A r t i s t   S t a t e m e n t s

Untitled # 112, Oil on Linen on Board, 74 x 119cm, 2009

Untitled # 1, Series 1, Oil on Primed Paper, 28 x 25.5cm, 2005


Artist Statements :

Untitled # 96, Oil on Linen on Board, 74 x 119cm, 2008


Between One and Many

The last year has been a period of change for me. I have often felt between what was yet to come and what had been. The preposition can indicate a connection as well as a separation, which images well the ambiguity I sometimes felt. In 2007, my interest largely shifted from sparse and spacious paintings to busier ones. The depth attainable in wide open fields has lost none of its attraction for me. However, I have wanted to give these fields a contrasting context and to explore the effect. So, my focus didn't simply shift from one to many, rather, it moved from one to between one and many.

Mark Rothko once wondered aloud about what takes place between paintings once the gallery lights go out and no-one is watching them. What could take place ? If a painting is a thought, a silent conversation might pass between several of them. If a painting is music, perhaps one will hum a silent tone, and the many respond, in tension or harmony. In any case, the idea could also point to the cohesion of a series, to the inner structure that relates each one to the many others.

A number of the compositions in this series are split vertically in two contrasting fields. The one on the left is characterised by a single expanse, whereas the right field is peopled with multiple stripes. That configuration, with its inherent tension between one and many, is fertile in metaphors and became a central focus in my exploration.

The composition seems to encourage a horizontal reading. Whether one reads left to right or the other way is a matter of preference. The choice though will surely result in different meanings. For instance, the reading could start from one original state on the left and proceed through many transformations on the right. Just as plausibly, it could be read as successive chapters of a narrative on the right resolving into one outcome on the left.

The same composition also invites a comparative exercise between stripes. The eye may begin in a sauntering mode, picking up differing details at high speed on the many stripes. It may then delve into the one field on the left for a deepening rest, like a dive into coolness or sleep, only to return to activity later. The concept abstracted here could be the relation between the two contrasts of singular/plural and rest/activity.

The title of this series could equally be a reference to one artist and many viewers. The moments of actual contact are as rare as they are swift. While I work alone in my studio, the many faceless viewers exercise a presence of some kind. I wouldn't say I maintain an imaginary conversation with them, yet a certain awareness of being watched permeates the space between me and them. This keeps me more alert.

I am sure other interpretations of this title exist. Let the search be endless. Let it be like the painting, about itself at the same time as it evokes something else. Let it be as abstract art itself, resisting encapsulation and remaining open to future thoughts.

March 2008



As a Mountain Tarn

I find few things as inspiring as a mountain tarn. The often small ponds of icy water nestle between rock outcrops or ripple among tussock. One of them in particular occupies a cherished place in my memory, a place where imagination mingles with inspiration.

It inspires me by its harmony and its great beauty. Also by its significance. Exposed to all weather, it rests on a ridge, like an eye gazing up into the sky. It mirrors the passing of time. It witnesses the marching constellations who whisper their meaning to the night. I too, look for meaning.

Setsuya Kotani, a Japanese American ceramicist and abstract painter writes : “Universal meaning finds its way into art with or without discursive intellectual effort, but it requires a certain receptivity from the artist who turns toward that level of meaning, that aspect of his or her inner life.” *

For me, to leave town and clamber up the slopes take me closer to that inner life. I gasp for air but inhale silence. The day's unfolding gathers significance. I feel part of the mountains, part of a greater world. Whispering is about, just out of reach of my human ear.

Ideas underlying painting series have come to me in altitude. I worked on them later, back on the plain. Sometimes I find individual paintings bear little ketes** of meaning. Nothing lofty or grandly universal, but metaphoric thoughts relevant to everyday life. I paint them without discursive attempt, yet I don't mean to hold the kete shut.

To me, # 124 is a mirror between two states of existence. It could parallel many life situations. # 112 and # 122 explore horizontal influences over a vertical world; # 109 displays the evolutions of loose stripes towards resolution in a bare field; # 107 shows right and left sided objects addressing each other; # 110 is about the mutual influences of three similar 'events', it is also about grouping and isolation.

Abstract paintings can be taken as vacuous decorative objects, leaving a pond as a pond. I'm not uncomfortable with that. They may also challenge the figurative mind which insists on 'seeing' actual scenes or objects in them. Some meaning might also be construed from that.

To me, they spontaneously offer metaphors. Bereft of primary meaning, their abstract, visual qualities call for a resonance. Meanwhile, our comprehension of life situations and the world in general benefits from abstractions. By the synthesis of the metaphor, two unrelated experiences are brought together. If they prove to make a whole 'without discursive intellectual effort', both our understanding and the painting gain in depth.

My mission as an artist, as I see it, is to practice Setsuya Kotani's 'turning towards my inner life with receptivity'. It is also, in the same motion, to become one with mountains and listen for whispers. My sincere endeavour is to provide the viewer with a window where the eye can rest from the stampede of everyday life, with a space where inner life may be prompted to whisper, with an object as a mountain tarn, where imagination mingles with inspiration.

June 2009

* Quoted in An Art of Our Own by Roger Lipsey (Shambhala, 1988), page 26.
** Kete(s) : Maori word for a woven basket, the term is often used figuratively, as in 'kete of knowledge'.


Untitled # 135, Oil on Linen on Board, 54 x 59cm, 2010