I want my paintings to function as ‘enigmatic signifiers’ which in the broadest sense speak about the desire to find meaning in looking and representation. When we look at images we want them to mean something and I want that desire to remain partially unsatisfied. When the Mona Lisa was stolen in 1911 it was a relatively unknown little painting, but through its absence it became famous, as many more people came to see the space on the wall than had gone to see it when it was there! In order to sustain a desire for meaning there has to be something missing and my paintings are a lot about what’s not there. Trolleys, racks, cabinets: things that support, transport and display. My aim is to present an absence (the thing to be transported, supported or displayed) but also to make pictures that functions as a metaphor for painting itself, which could be viewed as a prop, support or transport for desire, both the viewers’ and my own.
I am interested in the artifice of painting, that is is a conscious and contrived staging and showing. I hope this comes through in the choice of images that have clearly been staged in order to present the objects for the sole purpose of being looked at, usually in a catalogue or online ‘shop’. So I’m not only interested in the object; what I paint is the image. In that sense the image is the object.
So these are these broad themes that aim to articulate something about painting itself and about looking. But there are also other things which are more autobiographical. One of these is the theme of the sovereign subject, the modern individual (which I am, along with everyone else in the West). The objects I paint are always alone and never in pairs or groups and, as modern subjects, this is our plight, to be self-reliant and self-determining. I want to emphasise this isolation and the vulnerability and exposure which is the darker side to the sovereign subject, so place the objects centrally with a bit of space around them, and often in quite cold and/or hard lighting. There are no concessions to sky or any definite horizon either and this emphasises a sense of isolation, or of being cut off.
Another layer of meaning is in the register of affect. I hope to produce a feeling of bleakness and deprivation, which I associate with masculinity. The things I paint aren’t exactly ‘fleshy’ or opulent. This is where my pictures get a bit autobiographical, growing up as I did with a father who was disappointed, frustrated and depressed, and who spent most of his time alone in a seperate part of the house. This is how I view masculinity, I’m a psychoanalyst as well as an artist, and I see it all the time, and live it in myself. Masculinity isolates people.
There is a sadness and vulnerability to masculinity which is often not immediately apparent, and which most men can’t see in themselves, a kind of impotence and helplessness. The things I paint are either bolted down, which means they are stuck and can’t move, or they are on wheels but have no means of self-propulsion and so have to rely on another to move them around. So dependency is there too, again something masculinity abhors.
Finally, the subject of mortality is very obvious in these recent paintings. Death has always been a central subject for art so nothing new there. But for me it’s there for two reasons. Firstly because my dad died when I was young, and my brother was killed on his motorbike before he even reached 30, so I’m a bit marked by death. But also because there is something deathly about masculinity, it kills desire — ask any woman who has lived with a man.
b. Leicester 1971, lives and works in Truro, Cornwall
2012 MFA Fine Art, Goldsmiths, University of London
2001 PGCert Narrative Writing, University of Derby
1996 BA (Hons) Photographic Studies, University of Derby
2018 Open studio, Old Bakery Studios, Truro
2016 Open studios, Old Press, St. Austell
2011 Skin Job (curator), Core Gallery, London
2010 The Eighteenth Emergency (curator), Core Gallery, London
2010 Q-Art, Matt Roberts Gallery, London
2010 Presequel (curator), Goldsmiths College, London
2010 B-sides, Goldsmiths College, London
2007 Total Image Nation, Chocolate Factory, London
2007 Illuminations with Carol Marin-Pache, My Life in Art, London
2003 Punctuation Marks, Leicester City Gallery
2003 You Are Here various venues, Nottingham
2001 This is not home (solo show), Q Studios, Derby
2000 Turning the Page (winner: Best alternative media artist’s book prize) Picture House Gallery, Leicester
1999 Intimate Land (solo show), Big Blue Cafe Gallery, Derby
1999 Cracking Up Pink House, Nottingham
1997 Notes in Passing Picture House Gallery, Leicester (first prize winner)
1997 Young Photographers, Montage Gallery, Derby
1993 Two Photographers, Picture House Gallery, Leicester
2013 Birds of a Feather, a-n Magazine, April 2013
2012 A Good Blog, a-n Magazine Jan 2012
2011 Artists Talking, Talking, a-n Magazine Nov 2011
2010 The Teaching and Learning of Art; or How to Avoid Being Eaten by a Giraffe, Esferapública Columbia, June 2010 (first appeared in Q-Art London, 2009 and Hit and Miss 3, 2009)
2009 Why Professional Artists Need a Blog, a-n June 2009
2008 Artists talking – internationally, a-n magazine September 2008
2008 The Show Must Go On, a-n magazine July/August 2008
1999 Why Can’t I be Gay? Achilles Heel no.24 1999
2011 Core Gallery, London
2010 Norwich University College of the Arts
2009 University of the Arts, London
2009 Royal College of Art, London
2008 Yale College, Wrexham
Talks and events
2010 AIRTIME@OpenFORUM in partnership with Matt Roberts Arts and Artquest, London
2010 AIRTIME in partnership with Artquest and SPACE, London