Seeking out new territories has become increasingly important to me, making the working process more diverse and less predictable. Visiting destinations such as New York and Hong Kong has allowed me to paint new subject matter and work in a different way.
There has to be a strong connection with history and local culture as well as visual richness. So although it may not be apparent to the viewer, many layers of information are in my head as new series develop. This somehow seems to influence the mark making and the way paint is applied when I come to start work in the studio.
So this idea of a voyage of discovery, a quest for knowledge has become very much part of my working process. My most recent odyssey has taken me in a slightly different direction, to a small group of Islands in the Aegean Sea, The Cyclades.
I first visited this part of the world when I was in my early 20’s and returned year after year. At that time tourism had not really affected the smaller islands and they had a timeless quality. So I returned with slight trepidation, hoping the area had retained its original character. I was not disappointed.
Looking across the harbour in Paros for the first time is a sight that leaves a very strong impression. It is the sea that initially grabs the eye, at times it is the deepest blue imaginable. The densely packed rows of houses and tavernas almost dissolve in the intense light, their whitewashed walls melting into each other. It reminds me of a cubist painting, forms meeting and jostling, some softened by shadow. The clear sky provides a dramatic backdrop, sometimes punctuated by a lone cloud.
In the labyrinth of streets behind the harbour I became fascinated by some of the ancient doors. In some cases their heavily textured surfaces and peeling layers of paint had an iconic presence, like portals to a different time.
Long walks through the centre of the island where few visitors venture enabled me to connect to the land itself. Here, some of the tracks are historic trade routes, such as the Byzantine Way, passing by the sites of ancient temples and dramatic olive groves. This certainly made the experience much more poignant when viewing the marble statues of mythological gods and fragments of architecture in various museums, knowing where they had been discovered.
In contrast to the greek based paintings, the Cornish landscapes have in many cases become softer, more subtle in terms of colour. They often focus on those times of day around sunrise or sunset when the quality of light is particularly enhanced. The higher moorlands of West Penwith often provide the starting point for these pieces, where the elegant lines of neolithic field patterns divide the foreground providing strong rhythmic patterns. This landscape has a pared back simplicity, this is constantly transformed by the sky above it.
This sense of pattern and form is also an important element in the cityscapes. I feel there is still a lot I need to explore with this subject. In most cases they are instantly recognizable as skyscrapers either reflected in water or towering above busy streets. Now in some of the larger canvases such as ‘Symphony of Light’ or ‘Cityscape –Azure the abstraction has been taken slightly further where the arrangement of form and colour are almost an end in themselves. This degree of abstraction, the point where a recognizable object almost totally dissolves into paint compels me to continue my journey.