I exhibited at Studio 1.1 in Shoreditch, London, UK during late November this year. The show consisted of paintings and drawings – conventional nudes and portraits made from observation and spin paintings with figurative imagery worked into them.
In the 90s I ‘funked off’ to the West Country to become a lumberjack – after years of felling (and planting) trees I resumed my practise as a visual artist. I sought advice from an old dame of British painting – Olwyn Bowey RA. She figured in my education, both at St. Martins and the RA Schools.
Former partner of Carel Weight – Olwyn is one of our few existing links with another kind of London, not quite ‘the London Nobody Knows’ – but a scene born of the swinging sixties; an altogether more democratic society. She gave direction and focus to my efforts. I abandoned a dilatory hotch-potch of landscapes, cats, still-lifes and the odd portrait, for studies of the human form – beautiful women, strong characters and the work of modern masters.
I am not suited to sedentary work, offices or full-time city life. Traditional painting is too plodding and stodgy for me. At the Royal Academy Schools a few of us strayed from the path; I was fortunate to have my interests indulged there. Later, whilst I was using a chain-saw to cut timber and Damien Hirst was (allegedly) using one to splice cattle, I decided to take a leaf from his book. With help from a friend, we created a spin painting contraption. Currently I’m on Mk IV of these – gaining as much skill and experience as Hirst and his assistant, Katherine Howard.
At Studio 1.1 you could see portraits and nudes painted from life; the sitter or model once before me – paint applied directly to canvas – in the tradition of the Royal Academy Schools; the same subject matter is worked into ‘automated action painting’ (spin painting).
Why should Hirst have all the fun (and attention)? Plus there is my own practise of collaborating with engineers. At Great Yarmouth College of Art and Design I exhibited ‘the DedWhit Mk III, relief aid for men’, a hybrid fusion of human morphology and Triumph motorcycles. It worked (I wasn’t the test pilot). Which is more than Steven Pippin’s ‘Universe’ did – a piece included in ‘Minky-Manky’ curated by Carl Freedman at the South London Art Gallery (SLAG).
I’ve made hundreds of spin paintings, experimenting with materials and the process. I’ve looked at how figuration can be integrated – working from life in conjunction with mechanical painting methods. This takes the process further and exposes (hopefully) post-modern ennui; the potential cynicism and emptiness of the YBA aesthetic. Art doesn’t always have to be made in London – the social buzz and effervescence of the capital help, but then so does fresh air.
You can see a catalogue of some of the works displayed (and still available for purchase) here.