I went to Rome to draw for a few days and wandered around, stopping all the time to make quick drawings of scenes that caught my eye – just the particulars of that moment – knowing it will be different and won’t catch me in the same way next time I pass.
This is what I do when I go drawing. I go to refuel, to feed up on colour, shape and form. All the better to improvise with in the evolution of my invented paintings. This time, though, the plan changed. I came back and began to use the drawings directly, copying them to make paintings from. Just as artists returning from the Grand Tour once did. Only now Rome is another place where millions of people go to which changes the dynamic and with it my painting – different thinking makes different pictures – reasoning that, knowing so much, the viewer needs far less to evoke thoughts about somewhere that exists as powerfully in the imagination as it does in actuality, these pictures of Rome are much simpler in appearance than usual.
The minimal aesthetic I have adopted for this purpose stands in contrast to the denser, more complex “house-style” and “dubbed” paintings with their worked surfaces, layers and depths of half-hidden imagery. Recently, I have begun to experiment with expanding the choice of pictures in the exhibitions I’ve held. Rather than stick to one thematic selection the plan has been to group more sorts of work together. Partly, this is to test what is permissible in a culture of artistic freedom, but mainly, it is to bring the act of looking itself to the attention of the viewer.
Different kinds of pictures, each one, demands a different way of looking. To meet those demands, between expecting how something ought to be and investigating how it actually is, is the connection between my painting and the relation of art and life. Looking, in all its forms, exerts its continual fascination for me and how looking configures with thinking is really the subject behind all my art.
Looking: …from the glimpse to the gaze; looking to observe, looking to admire or dismiss, in disgust or delight; looking for spaces, solids, texture, weight…, anything tangible – where is something stretched, draped, taut or sagging? Looking to see the difference, looking to find qualities, means drawing such questions from ourselves not from outside. Connecting imaginatively in different ways brings us closer to the sense of how things are. What we look for we see – we always find what we are looking for… And when we draw from life we find it is never how we imagined, it’s always different, stranger than we think (it would be).