"The canvas acts as a stage for the figures and they are playing a part in an unknown play"
Could you tell us a bit about yourself. How long have you been a practicing artist and where did you study?
I studied at Manchester School of Art for my BA then moved to London for my MA in 2009 at Chelsea College of Art. After living in London for a few years after the MA I moved back to Manchester. I have been a practising artist for ten years, it wasn't till I studied at Chelsea though that I really questioned my work and only recently I feel able to situate myself amongst contemporary peers. Painting for me has been and still is, a wonderful road of discovery. I am continually learning.
Tell us about the characters/people you paint? Do they have a story?
The characters in the paintings are mysterious and they don't have a particular story. However I work with particular themes and subjects that are 'triggers' for a narrative to be suggested. The canvas acts as a stage for the figures and they are playing a part in an unknown play. I am trying to explore the inner life of these characters as well as their outer life. So naturally I am drawn to the costumes used in rituals, theatre and also most recently I am looking to contemporary fashion. All the characters are appearing to be on the margins of society and are either solitary or part of a cultish group. I have a series called "Twins' - these are figures that visually look similar (not identical) but most importantly share a psychological connection. I am fascinated with mysterious outsiders, subcultures, groups and individuals on the edges of mainstream culture.
Your works have a monotonous low-fi feel about them, with a ghosty edge. Could you talk about your process?
My process is a very agonising one! I often make lots of quick paintings but only select a few that I feel are successful. So there are a lot of paintings that are rejected. I work like this because I am often trying to capture a vibration in the work. This I cannot plan and will only know if it is there once I am painting. I often also work quickly in watercolours and drawing to think out an idea. This could be to work out composition, size of the work or the intensity of the piece. I often find that working quickly helps me to not overthink a painting. However it is during the making of the work that I do most of the thinking about what the work should be. What I am doing is working out ideas in a painterly language.
What do you hope the viewer gains/reacts from looking at your work?
I want the work to resonate and vibrate. I would like the work become half-remembered images in the viewer's mind. I hope to connect some sense of power and at the same time, fragility. I am interested in duality in the work and a push and pull effect on the viewer. So I want to pull the viewer in and at the same time push out. This is about giving enough information to draw out a framework or story but at the same time retain an unknown quality and a darker mystery to what might be happening. I like the idea of the viewer making up their own mind about who these people are and what they are doing. They invest their own experiences and personality onto the work to build up their own interpretation. This will be different for each person looking at the work.
Tell us a bit about how you spend your day/studio routine, what is your studio like?
I normally work in the studio during the day after I have dropped my son at Kindergarten. I don't have typical routine. I may be painting or I may be preparing canvases, drawing, research or admin. I also spend time searching for new imagery to work from either online or image libraries, back issues of magazines. If I am painting I may do some drawings and watercolours to physically open up as well as thinking out ideas. I have a wonderful studio in Manchester behind Piccadilly train station. It is an old cotton mill with three huge windows. I have been here for about 5 years and it has a really great atmosphere to work in. There are other artists around and there is a great sense of community. Unfortunately the building has been sold to a developer do we are currently looking for a new home in the new year which is a real shame. I also work two days a week teaching Fine Art students at University of Central Lancashire, Preston.
How do you go about naming your work?
I don't usually title the work before making it. The title usually becomes obvious straight away after I have finished the work - it just becomes clear it cannot be titled anything else. Or the work remains untitled for a long time whilst I agonise over it. The title is a important tool for me to direct the viewer to how I would like the work to be viewed. I am not giving away answers but framing the questions that may arise upon looking at the work. My titles are usually very simple and sometimes a description of what is in the painting for example - 'Blue Eye'. At other times they may be more referential like 'Statues' which proposes the figures are very still and have statue-like qualities.
What artwork have you seen recently that has resonated with you?
I saw the recent Bacon exhibition at the Tate Liverpool which was astounding. He is one of my favourite artists and it was a real treat to see so much of his work. I have just come back from Bogotá, Colombia. I was visiting ArtBo art fair and it was incredible to see lots of great Latin American work, especially painting, like Luis Cabellaro, Norman Mejía and Beatriz González. Whilst I was there I also met a fantastic painter called Freda Sargent. She is 88 and still painting, a total inspiration. She is a British artist but has lived in Colombia for most of her life. She is relatively unknown in the UK. Her ethereal, dream-like paintings really resonated with me due to their fragile, sensitive quality whilst at the same time have a great strength that at first is not obvious. This in some ways echoes the quality that she has as a person.
What does the future hold for you as an artist? Is there anything new and exciting in the pipeline you would like to tell us about?
I am currently on the Liverpool Biennial Associate artists programme. This is a scheme designed to support north west emerging artists internationally and we are paired with a mentor. My mentor is Mónica Espinel an independent curator based in New York. The programme will run until 2018 and we will work together developing international networks. I will be going on a residency in the US next year and visiting LA and New York. Upcoming I will be showing work at London Art Fair 2017 with two galleries - Bo Lee gallery (London) and LLE (Cardiff). LLE are a artist run gallery that I have started working with and they will be shown in the 'Dialogues' section of the London art fair. I am seeing the next two years as a time to concentrate on making a body of new work. In 2018 I will have a solo show and there is a monograph publication in the pipeline.
Publish date: 25/11/16
All images courtesy of the artist