Some things I can only know when I paint

There are different ways of knowing and all have their place. I want my neurosurgeon, my aircraft designer and whoever it is that makes the internet work to be pretty good at the hard rationality of head knowledge. But we know with more than our intellect. Knowing, remembering even thinking are much more than cerebral activities. The language we use betrays this as we locate the experience of knowing in other parts if our body. So we have a gut instinct, I can wholeheartedly agree with something and sometimes I get cold feet.

Our whole bodies hold joy, sorrow, painful memories and amazing experiences whilst words privilege the rational knowing in our heads. Although, if used subtlety and skilfully by the poet or storyteller they can evoke deeper, more thoroughly embodied ways of being and thinking.

The mystics teach us this. They lead us to ways of knowing and experiencing that go deeper than words can reach. Even using the idea of unknowing, or the via negativa that help us to understand that all our words and concepts about God fall far far short of the deep reality of G-d.

For me painting is a way to explore this deeper, more embodied way of knowing. It is about colour, texture, the movement of my body, the way my eyes see, or perhaps more: an attempt to transcend the limitations of what my eyes see. Recently I have felt those deeper ways of knowing more and more as I make art. Rather than starting with words that frame some clever concept that I try to translate into paint I am trying to think with the paint itself. Smearing the colours across a surface becomes a way of exploring a deeper reality. Working alongside other artists helps me with this as they challenge me to push things further and not settle on the easy answers.

The images that are emerging surprise and disturb me and they are not easy to talk about. Not because it’s too painful to do so, although at times that is true, but because distilling a meaning down into words does violence to the thing itself. All I can talk about is the process that these images embody and then invite the viewer to take the journey for themselves, to bring their own experiences, desires and ways of being alongside the image to seek out potential meanings.

Here are 3 of my most recent paintings. I’m not sure whether I love them or hate them, I’m not sure whether they are better or worse than my previous work (whatever those value judgements might mean). But I do know that I have tried to be honest and so I will hang them on the wall of a gallery and stand by them because what does it mean to be an artist if not scraping away the layers of bullshit that cover us in an attempt to expose the raw meat below, real and alive?

In two images of the paintings I used photographs from my childhood but they are changed by the distance of time and the distortions of memory, the other includes my own son’s toy laser gun in the hands of a man blindfolded in the back of a meat delivery truck:


Misremembered: The boy smiles in an orange Ford Cortina circa 1979

 Oil on canvas 1.5mx1.0m


Lamentations I: Later days

oil on canvas 1.0mx1.5m


Lamentations II: The boy laughs as he shoots an arrow circa 1980 or 2014

He drew his bow
    and made me the target for his arrows.

 He pierced my heart
    with arrows from his quiver

                                   Lamentations 3:12-13