Still Life

Living beyond the invisible…

Still life offers the imagination a doorway to the invisible. The objects such as they may be are rarely the purpose of the painting – they usually refer to something else, either metaphorically or by referencing a place or state of mind beyond the visual depiction. For me, still life is the closest thing I know to explore the ineffable, the numinous and the the secret world of being alive that in any event defies rational understanding. If ‘God’ (aka ‘Goddess’) wore a medal or a badge, gave a gift or spoke about truth, I think he would have a chosen a still life to show it…

 

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Stone
Stone
Stone

We tend to think of stone as an irrefutable surface – something that has always been and yet if we take a bigger picture of events, stone turns to sand eventually. That which most certainly is, becomes not what it used to be and is gone. I think of still life as sort of doing the reverse – starts as a series of marks, become ingrained with a form and then assumes a life of its own, in some ways more irrefutable because it announces itself out of nothing. This painting came through the layers of painting into a thing in its own right. A painterly omphalos.

Mixed media on canvas, 3x3ft


 

Black
Black
Black

Sometime we have to work and work with freeing up that which is crying out to be seen. We are often fooled by the initial ‘show off’ colours and forms that sit for a while winking with pleasure. If that works, they stay awake despite the emotional weather and vagaries of fate. Otherwise the initial gleam fades and the artist take a scalpel i.e. palette knife to the painting and enters into a battle to find the truer being within, that immeasurable countenance. I called this “Black” as I had an experience that for the first time, Black was sticking its neck out as a colour worth seeing.

Mixed media on canvas, 3x3ft


 

Glass
Glass
Glass

This image came about after many iterations of sticking onto canvas other images and tearing them off again. The mix of paper, glues, chalk and oil paint excites me and that in itself was almost enough. I am not sure that this painting is final but it is strongly resisting my palette knife. Maybe a dream will incense me into a new wrestle with “Glass”. Sometimes I feel the red in this painting baiting me like a bull gets flustered and then charges at the red handkerchief.

Mixed media on canvas, 3x3ft


 

Royal
Royal
Royal

I am often amazed at how certain thing have their own majesty – even a twig might look sculptural against snow or a cat on a wall looking out evenly as a sphinx into the street. The things around the thing can assume a feeling of deity, have a royalty just by being in that particular constellation of things. Paintings too, the juxtaposition of colours set something to life that was only a moment before anonymous and by some strange inflexion of a gold hint on the light falling outside through the window, imbues a pot, a cup, a pane of glass with royal blood and we are all suddenly subservient to witnessing the ordinary majesty of being a part of the picture.

Mixed media on canvas, 4x4ft


 

Delf
Delf
Delf

I was sitting looking at all the toy cars and trucks my toddler boy has arranged on the table top, laid out in his very own particular arrangement that might look to the onlooker as a random gathering. Yet he is very particular about what car goes where and some days he will be colour conscious and put all the white cars together or arrange the blues into a ‘conversation’. When painting “Delf” I became increasingly aware of a colour landscape coming together and know how it might seem a bit topsy turvy to the onlookers eye, yet I remain very fond of how the colour and shapes came together to play.

Mixed media on canvas, 4x4ft


 

Blue
Blue
Blue

When travelling as I do between countries, climates, foods and others I can sometimes find myself craving the delight of a soft deepening mattress in the haze of birdsong, allowing the dignity of dreams to imagine me as a hero taking refuge in Olympia or the like. “Blue” always takes me to grandeur and the sadness of grandeur. I love how the ‘blues’ for all their long notes and cello sighing can really allow out the ghosts that might frighten you, were it not for sacred protection of knowing silence. This painting is about being such a guardian, a place of tabernacle.

Mixed media on canvas, 4x4ft


 

Bone
Bone
Bone

I was struck by how the rigidity of this form would not go away. It wanted to stay boney and ligamented. I began to appreciate it angularity and sharp edges. I imagined that if I lifted it off the canvas I could blow into it somehow and play a tune, some gypsy rough melody that would cause the listener to cry with grief at the passing of a beauty lost or become deliciously melancholic with a profound edging together of colours.

Mixed media on canvas, 4x4ft


 

Blaze
Blaze
Blaze

All my life having a real fire has been such an important part of where I live. A lot happens for me around a flame. Thoughts, that never were before, arise and warm the cockles of my heart. Old issues that weigh heavy can be furnaced by the firelight and I do like a little whiskey by firelight best of all. In my more fanciful moments I imagine that when I have completed a painting it acts like firelight for viewers seeking a kind of internal warmth. “Blaze” has arisen out of a private emotional smelting of loss and hope that I hope can forge such a fire for others.

Mixed media on canvas, 890 x 890 mm including frame


 

Mixed media on canvas, 609 x 609 mm
Birdwatch
Birdwatch

In the old days, archaeologists dug deep into caverns vast and wide looking for treasure. Once found the treasure was cleaned up and put on view for inspection and contemplation. These days painting can do a similar thing on the inside. We painters dig and delve into places inside that sometimes reek and scare, in the hope of uncovering that treasure that has always been there. “Birdwatch” is a painting I found on such an internal excavation.

Mixed media on canvas, 609 x 609 mm


 

L'Orange
L’Orange
Orange

It can happen, maybe as we catch the eye of someone, or notice the sound of soft bellied laughter, that a moment arises that is as sweet as ever its going to be. We can miss these moments, avoid them, steer clear of them or decide to cherish them. I think that part of the glory of getting older is not compromising these moments and instead like a water diviner seek them out with a palette knife instead of metal rods. “L’Orange” is a moment of finding sweet water.

Mixed media on canvas, 609 x 609 mm


 

Lord of the Dance
Lord of the Dance
Lord of the Dance

Sometimes making a painting could be described in similar terms to cooking something delicious: take a slice of vermillion and a dash of pebbled white and mix together roughly with oil of olive green etc. The mix can be roughshod but the result is sublime and tasty beyond words. It almost assumes a life of its own and you the painter happened to be the innocent bystander that was compelled to put the mix together intuitively. “Lord of the Dance” was such a creation for me.

Mixed media on canvas, 609 x 609 mm


 

Fleur Bleu
Fleur Bleu
Fleur Bleu

We might lose many things in life and just when we least expect it lose what might feel like the most important thing, our belief in living another day. Then, when on the brink of no return, something can come to rest on the heart – unasked for and unexpected – that lifts up hope and brings a sense of otherness beyond all logic. “Fleur Blue” is about that place of unbridled beauty, unasked for but here to witness gaiety in the face of darkness.

Mixed media on canvas, 609 x 609 mm


 

Kissyfish
Kissyfish
Kissyfish

So when we come to the end of time and approach the pearly gates, we need to have a good excuse for St Peter, if we are not to be sent packing. He might look at me and at the end of pages of blacklisting, peer at me and say: “Why should you come in here? What have you done to deserve entrance?”. I have my answer prepared. I will take a deep breath and say “I have painted God” and produce my painting of “Kissyfish”.

Oil and mixed media on canvas, 710 x 610 mm including frame


 

Stone Urn
Stone Urn
Stone Urn

I have always thought that the stone urns that are used to feed cattle or grow hardy strong limbed plants are the chalices of nature. They are made to last forever and can only be broken by nature – a freezing ice and a baking sun will do it where heavy animals and misuse will not. The image of an urn brings with it a simple solid truthfulness that offers contact with God very differently than patented and bejewelled alter chalices. I don’t think God minds which one we use.

Oil on canvas, 609 x 609 mm


 

Tribute
Tribute
Tribute

Let’s suppose there is a kingdom beyond this one we know, where instead of a ruling power there is a kind of beingness. There we might sit down together and notice the things that move us deeply within as well as without. Here we might pay tribute to the ordinary as extraordinary and the unnoticed comes into view as the very centre of what’s important. Here a vessel comes into view that we honour as the very best of one another. “Tribute” is about that story. I painted “Tribute” as I was going through a very painful breakup and I am grateful it honed my way of seeing what is important.

Oil on canvas, 810 x 710 mm including frame


 

Alchemy
Alchemy
Alchemy

As painters we are alchemists. We concoct, mix, heat and muddle a range of different colours and mediums in search of our very own philosophers stone. Sometimes sparks fly and powers rage as we dabble with the gods in our search for gold. Time and again we muster the courage to go forward only to be met with wrath. Then, often at dawn I have noticed, we see a glimpse and catch it. “Alchemy” is one attempt at catching the glimpse.

Oil on canvas, 510 x 510 mm


 

Potful
Potful
Potful

I love the oddity of painting flowers that do not go into a vase but rather surround it as an immanence. Flowers are magical reminders of our colourful nature. I am an artistic anarchist in the sense that I like to be work with beauty inside out so to speak and like to use flowers as ideographic symbols leading the viewer away from what they think they are looking at into a special world removed from the ordinary into feeling a little wondrous. “Potful” is about being half full.

Oil on canvas, 530 x 640 mm including frame


 

Vase
Vase
Vase

I have always loved vases since Picasso and then Morandi introduced them to me as ways of speaking of the otherness of things. A vase in a painting is never only a vase. It can be an entrance, an opulence, a brittleness and always something else as well as a vase. For me “Vase” came into my life as I looked out from the balcony of my flat in Stroud and wondered whether I would ever be freed of my internal demons. “Vase” came to me as a promise of otherness.

Oil and mixed media on canvas, 500 x 500 mm


 

Vase sketch
Vase sketch
Vase sketch

Taking a chalk for a walk, enjoying the stroll and finding some curves and bellies under charcoal blending. Tale a bank page and make something strong and soft, generous and zany, something to share, sigh at or throw away – this is sketching.