Tell us a bit about yourself and your practice, how would you describe the work that you do?
My practice concerns the development of the photographic image and its relationship to drawing, painting and film. I am particularly interested in the idea of lost identities, restlessness and uncertain moments. I make use of a wide range of archive material, particularly working-class amateur photography from the 1950’s and 60’s including, but not exclusively, holiday snaps and family archives. I aim to re-contextualize elements from these sources to create new narratives. The resulting images, regardless of media, draw upon the notion of collective memory and a sense of place.
You frequently return to archival imagery that depicts working class histories, particularly ones of leisure time - what role do these representations play in your practice?
I have developed a keen interest in working class archives and a study of objects (such as the chandeliers and fountains) and places (the beauty spots and gardens of my recent solo exhibition ‘Verdant’) that for me and a generation before me, symbolise aspiration and escape. Many works, across media, hint at real or imagined journeys and locations are not always what they first appear. For example, the exotic Riviera Bay, with its hot pinks and lush vegetation is in fact a melancholic, out of season holiday camp on the English Riviera.
I suppose the whole working-class system is one that is readily familiar to me, full of pride and striving to better oneself. I love the idea that one week on a holiday camp could bring a difference to someone’s life, and two weeks was seen the height of sophistication!
Riviera Bay, 2015.
These images are often re-appropriated through the act of painting and drawing - can you tell us more about the conceptual underpinnings of this process?
The images act as triggers for my work, I adapt and alter some, others I revisit, re-photograph and redraw until I become more familiar with the characters and places. I wouldn’t say that I am nostalgic exactly, but I do gain great satisfaction from the selection, study and re-presentation of past lives and locations, ones that are often lost, changed or forgotten.
Conceptually, the act of redefining events, and giving a new lease of life to people and places is one that has been spoken of when discussing my work. This is often the reason people allow me access to their personal histories. With digital technology, the tactile element of the photograph has changed. My paintings draw attention to a past generation of ideas and activities and pay homage to the role of the humble snapshot.
Which artists working currently, do you admire?
I am a big fan of Miriam Vlaming and the new Leipzig school of painters and of Stefan Kürten. I continually pour over books of Uwe Wittwer’s work and I was blown away by a Michaël Borremans exhibition some years back in Brussels. His draftsmanship and sheer ability to handle paint are envious.
As I started out as an abstract painter, a long time ago now, I also have an immense respect for Terry Winters and Jonathan Lasker, and I am really interested in the extended painting practice of Christine Streuli, who uses a glorious mix of colour, mark making, print and painting.
Alongside these painters I must not forget to mention the photography of Victor Burgin who was a strong early influence on my experimental approach to photographic works and the use of re-enactment and narrative in pieces such as ‘Restless’. These are just some of my favourite go to artists, but my list would be constantly changing as I am often found leafing through obscure exhibition catalogues and discovering fantastic practitioners that I have never heard of.
Untitled, Group Pose, 2014.
What do you have coming up in 2020?
I am currently working with RBSA as curator of Next Wave, a bi-annual show of emerging and early career artists which opens in mid-February. At the same time, I will be exhibiting selected works at Reuben Colley Fine Art for the gallery’s 10 th anniversary.
Close on the heels of this is ‘Hinterland III’, a Birmingham Artspace show which takes place in April. This is an ongoing project building upon the established connections, working practices and ideas of studio holders.
Finally, I am delighted to be undertaking a second project with art/write, an organisation teaming artists and writers together in order to respond to each other’s work and specific locations. This year’s project will take place in conjunction with the National Trust and works and events will be hosted by the Back to Backs in Birmingham.
All in all, it looks like a busy time ahead.
Ornament and Decoration I, 2018.