Artist's Statement

As a multi- disciplinary artist working across the modes of painting, drawing and performance, I divide my time between the solitude of the studio and a keen exploration of city life. Drawing is a way of being in the world; the playground and the laboratory of all my work. My drawing books are the touchstone for further drawings, watercolours, mixed media work on paper, digital drawing and animation, and both large and smallscale oil and mixed media paintings. They act as a record of an ongoing process of seeing and composition; chance juxtapositions of ideas and images in their pages setting in motion new inquiries.

Recently I have extended my vision, further into the city, through the direction and documentation of performances for women’s voices on city rooftops. These were completely founded in my explorations and encounters in three cities, Istanbul, New York and Cape Town. Each performance, emerging completely anew with each new rooftop, is spun from the city itself. The rooftop is not unlike a painting, in the way in which its formal constraints create a discipline within which the performers are compelled to develop relationships, forge a new language in specific response to the rooftop and the surrounding city.

I am interested in cities as sites of human energy in flux. My paintings embrace both the mundane and the poetic aspects of the city, as expressed within the confines of the built environment and then into its wilder places of water, forest and land. Sometimes the paintings are paeons to the resilient beauty of the city.  All experience: the tragic, the comic, the ugly and the beautiful is explored through the act of drawing and redrawing the city in paint, and in my sketchbooks. I am interested in the city, as a site of constant reinvention, violation, renewal; the city as experienced through socio-political events and changes, and then also more intimately through the shared and the personal; the city as a site of imagining and reimagining; unknown cities.

The paintings themselves become arenas in which the way that I work echoes the city itself: the unpredictability, the search for order out of chaos, the embrace of chance and whimsy that comes to express itself either in highly layered paintings, full of repeated riffs, erasures and reappearances, jazzy in their embrace of an evolving abstract language to evoke new feelings, and prompt thought. Or the paintings must happen completely in the moment with an immediacy that echoes the ongoing drawing work in my countless sketchbooks. The ones which happen quickly are usually quite graphic and atmospheric, usually a transcription in the moment of a very specific feeling. These drawings on canvas represent a gathering of energy, gestural and fluid, often leaving space, empty unworked areas or even raw canvas allowing breath and a sense of freedom to prevail through the swathes of colour or energetic mark making.

My work while rooted in the tangible, visible world, has moved further into abstraction. There is a slippage that occurs, as you paint, between an initial subject of any kind and what happens on the canvas.  You do the work: the balancing of colour, sparse and busy, surface and depth, walking the tightrope of opposites but in the end you have to allow the painting to take over; completion always takes me completely by surprise. Sometimes a painting can happen really quickly and then you have to know when to stop.  Other times you have to know when to go on. Graphically specific and recognizable elements may remain in the painting, serving to hook the viewer in.  But it is suggestion rather than description that keeps the viewer curious.

In the studio I work on multiple pieces, simultaneously, in both large and small formats, explor- ing new possibilities from apparently disparate ideas and images.  I often work in quite different ways simultaneously, as I work on about 5 or 6 large and small different canvases at once. I think I’ve reached a particular point in my life as an artist where I feel a tremendous freedom to do what I want. It’s no longer an issue whether I paint abstract or referential images, with thick or thin paint, very layered, worked images or quickly realized paintings. I have a confidence in my visual language and this, linked to an insatiable desire to make new discoveries, creates surprising compositions. Drawing continually refreshes my vocabulary. Some works finish themselves almost effortlessly while others become like palimpsests, several different paintings layered within one. Some works become more abstract while others suggest, teasing the viewer with a subject that ultimately must elude him or her.

 I have always been interested in the layers in paintings and in the layers in cities: what emerges below the surface, what cannot be hidden and continues to give life to the surface.