From Isolation to Creation:
Artists Respond to a Changing World
Glancing back – Looking Forward
Why bother making art? Recent events have put this question at the forefront of my mind. I would answer now as I would of in the past I think. `It is a response to an imperfect world`. A personal attempt to make sense of and impose control over the world. Where I have authority, make up the rules and take the decisions. It sounds dictatorial – but no one gets hurt! In fact I hope that in some small way the world is improved.
So in the last few months I have taken time to re-connect with the joy and challenge of making art. I believe it employs and stimulates the better parts of my brain and body, coming together to take a thought from my imagination and make it a concrete reality. What a wonderful thing! [I certainly know it to be more fulfilling than the day job.]
I began by dusting off previous works, finding it useful to drag them back into the light. To see both their faults and strengths. I am still digesting and processing where this might lead. Covid-19 may have come as a shock, altering our lives suddenly but I have no idea what effect it will take on any future endeavours. I don`t react to things very quickly as a rule. Perhaps I will explore less premeditated actions but it doesn`t come easily to some of us.
If I can pinpoint a moment that made me want to become an artist it was seeing the Monet`s in Cardiff, particularly the Venetian sunset. I found it both calming and beautiful – yet simultaneously raw. Subtle and brash all at the same time. I have since painted landscapes in a realistic manner but could not find a personal language to say much that had not already been said [and rather better at that.]
I studied metalwork at B.A. level and found that geometry allowed me to be expressive as I respond to crisp lines and clean edges. Whilst doing an M.A. I experimented with using systems to generate pattern which I found to be productive and which gave results with a strong aesthetic appeal. This is a crutch if you will because looking back on previous work I cannot for the life of me remember what these systems are and I cannot work them out retrospectively! Ultimately it`s unimportant, for what matters is a coherent image. Simplistically put the only question to answer is `Does it look good?’ If `Yes’ then the system has done its job and need bother us no more. I often find the best systems create the most pleasurable images and are capable of multiple variations. These systems are usually mathematical. They are not complicated but complexity can often develop and will take over if allowed. They are there to find out what goes where. [I like having a plan.] However if it gets too prescriptive the image ends up dry and dull. These things are no means certain. Aesthetic considerations then come into play. What scale is appropriate? What is the best medium to use? What colours to use? [If any.] How to apply it? These are personal choices that can make or break the result…
Another approach I use is more process based where an action or method generates a cell that can be repeated and then combined and collaged to produce the final image. Then I have to pay attention to the question `What do I consider a good image?’ The answer to this is individual to each work but in general I aim for balance and unity. I do not want one part to dominate or there to be a climax. I desire interest, contrast and rhythm. I do not have an agenda to push. I hope for calmness, tranquillity and would be happy if my images are seen as quiet and contemplative. I really want to avoid blandness and tedium. I admit it is a fine line but it is worth the struggle when these qualities come together and the pay off is beauty-pure and simple. This however is for each viewer to explore and to judge for themselves. If you look more than once I will take that as success!
So then for this online exhibition I have decided to have a self-curated mini retrospective. There is no definitive reason for choosing the works I have other than for variety and that I like them! I have also deliberately left off dates having decided that if worth looking at, it does not matter so much when they were made. That said these works all date from the last twenty years. Titles are chosen mainly to tell one from another but also refer to places, people, events or mood – whatever was on my mind at the time. They are not literal and hopefully suggest a way `in’ to the work.
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