I will always have a great memory of this my first ever solo exhibition. Called Soul Mining it was the result of a few years hard work and dedication to getting back into painting after not having painted for nearly 17 years. I can never express my gratitude to people who travelled many miles and spent lots to support me. It meant and still means so much.
The paintings here were an attempt to get beyond the skin and bone to acheive something more. Here below it a printed text I put up in the exhibition and correctly refelects my thoughts at the time:
There is a power in painting that I can not explain
I have always been fascinated in the many ways emotions can be captured and represented by an artist, especially through painting. Although what interests me in a painting is not only found through its likeness to a person. A painting can be so much more powerful that just that, in fact of the thousands of paintings I've seen of a human face (portraits and not portraits) only some seem to be able to convey emotions or this "something else". My work is my attempt to follow and explore this journey, delving beyond the skin and flesh. My passion is to try to capture the "something else" (soul?) beyond the physical likeness.
The title here is self explanatory, to contemplate a Rothko or experience a Frank Auerbach up close can easily show this power. Further to this statement should be "the power of oil paint used as flesh". Oil paint - just that, pigments mixed with oil, but at the same time something truly magical. I firmly believe (through seeing their properties daily) that oil paints were invented, refined and perfected solely for the pursuit of capturing the human form. I try to use this power and accentuate it by the physical size of my paintings. Through this, a different relationship is being created between: the viewer, the painting subject, the paint as an element or tool and the painting as an object unto itself. The size also gives me space to fully explore the subtle nuances within a face, elements that when moved even slightly can completely transform the balance of a composition, its aggressiveness or intimacy. Spaces vital to play with when defining an emotion through a special glance.
I crop the image in the painting in such a way as to strip out any element that could cause the viewer to interact with the work in any way outside of what really interests me. If the "something else" (soul) being pursued is considered to be of a time and place in itself, this will surely condition the context of the piece in due course. If its not, then I see that even the subtlest of shadows in the background (let alone things that clearly condition and define such as clothes, situation or place) will provoke certain assumptions by the viewer of the subject, and that I want to avoid.
So, how do I know when I think I've found what I'm looking for? The "soul" is a hard thing to define, its apparition sometimes appears out of the corner of an eye but it can be lost in an instant. It appears sometimes in a mouth but a smile is a crude extension, just as a tear in the eye would be a mere base outpouring. I can easily see when it starts to be more than just an image, when it starts to become something magical. I can identify when its said: "When its going well, I feel like the painting starts to breathe right in front of me. When this happens, then I know I'm going in the right direction and almost done."
I hope you enjoy this exhibition and can feel something in it. Individual paintings of one captured emotion. Emotions I hope that are not singular but universal and therefore resonate to the viewer in some way, as they did to me. Welcome to "Soul Mining".