My work has always been concerned with how you see, rather than what you see, and the problems and limitations of visual perception. I am interested in ambiguity, inconsistency, and even failure, in relation to perception and technology. If “colour is due to an act of judgement, not an act of sensation”, then what interests me is the potential for misjudgement – of colour, depth, perspective, and the other traditional devices of the painter. Given incomplete information, the brain ‘fills in’ the blanks in a fascinatingly flawed manner.
Another question I was using these works to ask was, ‘how many colours does it take to make a painting?’ The answer in my case was anywhere from 68 to 218, although some may well have been duplicates – the same colour mixed on two separate days. Of course, it could be argued that actually it only takes one colour but I was thinking about fully developed representational / figurative images rather than abstraction.
I am interested in ambiguity, inconsistency, and even failure, in relation to perception and technology
As the paintings have progressed, I have accepted further uncertainty into my process as well as the machine’s – but, paradoxical as it may sound, it is a controlled uncertainty. Courting failure is the most interesting and difficult part of making a painting, and one I am trying to embrace. This is also true of my drawings made using a Camera Lucida, deliberately making use of the flaws in the technology to produce drawings which are begun again and again, each time moving the apparatus slightly to render previous lines redundant. One of these drawings was shortlisted for the Jerwood Drawing Prize in 2005.
My most recent paintings arise out of deliberate mis-use of a scanner to provoke optical singularities. The resulting work has become far more ‘painterly’. Its images are both elusive and allusive. My practice has evolved from one where most of the ‘decisions’ were made on the computer, to a more intuitive process where I have begun to allow myself to enjoy exploring painting as an end in itself. This shift in my practice has been caused, I think, by the introduction of true uncertainty. As painterliness has intruded, more points have opened up for unplanned failure.
In some cases the image as it comes out of the computer, and the painting, become two separate works
In some cases the image as it comes out of the computer, and the painting, become two separate works. This raises the question of the value of the painting process. It may be that the image existing as a digital print is enough. One area I would like to spend time testing is what is gained by translating these images into paint.
There has also been a change in scale – from approximately the size of a computer screen, they’ve gone more ‘history-painting-size’. This is linked to my increasing interest in engaging with the history of painting, and a change in source material from my own photographs to images that are in some way part of the wider story of painting.