My work has emerged from the relationship between my existence and the place I inhabit. Both are conditioned by many forces over which I have limited or no agency. I have a persisting fascination with the concept of ‘land’, as the geographical arena of my existence with its vivid aesthetic and social attributes, but also as ‘place’ that is defined as a nation-state, marked into territories, carved up, politicised and commodified. Broadly, my work considers my place and experiences within, and my view of this context. A context with a complex and controversial history that has lasting ramifications on the socio-political and economic dimensions today, and will be part of an endless sequence of events conditioning the future. These themes have underpinned my investigations and given rise to the materials and media that have dominated my work in recent years.
The larger part of my recent output has been work that employs non-traditional media, such as Cataclysm (2019), a response to events that led to the Internet Shutdown of the same year. A juxtaposition of fragile, soil-infused tissue paper and an aggressive wall of razor wire stand together in an unequal engagement of force and consequence. The triptych Sentinel, (2008), incorporates a heavy teak post, marked with soil and bound with wire. The side panels hold fields of soil, the suggestion of a horizon and layers of fence. These combinations of mud, wood, wire, aluminium, paper, or nails, create abstract, symbolic references to power and violence. They are materials associated with fences — man-made structures that are designed to protect or designate territory; divisive markers that speak to continued histories of conflict, violence, and exclusion. They are materials that evoke the land — location of origin and dwelling; sources of great wealth and arenas of brutality and conflict. They are materials that speak to the fragility of existence — of decay, of history, of human endeavour. It is intriguing that, beyond the symbolism, these materials refer directly to themselves. The soil, as much as it may be red or black pigment, remains essentially what it is: a part of the land. The razor-wire as depiction of a fence retains its essential qualities: the potential to barricade, to inflict considerable harm. A nail may be hammered into a post, not necessarily in deference to aesthetic sensibilities, but in a manner that conveys the act of violence associated with conceptual dimensions of the work.
My interest in drawing, as a fundamental aspect of both visual communication and understanding, emanates from my early experiences in the studio of artist Helen Lieros, where I did nothing other than draw from life for over a year; a worthwhile foundation to my education in the arts. It underpins the graphic and digital work that I have created, allowing a direct and concrete means of dialogue. Figurative elements in works such as Saturn Devouring his Children (2017), which after Goya, presents a monstrous figure devouring symbolic motifs, may be directly apprehended and interpreted by the viewer. The versatility of digital work allows for the collision of disparate imagery and media. The Christ Re-Crucified Series (a response to Nikos Kazantzakis) drew daily from newspaper headlines of the time and were related to sections of Kazantzakis work: a photograph of a dead chicken combines with rapid drawing marks and bleeding ink (The Captain Dies, 2012), or the work (Saints and Robbers, 2012) in which a vile, scribbled figure is juxtaposed with the headline “124 girls sexually abused in 12 days”. These media run parallel to the work above. They offer a counter-balance to the abstraction allowing lateral explorations of lines of thought.
Making marks to evidence one’s inhabitance of a certain place in a particular moment in time is an archetypical human endeavour, and I think that to a certain extent that is what I am doing. There is the hope that these become records of an individual perception, records of trauma, of resilience and celebration of this ‘place’. Beyond that, there is the desire that when confronting the work, the viewer responds initially in a visceral manner — that the materials with their elemental qualities evoke an instinctive and internal reaction upon which the layers of meaning may be uncovered and created. The potential that visual art has to effect some large collective insight is limited, nor is it the case that my own views, thoughts and ideas will necessarily resonate with large groups of people, or grand narratives. However, I am confident in a process in which dialogue, thought and interpretation that surrounds the work will create meaning and give rise to new ideas, new creativity and new discourse, all of which will enrich our insight and understanding of this place and time.