This is a mixed-media landscape painting on a 103cm x 76cm deep edge canvas. It is semi abstract and expressionistic in terms of technique and style. It is based on my day to day experience of living in the dramatic Fenland landscape of East Cambridgeshire in England. The heavy texture of the painting combines gesso, sand, plaster and oil paint. The material and paint is applied with a variety of tools including brushes and palette knives with the surface is built up in layers and glazes over a period of time. I have been influenced by the contemporary artists Anselm Kiefer and Gerhardt Richter.
I thought I would tell you something about my working process. My studio is a partially converted garage; I used to work alongside bikes, washing machines, lawnmowers and assorted gardening equipment but since I started to work on a larger scale, this became increasingly problematic. I was also receiving too many complaints about the paint marks on the ‘white goods’. Every painter needs space!
The inspiration for this series – based on the city of Cambridge – came from my many visits to the town. As a photographer, I must have taken literally hundreds of photographs of the streets and college buildings and I believe I know the city extremely well. I have always admired the paintings of German artist Anselm Kiefer and I am aware that he often begins many of his large scale pieces by working over photographs. I began each of these paintings by working over small monochrome prints, using them as a sort of visual trigger or catalyst. I also included a range of collage elements to generate compositional possibilities and ideas. The fact that none of the original photographs are visible in the final painting is immaterial; they played the important role of ‘icebreaker’ and opened the way for new avenues to be explored.
As each successive layer of cold wax dries, I build additional marks and surfaces with an assortment of palette knifes and tools, scraping back where a colour or tone is too dominant or suffocating. I didn’t know paint could be claustrophobic…but it can, intensely suffocating and airless…..sucking out the very life we try to capture. Knowing when a painting has arrived at a destination is never simple…all artists know this….its a difficult judgement to make and we can always be wrong. So many factors come into play, tension, harmony, contrast, compositional structure….this is especially true of work that is primarily abstract and does not need to conform to a particular code of realism. It is a question of ‘rightness’ ; knowledge, experience and technique will only take you so far…..then your’e on your own.