Installation, Photography, Video

Perception, and Experience: Ruth Le Gear

Ruth Le Grear remedy making

Ruth Le Gear is a multi-discipline artist based in Sligo. We sat down earlier in the year to discuss her work, and I am really grateful to Ruth for taking the time to sit down with me as it was a really great discussion. Ruth shows the unique flexibility that art has in how can approach subjects in ways other mediums would struggle with. Ruth’s blending of the scientific and the Homeopathic through her art practice to use an often overused term is distinctly unique. In this interview, Ruth discusses how she balances these different aspects to her practice and touches on the importance of research in her work. I feel safe in saying Ruth Le Gear is a one of a kind artist. hope you enjoy our discussion.

Homeopathy is a key element of your practice. How did that come to be?

I went to GMIT Cluain Mhuire thirteen years ago. At the time, I was really sick while I was studying. I have a remitting and relapsing illness, and I was in a lot of pain at the time. It was tough. It got to the point where I had a bed set up on campus while I was there. Luckily GMIT were super supportive. I don’t think I could have done it if I wasn’t for the support of Cluain Mhuire.  

I was using homeopathy at the time as a method to relieve my symptoms. I was crying a lot because I was in so much pain. I then started looking at the emotional content in a tear. That led to then looking at it in a homeopathic way. Within homeopathy, the more that you dilute something, the stronger it gets. So for my degree show, I collected tears from myself and other people. I put an ad in the paper for tear collectors and left tear collecting packages all over Galway. You could find them on buses and in toilets in places where people might find them and cry, and people sent them back to me. I then worked with a homoeopath, and I made a remedy from all the tears put together and created an installation called Teardrops In Wonderscape, which is still my favorite thing that I’ve made. It was shown in Ev+a (now known as EVA International) the same year as I graduated.

Teardrops In Wonderscape, (2008), Installation

It consisted of thousands of small vials, which held remedies made from tears. The vials had this incredible quality that when they were suspended upside down, you didn’t need to put a lid on them because the surface tension held the liquid it in. This body of water was held in four and a half thousand vials, which suspended above you. There was this sense of transition that something was waiting to happen. People were invited to lie underneath it, and there was projection through it, and underwater sounds came from the pillow. And in lots of ways, I still feel like my practice is unravelling that piece. Those little vials are the same vials I use now to give out my essences and remedies.

Teardrops In Wonderscape, detail

A lot of your work is the outcome of the residencies you have done. That is interesting. 

I really enjoy the time and space a residency creates. Early on I spent time in Iceland and it was transformative for me. I have spent time on a tall ship in the Arctic, weeks in Cill Railig in Kerry. Travelled in the high desert in New Mexico and spent time in Nowy Port in Gdansk, which was one of my favourite yet unexpected places to wind up for months over a number of years. As an artist, I am strongly attracted by methodologies of investigation of nonphysical phenomena. I explore scientific methodologies as well as the more intuitive process of understanding these phenomena, including homeopathy. I have worked with the Institute of Oceanology of the Polish Academy of the Sciences (IO PAN). The institute conducts scientific research in the Baltic and European Arctic Seas. This work contributed to a significant solo show ‘Trace” which was exhibited at the Centre of Contemporary art in Gdansk in 2015. I also worked intuitively with the waters from Gdansk and consulted with a number of homeopaths. These methodologies are polar opposites, but I feel that crucial connections are involved in perception, and a unified experience is created from differences. Hahnemann, who is now credited with creating homeopathy, refers to two different kinds of knowledge: Wissen and Kenntniss. Wissen is the kind of knowledge you get from studying or reading books, while Kenntniss is that deep personal knowledge you gain through experience. This is the difference between knowing about wetness by reading about it versus knowing wetness by immersing yourself in water.

Trace installation shot, CCA Lazina II, (2015-2016)

I find it interesting that you do most of your research on-site rather than prior to arriving at residences.

I love research. I see my work as a research-based practice. What I do, it’s a very intuitive conversation, for lack of a better word, with the water. When I do a residency, I’ll go, and I’ll sit with the water. There is no real language to the conversation, and in a way, that’s why I make the artwork; they are the results or interpretations of those conversations. When I went to Gdansk in Poland, had I known before I got there that it was where World War II started, I may not have signed up for a two-year residency there! It’s a very intense place. I was over and back a lot, and I spent three stints there for roughly two to three months apiece. It was an amazing opportunity to really engage with the place.

Another residency had me spend time in New Mexico back in 2017. For that residency, I went to some devastatingly brutal environmental situations in the Diné reservation, and it has taken me a little while to process that. Water from the San Juan area in New Mexico, and the water rights and the water pollution therefrom fracking. It’s really heavy. On the one hand, if you know all that before you go, you might have a bias or even an intention which isn’t responsive to the land. I’ll have a remedy session with the waters or the land. A lot of the time with the healing on the landscape it’s like layers of an onion, there might be one thing that’s not immediately apparent, but when you spend enough time in a space, everything starts to come up. This work in collaboration with Kaitlin Bryson was recently shown in Visual Carlow as part of Artworks.

New Mexico land arts, (2016)

Would you then consider your works landscape pieces? 

I don’t love labels, but they are beneficial for people to understand. They are also helpful for me when trying to explain what I’m up to. They are landscape interventions. I spent three years with Glenade lake while I worked from a studio at the in the Leitrim Sculpture Centre, which led to Water Senses. I did a residency there, and then I ended up living near to the lake for three years, where I explored much of the mythology and narratives around the lough from the perspective of the water. I have been working with the lake for years now. I still monitor the water levels there on the lake; it’s kind of habit to check now when there’s heavy rain. Recently it had the highest rainfall ever since records were kept back in 1865.

Water Senses, (2017)

Colour frequently comes up in your practice around the water.

When I make a water essence from a place, I always have to return it to the site before it comes into being or is birthed and ready for use with humans. Often there is a one or two-year period where it’s just for the landscape. Then when it’s deep within the landscape, people can start taking it. It’s in that time I will take them in order to bring them forth. That is when the colours, those deep sensations come through. It is a kind of meditation by ingesting the landscape. It’s a bit like having a baby, now that I think about it! You’re bringing through, bringing the essences earthside and it’s a tricky one to put language on.

An interesting part of Water Senses are the mind maps that you presented in your publication.

That’s generally the way that the remedies or the water essences will appear, through that kind of drawing or meditation. That’s how I will map them out first. As they come through, when I take them, I’ve never sat and written text, it’s more visual poetry. It’s the way I think, or even the way that I remember, maybe. I enjoyed making the publication for Water Senses, and I do wonder if that’s the way things are going to be going forward.

Ruth Le Gears studio space

It can be heartbreaking when an exhibition comes down, like what has happened to a lot of exhibitions due to Covid. You pour your heart and soul into a show, and it’s up for six weeks or three months, then you pack it up. Sometimes it moves on, and sometimes it doesn’t. I find that drop after an exhibition can be really difficult. You could be working on something for years, but there’s something about the tangibility of a publication that continues that little bit further.

Water Senses publication, Leitrim Sculpture Centre, (2017)

Video and photography are another important element of your work. Could you discuss that side of your practice?

I guess because I try and travel so much and do so many residencies, video and photography are for me easy ways to document material. I love working with video; it’s a very beautiful and tactile process. You’re telling a story to the viewer. Most of my videos are very slow meditative pieces intended to lull you into the same kind of emotion as what taking the remedy would do, because a lot of people aren’t going to take the remedy. So in a way, I get the essence of the feeling across in these pieces. I used to work in very long, and when I say long, I mean hour-long pieces, but very few people watched them in their entirety. Though saying that, I had a show in Schwandorf Germany in 2018 a while back and I showed around six or seven pieces that were 40 minutes long apiece, and they sat and watched them all! Everyone that came into the gallery. It was like, “Wow!” They took it very seriously—this tiny little town in the middle of nowhere. But in general, I do try and get the sense of the place across in under twelve minutes; I think twelve minutes is very long for people these days.  

video still, Nowey Port remedy return, CCA Laznia, (2015)

I would say the gallery context is interesting; I often treat people in gallery or studio spaces. So usually, if there wasn’t the current global situation, I would have invited you into the studio. I would have done a remedy session with you because that’s probably the best way for you to experience my practice and engage. It’s a feeling; it’s hard to use language to explain. I generally get curators I’m working with to sit down in my studio and do a short session. When I’m treating people in the gallery context, I’ll also show a film in the background. It can lull people into a different atmosphere in the gallery. It’s really interesting treating people in the gallery setting because it’s taking something that would normally be done somewhere else and bringing it right into the gallery; that kind of blending of environments is very interesting for me. Whether it is a video or my water remedies, I’m very interested in seeing how people respond in a gallery setting. It’s such a flexible space that can accommodate many things.

remedy sessions SFAI New Mexico

I think work presented in online spaces has to be made specifically for an online space. For example, I can send you my video, and you can watch it on your phone or your laptop. I have very little control over how you will look at it. You might not open it full screen, or you might have crappy speakers. We’re all human, but when you watch it in the cinematic way it’s supposed to be seen, it’s such a different experience. I think when moving things online, platforms have to be designed for that; I don’t think everyone can just be firing their work up online – you have to be very aware of how people are going to interact with it.

I am currently planning a film, Sensitive Chaos, that shares the sublime through images of water bodies. This body of work was proposed to be completed at the Smithsonian Environmental Research Centre, but this residency is currently postponed, and now I have to develop creative ways to make this work here as it is something that I am deeply invested in.

My way of working has slowed due to having a child, but my vision and my relationship to water and my practice remains constant.

If we think of ourselves as bodies of water, it becomes clear how connected we are with nature and the environment; on becoming a body of water; I am also currently working with blown glass which is a slow, beautiful alchemical process which I am delighted to be up-skilling in. Again, this is a work in progress, but I am really enjoying returning to the sculptural element of my practice. It lends to the slow-moving meditation of the waterworks, and it is incorporated into the film works.

You can find out more about Ruth Le Gear work through her Instagram pages and websites, links below

thank you, Anne James for your work editing

You can support Painting in Text through Patreon, link below

Installation, Photography

Eye of the Beholder: Lucy Tevlin

Lucy Tevlin

Lucy Tevlin is a Dublin based artist, who’s work explores a broad range of topics like technology, language and theory. Through this interview with Lucy we really get a sense that theory is really important to her work, and how it has gone on to inform her practice. She has implemented these ideas without distracting or taking away from the work itself. It was a very interesting conversation to have and to hear her discuss her goals within her work. With that said I hope you in enjoy the interview.

A piece of particular interest that I would like to talk about is Alternative Means of Experiencing Images. Could you talk about that?

Yes, this work was a dual slide projection. One projector showed images and the other, text. The work was heavily influenced by theory, and there is one particular Tom Gunning text called The Cinema of Attractions that really influenced the work. There’s this part about Hale’s Tours, which was an amusement ride in London in the early 20th century where you sit in a train carriage. There was a projection of typical scenes outside of the train carriage that you could see through the window, and the seat that you were sitting on would move. You would hear all the sounds of the train, basically imitating the experience of a train ride. Tom Gunning described this ride as an alternative way of experiencing cinema, one in which you are more involved, which is more physical, so I reference that in the text I used. He had written about this moment in history. So, to reference this, I spliced it in with images I had taken out of moving vehicles in Ireland, so it was this sort of looking back at the past but also considering our present relationship with images.  

Installation Shot Alternate Means of Experiencing Images, 2019

In this respect, the material was the theory or language surrounding the work as well as the slides. I used the text as material to play around with. While I was making the work, I would print out texts and cut them up and collage them, so really thinking about language as a physical material.

The title is very interesting.

It just seemed to fit. It was initially titled Alternative Means of Experiencing Cinema, but I decided to change it because I was thinking about cinema in its most basic form, comprised of images.

Titles have become something that is more important lately, because of the package works that I’m making. It’s like that tricky question of, “When is the painting finished? When you have given it a title?”

Can you talk a bit more about what have you been working on recently?

The overall project is called Conjecture. Which in mathematics means a conclusion that is yet to be proved true or untrue, but is suspected to be true. So this idea of presumption or expectation. 

But within this I’ve been writing these texts called The Structure of A Second. I’ve been working with projectors and 8mm films for the last while. Initially, I was creating digital edits from the footage I collected, but I have since moved away from that now to a more sculptural series of works.

I have this system of producing the works now where I order 8mm film online and before the film arrives, I write a text about what it might possibly contain. This work hasn’t been shown yet, but the first in this series of works will be a projection of one of these found films, alongside a voiceover of the text. From this work, I realised I might even be showing too much, so the next work in the series is just the unopened packages of film alongside the text.

400Ft Standard 8mm Cine Film. Holiday To Austria Italy 1966. (184), (2020), Printed text, 8mm film in unopened package 21x24cm

Where are you getting this Super 8 film?

I’ve been going online and onto eBay to find them. I often see people selling home movie footage on 8mm. Either stuff they have shot themselves, or acquired in different ways. What I’ve found interesting is on eBay, the sellers have a limited amount of space for information about the film on their eBay page, so I began to write texts based on what I thought was in the package before it arrived as a way of getting my creative thoughts going. Initially, it wasn’t meant to be presented with the work. But now the writing has changed. It’s become a lot more fluid and abstract; influences might come from the description on the package or on the eBay page, which remind me of a memory, and I write about that. So, it has almost become like poetry, rather than the very regimented exercise that it was originally. So, I present the packages with the writing, and the work has almost become one now, where I have six packages that I haven’t opened. In a way, I think it might be one artwork, ‘cos with this heavy and conceptual idea, for it to work, I feel I need multiple packages that are never opened to make it more a statement of intent.

You said the texts weren’t initially meant to be presented. How did this practice of “supplementing” the lack of information on the eBay listings make its way into the work for presentation?

I was thinking about the idea of expectation. Initially, I tried to play with the audience’s expectation in my response to the home video that I’d bought. I’d explore the viewer’s expectation through editing. For example, there was footage of a couple walking through a shot, but the shot breaks before they actually leave the frame (normally an editing faux pas), so playing with that idea of expectation through the editing.

Writing the text beforehand was just a sort of exercise to get my brain working before the film arrived. Then I was speaking to a friend about the work, and they pointed out that the text is actually my expectation, before I try to create expectation for the viewer. I was already exploring expectation with the texts, so I didn’t need to do it through the editing necessarily. So then the text became a central part of it. Some of my previous work – like a lot of my slide projection pieces and especially my grad show work – used language as an important part of my practice.

In particular, Narrative Structures (2019) is focused on certain kinds of readings to do with what the work is about, so it’s making this work around narrative. I was reading a lot about narratology and deconstructing narrative, and so too the language used when discussing the theory made its way into the work. The work included these phrases from narratology texts, mixed in with a narrative I had written, and slides I had shot that I felt conveyed a sense of narrative or mystery. So, the work was both a narrative and also talking about what it was; there was quite a self-reflexive quality to it. In hindsight, this is where I stumbled upon the fictional format of how I make these works. I have reintroduced that element of language into the work and it went from there really.

Installation shot Narrative Structures, 2019

The way I would consider narrative is that within the work, it’s a bit fragmented. I prefer that the narrative isn’t presented explicitly in the work so that I can allude to it rather than saying, “This particular thing happened.” I will play around with language in such a way where it presents itself, but it’s still subtle. That’s what I aim for. When I was growing up, I was quite into poetry and descriptive writing , and I think that has been an influence too. There’s also a rhythmic element as well. One of the things that drew me to slide projectors in the first place is the sound of them and how they click when a new slide is projected, and so a lot of the time when I’m writing I will think about how the words will sound when spoken.

Projectors have a strong physical presence in your work. Can you tell us a bit about that?

I think what originally drew me to projectors was the physicality of the image. On a screen, the image seems very fleeting, but when you have a slide you can hold it, you can bend it. I wrote my undergraduate thesis on whether or not the projection apparatus could be considered a sculptural object. So that’s definitely something that I think about a lot, particularly when I was producing my grad show work. I guess it’s an attempt to acknowledge the importance of the presence of the apparatus. I’m really curious about the mechanics of the production of an artwork, and what elements we’re asked to ignore. In my work now there is a bit of a grapple between the material and conceptual elements, and I think that is not a bad thing necessarily, where there is definitely a kind of back and forth between them.

Installation shot Reflectance, 2019

When I’m installing, I like to set the projector up in such a way that it is a little bit of an obstruction. So you walk in, and you’re sort of confronted by the projector. Whatever I’m trying to draw attention to conceptually in the work, I will try and position the projector so someone has to walk around it and physically encounter the work, almost a phenomenological approach you’re activating the work by having a bodily encounter with it – I’m trying to do that with an object that you would normally not view like that. More like sculpture than like film. I’m not trying to force anybody to sit down, but I want them to be aware of the space and their involvement in the space.

Your other practice is street photography. There is an interesting parallel to the ethics in that and the work you are currently working on.

Yeah, I suppose it’s something I think about, not that I have a clear answer about what is ethical or not in the work. Rather than having a clear position, I’m just happy to bring attention to the ethical considerations. People don’t tend to notice or mind when I take photos of them on the street. But even if they did, just look up – there are so many CCTV cameras already on you at all times in Dublin. We’re happy to give away our data freely, but a photograph can be seen as invasive. Just because it’s not physically present, doesn’t mean it’s not happening all the time anyway. But it’s still a tricky part of the work that I try to remain aware and careful about.

Untitled street photography, (2019)

Modern technology is at the back of my mind. I never really want to explicitly address that in my work, but I like the idea of it being a subtle undertone: Looking at this older technology creating a certain type of image might make you think about other things that are happening in technology currently.

There’s clearly a temporal aspect of the work as well.

Yes, that’s an element of my practice that I find kind of elusive or hard to explain but it finds its way into the work one way or another. There is definitely an element of trying to distil moments or grapple with time as an entity. I suppose sometimes I’m trying to comprehend the time instilled in or associated with an object, or even just trying to make sense of how we experience time. There’s also the timing or duration of a work, which is really the viewer’s time – that’s something I think about a lot as I’m making a work.

The numbers are another element. When you’re thinking about things that are conceptual, it almost becomes quite mathematical, there’s a strange logic in there somewhere. I try and keep it specific to the medium that I’m using at the time. Using The Structure of A Second as an example: This film projects at 24 frames per second. In a way, those frames are like a multiple, each frame being a separate element of that second. I think in this work I’m really trying to make sense of a moment in time, or several moments and how they interrelate. In a sense it also acts a means to show how the work itself has been constructed, or that I’m using time as a material in the same way I would use the slides or projectors or language in this way. I also enjoy the numerical or practical restrictions of a medium, 24 frames per second, 81 slides in a carousel projector. It’s what’s unique to that medium that makes it intriguing. I’m always striving to be true to the material, whatever that may be.

You can find out more about Lucy Tevlins work through her Instagram page, and website links below

thank you, Anne James for your work editing
You can support Painting in Text through Patreon, link below

Interview, Painting, Photography

Lead By The Process: Craig Mcleod


Craig Mcleod

Craig Mcleod Scottish artist currently living in Portugal. Having gone to college with Craig way back in the bygone year of 2008, I’ve long found his approach to art to be so unique. It invites further assessment and I’m glad to have Painting in Text as an avenue to explore work like Craig’s. The past occupies an important position in Craig’s work, so it’s fitting that our interview takes in memories of our college years, his “blow-in” childhood, and the formative influences on his work.

Let’s start with your work from college, like Becoming Archive.

God, that was a long time ago! What was the thinking behind that one? At the time I remember being interested in archival processes, keeping archives. In the run-up to that I did a series of books, for a project about making interventions in a public space. I made mock-up Pelican books using 1800s geometry books – I blanked out a lot of the text and just left a few words per page, that strangely made this kind of story that tied in with the title of the book, and commented on the current state of society. Making the books got me interested in the idea of keeping an archival record, the act of collecting and keeping materials and recording observations of everyday life.


Becoming Archive (2010)

At the same time, after a talk with an external assessor I started to look at my own personal history. We talked about being a Scottish person living in Ireland and attending an Irish college – I mean, even though in distance and culture they’re not far apart, there was still this notion of the outsider, the “blow-in”. This conversation started me looking at my childhood, family photo albums and archived images of the places I lived when I was growing up. The real foundation of Becoming Archive was a photograph of me and my two brothers when I was around five or six, a standard shot with the three of us lined up dressed in kilts; very rigid, almost military. (Maybe it was before going to a family event.) That led into Becoming Archive. I altered the image of us standing there with our kilts, by obscuring our faces with a blue paint that I had been using a lot at the time, and incorporated text which came from my experience of making the books. And that was the foundation for kind of looking into my own childhood – not necessarily looking at the concrete, real pictures of where I grew up, but more like from memory. Like, looking at how your memory colours things. I was interested in not so much the reality of what happened as a child, but the way that you remember it.  That nostalgic kind of memory of the street that you grew up on, and the toys you had as a kid, and all those sorts of things… there are also images of my two boys in there, which was kind of like tying the past to the present.

My next work was Transparency, and that was nearly all about the manual processing of producing images. For Transparency I didn’t take any photographs at all. I just concentrated on the photographic process the images were created from. I was interested in the iconography of other people’s images; my source material came exclusively from Sunday magazines, The Irish Times and The Observer. I liked the way I could alter and subvert the reading of them by the way I displayed them. And I really got into the whole alchemy of the thing. It was like some kind of magic, I would go into the dark room with a bunch of magical chemicals and play around with creating pictures I was using real old school manual darkroom mediums like using liquid silver gelatin, gum bichromate and gum arabic processes. To even get my head around the processes I was using to produce my images was mentally draining – there was no tutor that had any experience of these chemicals, so I had to teach myself everything from books and trial and error, but if had tried to do it other ways like with photoshop it wouldn’t have worked, it wouldn’t have been truthful, ultimately it wouldn’t have satisfied me. I could happily spend all my time in the dark room.

2012-06-13 12.09.41

Transparency (2012)

The process of working on Transparency was like putting in a shift, you know? You go to work, you put on your work gear, you clock in, get to the work of producing images and at the end of the day you clock out. Then you come back the next day and see what you did. It was enjoyable every single second of it. Process led everything that came out of it, dictated everything that happened. So I didn’t have to think, what’s my idea? I was very lucky to have the facilities, and the freedom to make this work and also to be supported by the college financially in buying all the materials I needed to realise this work.

When you moved to Portugal you and Marlene[Mar, partner] had an exhibition which you used photography again – what was that like? Especially since you didn’t have the access to the same facilities that you had at GMIT.

When we arrived here we wanted to do something in art, to get involved in the local art community. I had started taking my own photographs while we were traveling in a camper van around France and Spain and Portugal – I’d been using an old 35mm Olympus OM101, a manual film camera so I needed a place to develop. So I converted my bathroom into a darkroom and tried to do my work while the kids were at school or in bed.

How did you find setting up an exhibition in Portugal?

The major adjustment for us (aside from the language) was that we didn’t have any idea how slow the art scene is here, if you live outside the major cities like Lisbon (which we live about an hour outside of). Our plan was to do this exhibition in the little fishing town that we live in, so we contacted everyone we could that seemed in any way involved with the arts. Which was challenging! We talked with several people at the local and district council level – they don’t have an arts council – until we found someone who was like the arts officer of the district. They were enthusiastic about our proposal, but informed us that there was little interest and even less investment in culture and the arts in the area, and that funding was mainly put towards surfing and tourism. Despite this we continued, and eventually we managed to get an exhibition space. The show that we did for this town was very conceptual in nature, which wasn’t the norm here; when they have art exhibitions, they tend to be little more than decorative painting sales. There’s no theme or concept behind those shows, so when our show The Property of Dreams opened, the locals thought it was completely weird, there were no colourful paintings and no price lists. It wasn’t immediately obvious that it was art for sale. Reading material to explain some of the work was a new thing to many who turned up, some were like, “this was amazing and we have never seen this kind of thing” and other people just thought, “what is this?”

In the end, the actual setup was simple: we didn’t do anything too complicated and because we hadn’t that long come from college, we still had fresh memories of our degree show setup and all that was involved. I’m not saying we were trendsetters, but maybe we facilitated some change as after we did what we did. There have been a series of small exhibitions, with a couple being quite conceptual and a few that were borderline, still a few paint sales but there was a bit more cohesion to it. More of a concept or theme, at least! And an art gallery opened in the town the following year as well its great see small development like that happening.

Lets talk about the painting you started doing in Portugal.

It started off purely as an exercise to get back into painting because I hadn’t painted for… I don’t know, since second year [at GMIT], so maybe five or six years? I just felt that I


Untitled woman in shaft of light (2017)

wanted to make some paintings from some pictures. So the very first paintings were just images, photographs from photographers that I like, that I found online and in books. Most of them by famous photographers like William Eaglston, Paul Graham, Martin Parr, Gregory Crewdson.  I wanted to paint and I was looking at these photographers, and I started to paint their photographs, in a kind of Richter style. I used images from books or newspaper cuttings, I’d start painting them, and I eventually started to include my own photography as a subject matter.

After I did that I felt that I wanted to push my practice a bit further rather than just looking at these pictures I wanted to develop my own painting more. I felt there was a language in the painting that I needed to start to understand and explore. That was more of what I wanted to do, rather than just making pictures. That’s when I started making these recent larger paintings – they came out of a desire to go beyond photography, to try to make pictures that contain a fuller story. Not just a picture, not just replicas of the photographs I was looking at. I wanted to try and capture the wholeness of the image, not just the picture. Not just a static picture of one thing – it’s not a still life.

Could you elaborate more on your thought process with these paintings?

I don’t know how to describe it. it’s kind of like the way that you would describe something that happens in your day – you don’t just see the picture. I’m trying to get to a fuller story. There’s a whole bunch of things that went together to make that moment, past and present. I think that’s what I’m after… that’s where I’m trying to get with these paintings. I don’t want it clearly documented and described. I’m not trying to create an accurate documentation of the moment. But I’m trying to get a more complete essence of the moment. There’s still a long way to go, I am still struggling to find the necessary language required within the paintings.

As an example, this painting [Palavras da vida] came about after hearing the accounts of these friends of a friend. We were helping them clear their land and piece their lives back together after the big wildfires that happened here in November. Their house and everything they owned was burned down.  In the night, they had to free their horses and flee from where they were living. The basis of the painting came from five or six different drawings based on the events described to me – each drawing was drawn over the last, then kind of different aspects of each of the drawings would come through to the foreground and be kept. All went together to make the story or narrative of the final painting, and it was all done at quite a speed. I am trying to not be overly consumed about the thought process… To be honest, it’s a bit of an anomaly in my recent practice, as more often than not my work usually starts without taking outside influence as a jumping off point.


Palavras da vida (2018)

I would usually start with a blank canvas – often I would sit there and stare, and nearly the whole day could pass and nothing would happen but sometimes it’ll come in a flurry. I’ll start to make marks and those marks remind me of something, and then that something makes me think of something else, and I just keep drawing. I start off with charcoal, and then move onto oil pastel and just keep drawing until it starts to take some sort of form that is interesting. Then I go in with thinned paints. Paint goes on, paint comes off, building it up… I think, for me, the most interesting part of it is the materials and the dialogue with the painting. The actual subject matter isn’t that important to me.

Looking at you most recent work the colour has changed to a much brighter palette – do you think living in a much warmer climate is the reason?   

I think so, maybe? I have never thought about it consciously at all, but it does appear that the colours that I use have come drastically brighter.

Let’s finish by talking about your influences, especially since your work has taken so many turns.

Gerhard Richter comes to mind from our time in college. For me, the ones that were the most compelling were those little black and white paintings which came from newspaper cuttings and he reproduced them verbatim. I don’t care much for what he is doing now with his abstractions. I love watching videos of his process, but what comes out, not so much. I imagine they are great fun to make. I like a lot of photography, maybe I’m more influenced by photography and cinema than painting.

I’m really taken by cinema, it’s always played a big part in my life – I always wanted to be a filmmaker. I love a wide variety of cinematic styles and genres, a wide variety of directors, each one is a visionary. I love the work of Coppola and Kubrick, but also equally the work of, say, Wes Anderson or David Lynch… he has a unique vision to his work that’s quirky and engrossing.

Don’t get me wrong though, I love paintings and great painters. At the moment I’m interested in the works of artists like Wilhelm Sasnel , Peter Doig… I’ve just discovered the German painter Daniel Richter (who I found out isn’t related to Gerhard!). It was hugely inspirational for me getting to see Francis Bacon’s work when I visited the Tate, some time ago now, that had a big impact on me. The red triptych with the weird figures [Three Studies for Figures at the Base of a Crucifixion], when I saw that in person, I was blown away. I’d seen it in a book that I had and thought cool, but when I stood in front of the scale of the work… it changes the way you look at it. But for me, when it specifically comes to influence it’s not so much individual artists, more instances that happen in paintings, little things, like the translucency of colours in a painting.

 thank you Adrian Mc Hugh for your work editing


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