Art is to Conceal Art – Edgar Quinet
For me the Scottish landscape is at its most evocative when semi-dissolved in its vaporous climate.
I try to evoke the mood of a place by balancing ‘implied’ and ‘realised’ compositional elements, through the use of ambiguity, aerial perspective (defining perspective through atmospheric veiling), and a scattering of insinuated clues. In so doing I try to avoid being too didactic, allowing the onlookers their own interpretations.
I work, alternately obliterating and reiterating the composition in an endeavour to engage the observer in a similar process, inviting their imagination to hover, alight, move on, and return.
If I am able, I hope to lead them from a starting point - a compositional incident of dramatic immediacy to a less terrestrial, more ambivalent place and to leave them there, alone, for a moment to make discoveries of their own.
There is a solipsistic philosophy whereby a place may only exist if there is someone present to observe that place. I believe there is an ‘other’ place to be found in the very special relationship between a landscape and a solitary observer of that landscape.
When one is alone in that place for an hour or two there becomes a point at which the spirit of the place begins to gently assert itself. This then over-rides more prosaic concerns with the mere topography. Then follows an awareness of having become possessed by the place.
If, through my work, I am hoping to convey something of the emotion experienced, I must re-live the experience. If I am successful in doing so perhaps I can succeed in taking the observer with me as a co-explorer in my landscape, not a tourist passing through.
Previously a printmaker I have spent the past five years re-inventing myself as a painter.
After having run Manchester Etching Workshop for 15 years I moved back to Scotland and started painting. This process I found frustrating until I allowed myself to use the skills and knowledge I had previously acquired in printmaking and paper-making, (I had run Two Rivers hand-made paper mill for three years). These methods came more naturally to me, giving me the means to express more effectively the vision I sought.
I found I could apply the paint by wiping it on, rather than using a brush, this dictated using a rigid support, rather than canvas, and I found that by painting on wood it also allowed me to engrave into the wood, giving me an intaglio receptor for the paint.
As an intaglio print-maker, I had always enjoyed devising innovative techniques to achieve marks on the plate. The possibilities of the new materials have been both challenging and liberating. My understanding of the properties of paper-pulp allowed me to ‘couch’ the pulp, (inlay it into the painting), giving me an integrated, multi-propertied surface offering a wide repertoire of techniques, texture, marks, and tone.
The versatility of these new techniques allowed me far greater control over nuances of atmosphere and emotion so central to my work.
It has only been over the last year, however, that I feel I have really started to understand and control these possibilities. My constant attempt to refine these techniques is taking me on an exciting journey of exploration.