An interview 2012 

How would you describe your art? 

In very simple terms my art is abstract, it varies and mutates constantly. 

It is a part of me I share with others. My art allows me to appreciate the things that catch my eye, that move and shake me; it is a release and an acceptance of the complication of being alive. To create and discover through art is for me a tool which underlies the flow of life.

It is always a reflection of a moment, always driven from within in an intense burst of energy. It requires a situation and an ambience; it tires me and leaves me empty but content. In an abstract piece of work people see what they will, they find things which fit their vision so to speak. This is the nature of abstraction and for me part of its diversity. 

A favourite art quote of mine is “art should comfort the disturbed and disturb the comfortable” – Cesar A Cruz 

How long have you been an artist and how did you become an artist?

That’s a hard question, almost too hard, I am not sure I ever became an artist as such. Maybe I have always been an artist, maybe just a creator, by which I mean I have always found time and had a need to be creative and expressive. Collecting stuff, textures, playing with and enjoying colours, materials, making collage, creating rooms which themselves became pictures or installations because these were the rooms, I needed to live in. As a teenager I once painted the walls of my bedroom with life size images of people, insects, motorbikes. My friends who visited all signed the walls and left comments, pictures and phone numbers etc.… it became a sort of living diary. 

When I was young (aged 10/11) a next-door neighbour did her best to teach me some sense of colour and expression. She was an artist herself, Carlyle Reedy -

- an American who moved to London in the sixties and then I think stayed here. 

In a more measurable sense, I have been silk painting for some fifteen years. Prior to this I have at various stages in my life drawn and painted with crayons, watercolours, charcoal and acrylics. I take photos and sell them as prints and cards. I became interested in stone carving some years ago. I try to complete at least one piece each year whilst on holiday in France, usually human heads, and faces. I carve on the street next to running water in the sun, people stop and watch, chat a while, as a person who enjoys people, I enjoy sharing the moment. 

What is your favourite medium and why? 

I have to say that my favourite medium changes as I change, something about that works for me, it should be that way, no going back etc.…. My favourite medium currently is silk painting. I have become totally involved with the process and the challenges it offers. Silk as a fabric is so special, it comes in many different forms and weights, all of them offering new problems and opportunities. Many insects create silk, spider silk for example has been used to wonderful effect. The silk I use is made by the larvae of blind flightless moths (Bombyx mori) as a part of their life cycle. Its delicacy and its strength are magical to work with. The feel of its texture, the tension when it is wet and stretched, the density of the weave and its unique reaction when dye is applied. Silk is a protein-based fibre so when I paint it, I am painting into it rather than on it, the fibres absorb the dyes and the dyes spread through them. It is the control/or not of this movement which is the beauty and or the skill of painting on silk for me. There are resists such as Gutta and Starch that can slow down or contain the movement of the dye. In ancient China they used rice water from cooking as a starch for silk with great effect. Some silk artists literally copy or draw designs with resist and fill in the colours, for me this is a little like painting by numbers. Maybe that’s why I paint the way I do, more a sense of free expression, new ideas becoming realisation. As a freehand painter my use of resists is minimal manipulating the dye and the silk to make it do what I want is the work in my art. 

My favourite dyes were Knaizeff, which are sadly not available anymore. I have since moved onto Dupont, a French company whose range of colours have themselves been recreated in the last two years. French acid dyes are vibrant; the colours are strong and once fixed by steaming stand the test of time. They can be mixed and diluted to create an endless range of tones and variation. 

Silk painting requires you to be connected, to be fully engaged. It offers a wow factor which for me at least still brings me back time and again. 

Pick one work of art from your Art Colony portfolio and tell us the story behind it. 

My favourite piece of work in my Art Colony portfolio is a medium sized silk painting. It was painted in London on a very cold day with a stiff wind blowing outside. I was listening to Pink Floyd – “obscured by clouds” and “wish you were here’, two albums which seemed to fit the day and my mood. The picture is called “can we see the wood for the trees”. It is a busy and colourful piece that was painted over many hours, developing and changing as new layers were added. I love the colours and the way the overall feeling of the piece turned out. I used brushes, pipettes, mist spray, hairdryer, water, and dye. 

For me at the time it was about the busyness of modern life, the speed of change. I was and am concerned by the separation of people from life, our lack of care for the life we are so lucky to have and the unique ecosystem that makes it all possible. The picture touches on the simple beauty we pass by as we look for individuality, personality, and humanity. 

Tell us about one medium, technique or style that you would like to try working with (that you have not tried before) and why you would like to try this. 

I my mind I have an idea that has grown over many years. Textiles have always interested me and in particular weaving and spinning. I would like to work with fabrics and recycled clothes to create an inclusive three-dimensional textile installation. If you could imagine a large cave whose entire structure and interiors were made of fabrics, a tactile textural experience. A space whose structure is made of both finished and unfinished work. Where visitors are a part of the ongoing creation of the work. Attached to the installation by a variety of prefabricated fibre strands, their directed movement becomes a part the whole piece, helping it to grow and change. In some ways this would be a mixture of human weaving and the way in which certain insects and spiders create their spun cocoons and webs. 

How do you make time for art? 

I find that I have to take time; the need to paint grows as new things happen and eventually, I give myself room. Often at night and always with a sense of claiming personal space. In London this time is a real break from the hubbub of the city. On holidays in France I will spend a whole day or longer absorbed in music and dye, fingers, hands, clothes, stained with dye, harmonies in my head. I only realise how removed I am when I drop into the local bar and tourists stare at me strangely. Luckily, they also buy my work and sometimes come along to watch in the studio, even come and paint!! so it works out, the balance is corrected, yin and yang. 

If you could imagine the “perfect art day” for yourself, what would it be like? 

My perfect art day involves somewhere quiet with wild countryside all around me. I love mountains, coastlines and valleys. Wild weather is like a powerful drug for me so a slowly brooding storm would be perfect. I have access to good music, a piano and ideally, I am alone. I walk and explore burning energy as I fill up with the world around me, feeling the storm on the air. Sounds, smells, flavours, my senses eat my surroundings hungrily. I listen to the radio, read the paper become aware of the day around me in the wider world. I start to listen to some music, maybe Phillip Glass, Gabriel Faure, Pink Floyd, depending on the day. Once the time is right, I will stretch the silk onto frames and then wait, resisting the urge to begin, it feeds the passion, hones the edge. Once I begin painting the day rolls out, as it will, it is all about the painting, eventually the piece is finished and I stop. This is one of the most precious moments for me, I am at peace with myself and can only liken it to that after yoga feeling. Calm, contentment, lightheartedness, oneness. 

If you could spend 24 hours with one artist, living or historical, who would you want to spend the day with and why? What would the two of you do? 

This is not a fair question; it’s like asking me to pick one piece of music or whom I love most. Forced into a corner I would choose a woman, A French woman called Lucie Bouniol , whose sculpture captures something of humanity in a tender way. An artist who believed that an artist’s personality was more important than the school of art they belonged to. She had a passion for art and for sharing art with others. Her drawings and sculptures made their own place in French cultural history. In a man’s world she was confident and provocative, holding her ground on issues she believed were right. 

I choose her because her work moves me, it has such life. She saw and managed to recreate people in a way that melds romanticism with reality. As a man who tries each year to carve human heads and faces, I am in awe of her technical skill and personal humility. 

We would spend our day doing ordinary things, watching the world go by, observing people, eating good food and talking about the differences of our lives, times and experience. 

Do you have any tips or advice for aspiring artists? 

Follow your heart and not your head. 

Remember that passion is the stuff of life, the fire within.

In art as in everything it is the glow that others are drawn to, it resonates. Be an artist because you must, for the beauty, not to earn money, maybe money will come but love the creative moment first and foremost.