blown onto the cave wall over the artist's hand, leaving us with hand stencils - Kilroy was here in the most basic sense!

Stenciling relies on single or simple combinations of paint colors applied in layers... and what has been happening all through my art practice but paint being applied in layers! Why? Because layers naturally avoid perspective and optical space, but by layering stenciled shapes I begin to create the illusion of space again, engaging with traditional visual mechanisms. Via a different route - a route that is not limited by the assumptions of real experience or the conventional ways of abstracting imagery from it.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

abstract turning points

(above ) Found objects in green and black with light rods, 2006
acrylic on canvas, 48 x 48 inches

Here are two paintings with obvious links to the painting Harlem Window shown in the last post. It is also obvious that they have no further need of real life situations because the focus has shifted to visual dynamics. As understood in a fine art context, the situation on the canvas has enough of its own references to continue exploration.

Sounds simple, but there was a lot of searching done between 1998 and 2005! Making artwork when I don't know exactly what I'm going to end up with is the only way I can stay excited about making art. (I can compare the experience to stumbling around a room blindfolded, believing that doors exist but not knowing where or what they are). The night scenes I painted before, for example, were only fresh and interesting while I was using them to explore the unknown. After that they became formulaic and dull. They still seemed to sell, but I couldn't keep painting them as a main practice. I think there are still exciting "realist" paintings in me, but I don't yet know what form they will tak
e, exactly.

(below) Space # 7, 2005
acrylic on canvas, 48 x 48 inches

Friday, October 10, 2008

Harlem Window

Harlem Window, 1998
Oil on board, 60 x 36 inches

Terrible photo of an important work... This painting went into the student show at the Royal Academy in Edinburgh and sold within a couple of months of painting it. (For GBP450...). This (paper) photo actually has the shadow of a gallerygoer moving across it at speed, I've had to doctor that out in photoshop. I don't even have the negative - a friend took it when we went to the opening. Its not that I was ignorant of the need to keep records but sometimes life takes a while to catch up with your intentions.

As a little aside, at college I worked almost as hard as I had done at my business, and that's saying something! I would be at my desk writing at about 7.30 am (nice when I had the 3rd floor apartment looking out over the Tay), get to the art school studio at 9.30 or so, work til 7 or 9 pm when they closed the building, then go home and experiment with photoshop until I fell off the chair in the wee hours. Sunday was food shopping and laundry day. Each summer (five in all) I worked for 10 weeks grafting roses in a field 6 days a week 12 hours a day. Try picking potatoes all day and you'll be halfway to the backbreaking nature of the job. With thorns. Kept me fit (I was in my late 30's at the time). Great money (in student terms), raised my yearly wage to about GBP 6,000. Most of the tuition was paid for by the state, but I still have GBP 4500 in loans to pay back. Oh, yeah, and I moved nearly every summer to another apartment, storing my stuff for a few months in between. It was a helluva time.

So, anyway, I was kinda busy with the things I thought were important. Even if I didn't manage great photos. It was one of the most intense and wonderful times of my life, and there seemed to be enough money for a lot of homemade bloody marys.

Why am I posting this terrible picture? Well, its a turning point in my art practice. I went to New York (a guy paid my ticket) for the weekend. It was a bit of a disaster but very useful. The guy lived in Harlem and prowling round the apartment on my own in the middle of the night... as you do when its a disaster... I saw streetlights through some dark, flowered curtains in his bathroom window. The apartment was nice, wood floors, plants etc, but I'd heard so much about Harlem over the years that the comparison between the space inside and outside struck me as extreme. I mean, here I was in my knickers and a few feet away was the dangerous slum of legend...(!) Visually, all that separated the spaces was this bathroom curtain. It made a huge impact.

A few months later I saw, no - recognized what I was seeing - on the airport window as the compression of several situations into one image. Needless to say, curtains and windows occupied my attention as representing the boundary between spaces that were contiguous but perceived to be different.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

photographic exploration of ideas

In Transit Bus, 1999, photograph

So, during my MFA I explored the idea of the glass and reflections in photographs, which capture the essence of several realities at once.

This image was taken inside a bus between an aircraft and the terminal. I didn't care that it was blurred. Visually I found it luscious and the blurring to convey a sense of temporariness, and the existence of other priorities. It is full of information about the implied situation(s). As passengers, we are not allowed outside onto the tarmac. We have to stay inside the safety of the bus because we don't understand the rules out there (and we probably aren't insured...). In fact, having arrived from another country, we are not allowed outside the airport perimeter as we haven't gone through immigration yet (haven't officially arrived). So those lights a few miles away could be seen as being in a different country altogether from the one we are in. Conceptually.

I was really into the french philosopher Marc Auge at that time who has some interesting things to say about non-space, ie an area we do not have a history, relationship or connection with, and I explored that for a while in writings, travel paintings, views from hotels and aircraft windows etc.

My interest eventually continued past this to the principle of different spaces themselves, especially perceptions of adjoining but different spaces - not divided by concrete boundaries. Visually, objects like windscreen wipers, reflections, curtains etc, that differentiate between personal and public space, began to translate into the layering of floating abstract shapes.


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Tuesday, September 30, 2008

important windows at night

In transit, 1999, 96 x 60 inches
Acrylic, spray paint, varnish and metallic powder on board

(the diamond shapes are shiny silver and show up best as you move past the painting - I didn't use a professional photographer in those days)

This is quite a striking painting at 8 feet tall! It was bought from my degree show by "Art in Hospitals", an organization that loans art to healthcare facilities in Scotland. It is still on show in the Glasgow and Edinburgh area. Good to know that many people are seeing it on a daily basis. Art in hospitals does help, even when you'd rather not be there...most of us have experienced that! There is a LOT of fabulous and very contemporary art in Scottish hospitals (which by the way are "free" to all because healthcare is seen as a basic human necessity...let's not get started on that!)

Anyway, I mentioned in the PLANE posting that I went on to see "the airport terminal window". This happened in 1998 and is one of two pivotal experiences that showed me it was possible to represent several very different circumstances in a single image.

In this painting the diamond shapes are obviously reflections of lights inside the terminal as they recede into the distance (we know it is a public place - few houses have that configuration and quantity of lights). There is also a vertical stripe of darkness, as if there is a shadowed area or wall reflected in the window. There are drips and runs... rain on the outside of the glass. Then there are rounded light shapes that seem to be beyond all of this - they represent the world of the airport outside. So several circumstances are indicated by the images layered on top of each other. Because we understand it as a window, we are familiar with what it is representing.

This translated into framing mechanisms and barriers in night scenes after my MFA (Riverside Walk featured in an earlier post, for example). Then when I came to the USA, the idea that
layers of separate origin and inference could be meaningfully compressed into a single image started to offer possibilities within "abstract" work, opening up investigation of visual conventions themselves.

We are familiar with images that operate via ONE visual convention - optical reality is a visual convention, for example, its how we see things as we walk around. A map, a diagram, an architectural plan, are all separate (though related) visual conventions - ie we understand on what basis information is represented, what that coded information is telling us. The airport window combined several visual codes, accessible because we are familiar with its realism. Other combinations are possible.

This is not a new idea - David Salle, James Rosequist, Robert Rauschenberg, Sigmar Polke - spring immediately to mind as mixing visual conventions. Currently it is actually the basis (in various subtle ways) of contemporary artists' work such as Sarah Morris, Rebecca Morris, Mary Temple, even Olafur Eliasson, where the old abstract ideas are played on but used very differently. (Some of these have featured on my other blog). We all find our own pathways to similar destinations...

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

moving on

Sardine can repeat on pink, 2007
36 x 36 inches, acrylic on canvas

Nothing concrete in the background of this painting, no realist associations as with the windows and wing of Plane. But the same principles of line and separation apply. I have moved on to the more abstract (as in thought, not as "traditional" modernist abstraction) use of shape. The fact that the shape is derived from a manufactured object ready to be thrown away and achieved by deskilled processes of printing and stenciling introduces aspects of mechanized production. Anonymous replication... but messed up with drips and mistakes that bring it to life. I was thinking about Warhol's portraits of Marilyn while doing this, the colors and the grainy mess of black... With all that reference material, who needs to refer to physical or "lived" situations? Cultural situations have become much more interesting. They are more fluid, less restricted on all sorts of levels. They open themselves up to new outcomes more easily.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

plane - forward looking painting

Plane 1998 (destroyed)

In amongst all this other work, strange but telling paintings appeared. This was small and rough, with sand in the paint (if in doubt do something - anything!). The circles are paper cut-outs stuck on with glue. It is the manifestation of ideas I would understand later.

It annoyed me but it seemed to work, I saw its roughness but couldn't throw it away. I had it in the studio space when a NY art critic and author came round doing tutorials. I was very frustrated and not able to make sense of all the other larger canvases I was mixing up different kinds of imagery on. She picked Plane out as "speaking to her" and told me basically that when I understood what I was trying to do, I'd find the way to do it. Within a few months I saw the airport terminal window and how its reflections compressed different layers into a meaningful image. It was 2004 before I'd finished with experiments with realist imagery and moved into my current work.

Could say this painting was a milestone.
Guess what? I burned it in my wood stove on the Isle of Mull in 2002 before coming to America. (Winters are cold and wet on the West coast of Scotland). It lives on in my current work. After all, it links to traditional creation of illusion, but also and obviously references a very contemporary experience of life. Once I finally learned to import shapes in more "industrial" ways, recognizable realism could be exchanged for direct connections. And therefore "cleaner" outcomes. (Less cluttered by preconceptions and assumptions.)

Karin Davie, showing at the Aldrich just now is described as "a leading artist in the current wave of painting practices that are transforming the legacy of high modernism in order to capture the dynamics of contemporary culture."
Way to go.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Philosophical reflections on windows

While traveling, you are in between destinations, miles from a familiar environment.

At night, lights show up human activity or presence, without other distracting landscape information. You may be in a train carriage or in a car splashing along on the freeway and over behind those distant lighted windows someone is working late, or might be drinking hot chocolate in front of the TV.

Lights supply a surprising amount of information. Factory or office lights have certain flavors, cooler colors. Lights from people’s homes are warm, protected. Even driving through an unfamiliar city at night we can tell quite accurately what kind of neighborhoods we pass through. (Not much hot chocolate being drunk in these images!)

Separation of personal and public space seems clear, and also the idea of different simultaneous experiences. These are not new concepts, but including them in the images I was creating drove me to experiment with a variety of approaches. It wasn’t the beautiful scene I wanted to depict, but the experience of passing and the different “realities” compressed within the image.

top image : Night Trains : Estate, 2000, oil on board, 8 x 4 inches
lower image : Rest Stop, 2000, slide image

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Evolution of work

Sketches from a train describe the shapes of lighted windows at night. 1998.

Spray paint through a stencil shows office windows as might be seen from a bus - the stencil is mis-registered to get a sense of movement. Passenger II, 2000.

Though referencing modernist abstraction, this cut-away shape still suggests location and landscape. Black square, 2005.

Surface and depth get entangled with dress patterns - revealing and concealing. Sleeve, 2006

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Moving into photographs

Leaving Luton Airport, 2002

Using found shapes - as recorded by the film emulsion. A short step to letting go of "reality-derived" imagery, and creating found shapes in painting by using mechanical means ... only took me 4 years to figure it out!


want to see how big I can make these images...

Riverside walk, 2001
oil on board, 16 x 16 inches

Tuesday, August 12, 2008


Express, 2001, oil on board, 10.5 x 14 inches

Here is the example I promised showing me learning about constructing space using lights in a dark void. The lights separate from the background (which changes to indicate sky or slightly closer land) and larger lights/discs are read as closer. The distant, smaller discs are not so bright. In this painting I have also made use of several other connections or inferences, playing around with them.

The title implies that the scene is viewed from a fast train. There's a flattening, like its all happening on the other side of a window, and the flat discs can be seen occasionally if the window is wet and you stick your nose up against the glass... otherwise its obviously referencing photography, or film, where unfocused lights look this way. There's also a sense of movement in the slight slippage and repetition of some of the lights, and the fact that they are sort of running in together (also a feature seen in film). Aside from that, there are some areas that could be reflections inside the train carriage (ie the top red area).

This work and others of the time did not arise out of wanting to capture specific scenes (oh, it looks just like Chicago - people always say that, it is a way of connecting), but are more about the wonder of my experiences on trains at night, and the philosophical questions they raised for me. More about that later...

Josef Sudek

Influences ... In 1998 I had seen an exhibiton of Joseph Sudek's photographs from his small studio in Prague. In this series - The Window of my Studio - his windows often have rain or condensation on them, distorting and affecting the view, emphasizing the separation between internal and external (worlds). They are richly mysterious, very soulful and melancholy. I don't find them that fascinating any more but there is a relevant connection with my current work.

An article on Sudek says he was "devoted to introspection and explorations of his soul. He believed that symbolic form equates with inner emotions, a philosophy shared by many painters of his era". (Elenore Welles,

What I continue to find more interesting than the subject matter is the understanding that the image represents more than the scene itself. Exploring the relationship between form and meaning is the link between the diverse areas my work has passed through. If I paint this, what will it mean? If I photograph something this way, what is it saying? If I combine this kind of imagery with this kind of idea, what will stand out as important?

I don't believe in absolute and quantifiable links between a shape and, say a feeling - that is a philosophy long de-bunked in art theory. My understanding is that form and meaning have a flexible, changeable relationship, one that is difficult to pin down because it depends on culture, era, information and attitudes. Images DO suggest connections to many other things, and the connections rely on levels of awareness obtained through the viewer's life in terms of education, exposure and experience.

This is where it gets interesting because many viewers will have a similar level of awareness to the artist, and those connections can become things to play around with. It is all entirely fascinating!

The link to artscenecal is

and these 3 tiny images were culled from the online collection of Sudek’s work at

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Night corridor

Night corridor, 1998, photograph

During the day this university corridor is a busy place. At night, light spill turns mundane into magical even while highlighting its overwhelming emptiness.

Interestingly, the light sources - sources of energy – are elsewhere, separated from the viewer by doors and doorways, and the wonderful glowing light on the left is coming from a men’s restroom. The idea of identifying different kinds of space (a kind of spatial polarity?) and the understanding that beauty can be found in the ordinary continues through my contemporary work.

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Night scene

This is a painting from 8 years ago, incorporating flatness, stenciling and abstraction into the night scenes. Before I could understand how to move forward (and let go of realism completely) I explored the creation of space and inferred meaning of shapes through night scenes. I'll post an example if I can find a digital version - I didn't have a good digital camera back then... ! Hard to believe now.

Window, 2000, oil on board, 18 x 18 inches

what's with the light?

This light work seems like a departure from the paintings - or does it? I love the night, and my paintings of 8 - 9 years ago explored night scenes. Lots of skylines and the glow of cities, silhouettes of things that appeared absent in the darkness.

Shadows have been attracting me for a while and they spring from the same fascination as my paintings, the same ideas run through everything.

Silhouettes, stenciling and shadows...shapes that block or allow access - to something : light, paint, x-rays, whatever. Ultimately, making 3D information available as a flat shape or series of shapes.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Pay-per-view art, 2008
Coin-operated installation in a theater lobby

It was fascinating to watch people figure this out. Kids were the most curious and adventurous, putting coins in without prompting. Adults tended to walk straight past but found the concept funny and thought provoking when they saw it working.

I loved fixing up the coin meter - it is from a different world. Its shape, the solid, fortress-like quality of its heavy manufacture screams laundromat and parking meter. Inside it is old fashionedly mechanical, but very efficient and functional. It actually rejects all but 25 cent pieces, as they said it would... Totally ingenious. Interesting to set up the time intervals that could be bought. I wanted people to see it in action which meant a short time (30 seconds!) but that was a bit ambitious as it ate up the money for not enough perceived return.

In terms of value, I tried amortizing a theoretical cost of the artwork over x years, with estimated exposure time in hours.... too many unknowns. It will end up being what the market will bear. Actually putting money in to see the artwork really highlights the idea of nothing being free...its insatiable! Relentless! Interestingly, all visitors benefit from the purchases and payments supporting the gallery system, unlike most other commercial transactions. Lots of thoughts about value.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Some links here with the painting, but larger than life! This photograph was taken at my old studio in Tennessee when I was starting to experiment with light in 2007.

I now have a solo show of paintings in Asheville, NC and at the opening night I showed a slide show of these digital images, along with a light installation with a coin-operated timer. It looked great, and I will have a picture for the blog soon. It expands the idea behind the paintings and the new drawings using metal dust.

The idea is that the shadow is formed by a simple, mechanical process of light being blocked as it travels out from a source. That is what happens when I spray round a stencil in the paintings, or when I use the metal dust and gravity to draw an object that is present.

Sunday, June 15, 2008


Stenciled objects in yellow, 16 x 16 inches, acrylic on canvas.

I want to share my thoughts about this painting. For me it captures the feeling of life's dualities - energies that can be at odds but that are also interwoven with each other. Jennifer McNally, the arts writer at the Laurel of Asheville magazine likened it to bubblegum punk music, saying that there's confidence, brightness and surface, attitude and edge, but also darkness and chaos, a gritty underlayer.

As the painter, what do I see in it? There are smooth, organized shapes, crisp curves and bright colors in front, but the shapes cut out of this sunny yellow suggest bites, as if insect jaws have been at work. The view it reveals is troubling... black, rough bars, or trees, with bloody spatters and the murky gloom of twilight. But it is pretty - I love the contrast between the flatness and the grain of the brush strokes, the brightness of the yellow with the minor key of the blues behind. I love the smooth edges of the yellow shapes, and the flaws that show up as blips or hazy sections - the edges are as interesting as a pencil line. And I love the sense that there is another world presented beyond a barrier that separates us from it, like a garden fence. The barrier is clear, it connects to our space and has no hidden depths, but it is the boundary of another world beyond, a world that looks beautiful and whose rules are uncertain. It is visceral and slightly exciting. Dangerous perhaps.

Friday, June 13, 2008

catching up

That was a bit of a break! Woke early this morning and after going through a few hoops re-setting the password and all that (you know the routine -where DID I write all that info down??) I am keen to get this blog going. I am very excited about some new paintings I have been doing, too, so I'll try to get some pics of them on here.

I've also been busy organizing - a different brain function to the creative side...taking up a lot of space recently. Got an exhibition coming up next month, and have been getting publicity for that, getting it in some papers and magazines, and sorting out the invitations and... of course, what paintings will be hanging. And the wine for the opening, and the food, and stuff like that.

Also in the last month I have signed with an art consultancy firm who will represent my work to hotels and hotel chains around the world, as originals, or possibly prints. It appears to be high end mainly so don't think it means I'll see myself in Days Inn next time I'm staying in an obscure location off the I75, but would that be such a bad thing? I pondered that for a while but came to the conclusion that it would be ok.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

starting off

Well, I've never written a blog before, but there are a lot of cool things happening, and this is maybe a good place to share them. I've just started looking at other artists' blogs and like the ones with artwork. So, its my intention to include a lot of images and creative stuff.