What Is It?

Where does imagery come from? We talk about abstract and non-representational painting but of course neither of these terms are satisfactory. Nothing comes entirely unbidden, Malevich, Mondrian, Pollock, Reinhardt, Newman, all recognised that despite being acknowledged as amongst the greatest and most radical ‘abstract’ artists. I’ve been giving it some thought as being the ecletic and restless soul I am I’ve started work on a small series of new works to sit alongside the Deadly Delicious work in the display in Nottingham this coming November.


Some things seem to ‘pop’ into one’s head as obvious ‘givens’…for example I’ve been feeling a strong desire to return to a restricted, almost monochrome, palette for some time. Back in mid 90’s I had done so in an attempt to ‘work out’ my imagery and approach when wrestling with the beginnings of a new body of work and over three years this moved into full colour stimulated, in the main, by an extended painting trip back to Cornwall.

As part of that period’s thinking I had developed a conceit of paintings ‘for’ individuals – a kind of palimpest for a portrait that wasn’t – at that time it kind of worked as portrait formats as against most of the other canvases that were landscapes…albeit all rather vaguely! So thinking about it now I ordered some more elongated ovals that could serve as ‘portrait’ shapes and got to pondering who might inspire these.

Over the past three or four years I’ve developed a bit of a passion for Scandinavian crime fiction. Off the back of the BBC screenings of the Wallander series I began reading Mankell, moved on to Mari Jungsted (when we were off to Gotland) and by way of a Xmas gift from the wife got into Indridasson. Now I have also delved into the Martin Beck and the Harry Hole series as well as Karen Fossum’s Konrad Sejer novels. So a group of Noir detectives from the North seemed appropriate to the plan.

But where does the imagery come from? They are not ‘portraits’, certainly not ‘of’ these, in any event fictional and visually unformed (and in most cases we have little literary description to fall back on) characters. Rather my conceit is that they are simply ‘for’ these individuals. So the formal elements might be anything and yet somehow you develop a kind of – and here words seem so inadequate – style? a set of tropes? a repertoire of devices? And more hesitently still suggest ‘things’ that might have entered your head as you began the painting process, such as those white chalk lines that outline bodies on the floor at crime scenes, such as the idea of death as a definitive point between black and white and crimes as a range of greys between the almost accidental momentary passion and the calm and calculated pre meditated… But none of this possibly amounts to much as opposed to the – often mundane – calculations the painter makes when confronted with the surface of the picture and the loaded brush?

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