Born Rainford, Europe
1978 - 1979
St. Helens College of Art & Design
1979 - 1982
B.A. (Hons) Fine Art
Some artists change their subjects and alter their styles frequently depending on the problems provoked by them. This can be very exciting as one never quite knows what is coming next but on the other hand it can also be limiting as one is always waiting for a definitive statement. When I began painting I too did many different pictures but gradually I have reduced my subject matter to describing interiors and exteriors by using multiple view point perspective with all the distortions in scale, shape and feeling which this wider view point creates. These distortions have led me to reject the standard rectangular picture format and to work on irregular but, to me, logical shapes.
The shape is an integral part of the painting and as such is not chosen in any arbitrary manner: it is the subject of the painting which decides the shape. For example, a painting of the corner of a house does not have to remain on a two dimensional plane but can itself be a corner: a three dimensional painting. However this logic does not mean I am seeking to reproduce exactly a particular scene - a photograph can do that - but rather the feelings and colours suggested to me at first sight and so I remove what I consider to be superfluous. At times this can result in paintings with separate pieces, such as ‘The Big White House’, as I concentrate on the interesting features and disregard the intervening and less interesting areas. In contrast, on other occasions I introduce extra elements to help create a mood or to give a story to the painting.
When I meet people who have never seen my paintings I’m often asked to describe them; to pigeon hole them with an acceptable 'ism'. Merely to say they are realistic is too vague as under the banner of contemporary realism come the various sub categories
of Photo Realism, Hyper Realism, Magic Realism and Surrealism.
I wouldn’t describe my paintings as Photo Realist because they don’t in any way attempt to copy the quality of a photograph; nor are they Hyper Realistic because I can make sweeping generalisations in a brush stroke; they’re no where near Magic Realism and any Surrealistic mood is more in the eye of the beholder. So where do I pigeon hole my paintings? Do I call them Realistic, Naturalistic or Idealistic? Yes and No.
The difference between Realism & Naturalism is subtle but worth noting: Realism in art and literature shows life as it is; factually, in a true way, omitting nothing that is ugly or painful - idealising nothing. Realism faces the facts with a disregard of sentiment and convention.
A person said to be a 'realist' is one who believes himself to be without illusions and is not stirred by sentiment; the opposite of realism is Idealism.
An 'idealist' employs the imagination to portray perfection - an idea - even if this means being untrue to the facts.
Naturalism is an adherence to nature; in art this means painting things in a way true to nature - but not necessarily realistically. For example, a tree painted by Monet could be rendered in three brush strokes, but when viewed from a distance it fits in with all the other brush marks so that one understands that one is looking at a tree, because from a distance that is how a tree appears naturally.
A realist, such as Holman Hunt, would have painted every leaf on the tree because trees have leaves - a factual reality. The opposite of naturalism, and also realism, is abstraction because abstract art does not represent objects, scenes etc., in an obvious way, but abstracts, and isolates features of reality.
Why is 99.9% of painting confined to the arbitrarily imposed forms of squares and rectangles? Wouldn't it be more realistic if ones vision - ones idea - became the boundary of the painting? A boundary decided not just by observation and the logical rules of perspective but by feeling; if something feels big or small, tall or narrow, for example, then make it big or small, tall and narrow. Emphasising how something really feels adds extra dimension to the notion of ‘realism’ making it Supra-Realism.
Strict adherence to the rules of perspective can result in falsehood; perspective was devised to understand the natural world from a fixed view point so that it could be reinvented and reproduced realistically.
I have always been interested in multi view point perspective but it was only when I left the UK that I really started to work on irregular shapes canvases because I wanted to use more than one view point in order to give a better representation of my surroundings. To do this I had to stretch and distort the perspective which was devised to show space from one single view point.
For me this fixed view point is restrictive because the perception of our environment depends upon our memory joining together many different views, rather like a visual puzzle. The multiple view points and the consequent distortion in perspective have forced me to reject the unnatural boundaries imposed by the more conventional squares and rectangles and have given me the freedom to describe my thoughts and feelings about my surroundings more accurately.
These shapes are not determined by any arbitrary breaking up of the rectangle but by a need to bring together essential elements within the composition, by rejecting some and emphasising other forms needed to maintain the tension which otherwise would be lost in the those areas dictated by the corners. However, in order to retain a certain logic and continuity of vision, I adhere to the rules of perspective but only to the point at which these rules begin to obstruct my feeling for space. Intuition is frequently more reliable than intellect and so it is from here onwards that space is felt; one can learn the rules but not the poetry. The irregular shapes enhance the pictorial and emotional impact on the viewer whilst the multiple view points and multiple eye levels work in harmony to recreate the sensations first experienced when standing in front of the original motif.
Over the years in order to develop my ideas I have pursued various themes such as:
‘Interiors’ are paintings of the interior of a room or rooms where the perspective has been stretched to show the entire space.
‘Exteriors’ are street scenes where the boundaries of vision are dictated by the architecture.
Day & night
‘Day & night’ are paintings in which time is an important element; either day and night represented in the same painting or two different paintings of the same scene - one during the day and the other at night.
‘Corners’ are paintings which either fold into or wrap themselves around a corner; they are sculptural paintings. They portray a corner, either of a street or in a house, and are constructed in such a manner that they hang in - or on - a corner.
Mobile doors & windows
‘Mobile door & windows’ are paintings where the door and window panels are hinged and so can be opened and closed. However although physically they may be completely closed or completely open, due to the fact that they are shaped in perspective, they still appear to be either partially open or partially closed. Many of the windows also have a day view when open and a night when closed and vice versa.
Separate pieces and individual objects
When we look around us we only really see what attracts our attention so why not just paint those parts which are interesting and leave the rest out. The space in between the painted pieces - the negative space - is just as important for the whole as it completes the story. The most recent paintings are of individual objects such as pieces of furniture which when arranged together furnish an interior.