Studio Practice

For more than 45 years, my art practice has explored the various visual languages of abstraction, and in particular those of geometric and formal abstraction and the place these occupy in the greater tradition of Western painting. I love the tradition of Western painting. In particular I admire the sheer power and monumentality of Renaissance Art and the heroism and idealism of pre-war European abstraction. I see my work as being directly linked in influence through the latter back to the former. During the late 70s and early 80s, my interest in geometric form and structure, and in mathematical systems, was driven by a need to produce work that was pure and discrete and totally abstract without any hint of specific expression. My view of geometric imagery, in line with the orthodox, early modernist view, was that it provided a reservoir of pre-existing, pure elements free of the persona and intuition of the individual artist and that, above all, it was neutral and non-referential. At the heart of my beliefs, as of those of the great utopian movements of the early 20th century, was the notion and possibility of a universal language capable of transcending the specifics of time and place. This notion, I believed, would provide painting with a purity and would place it on the same level as music; that is, it would provide the work with a unique presence that the viewer could experience and respond to without reference to anything external to the work. However, since the 80s, and the shift away from Modernism’s emphasis on the neutrality and independence of the object and towards Postmodernism’s emphasis on meaning and context, it has become increasingly difficult to look at geometric forms and fully believe in their innate neutrality. The role of geometry along with that of the grid and mathematical systems in painting has changed. The grid, initially a formal device employed in emphasizing the picture plane, now extends towards a metaphoric or signifying role, capable of carrying new meanings of suppression, structure, infinity etc., whilst the system, once a mechanistic tool for the exclusion of intuition and the artist’s touch, similarly becomes a device for representing ideas of interrelationships and interconnectedness. Since the mid-80s, I have continued to use both geometric forms and structures as well as the grid as the primary features in my work, while being mindful of the changing nature and perception of these within painting. I have begun to incorporate within these structures an enhanced surface quality through the use of luminous colour glazes and a subtle gestural surface. My work continues the exploration of repeated geometric forms within a pictorial grid and the investigation of the poetic potential of colour and elusive painterly surface. The contrast and apparent contradiction of rigid geometric structure and expressive surface qualities, albeit very subtle, highlights the tension evoked between the predetermined and the intuitive. This tension creates what I believe is a necessary duality — the balance between the concrete and the esoteric, the struggle between the rational and the romantic.