Raw Vision interview request for information on 2020 works
The creative process during COVID
I have worked as a social worker throughout the COVID crisis. This has been extremely difficult, living alone and experiencing feelings of being disposable to the state, being under equipped in fieldwork and playing ‘Russian roulette’ with my own health. However, I feel that the crisis has infused and honed my work, with the creative process becoming more intense and focussed. Motifs and symbolism have become clearer, as has an understanding and interpretation of my own works. I have experienced great realisations that my paintings are more personal than I previously understood and the creative process has given me a great distraction from isolation and fear. The pandemic also allowed a new relationship to flourish intensely due to a lack of distractions and resulted in the creation of a new life. I feel that this year’s output, whilst being limited, has been my most focussed to date. I have also realised, that I am, and always will be an artist, and that I need to strive to make this my fulltime reality.
Background to overarching themes
The standard theme throughout all of my paintings over the last few years are the ‘aquatic’ black and white creatures that circulate many of the main colourful characters. The black and white creatures represent anxiety, painful thoughts and overthinking; I now consider them to be and call them dread devils. I feel that many of these ‘aquatic’ black and white characters look like a variation on deep sea marine life (such as angler fish and viper fish). The relevance of using these forms from the deep for ‘dread devils’, are that they that they too come from the depths, but the depths of the subconscious mind representing anxiety and painful memories. However, some of the recent black and white characters within my current paints are more hopeful and canine/bovine in nature (Canine representing love and bovine representing strength). I have also worked hard in the current and the last painting to develop the movement and dance of the ‘dread devils’ to represent the nebulous flow of thought. I also realise that the ‘dread devils’ are the primary compositional aspects of my current paintings.
The tree of strife (holding onto the edge of the earth, hurled into the universe) (March 2020)
This painting could be read as a biomorphic interpretation of our environmental crisis and is reflected in the screaming tree character. However, this also works as a reflection of my state of mind at the time; I was anxious and in psychological distress after numerous personal problems from the preceding 18 months. I had separated from my wife, lost my two dogs and experienced poor health due to a spinal compression amongst many other life events (luckily surgery and cycling completely reversed the issues with the spinal compression). The main character has numerous distressed heads reflecting my reactions over that time and could be seen as being my attempt at the ‘primal scream’. The painting also speaks of resilience. This was the first of the 4 paintings here and the black and white characters are on the cusp of being fully realised dread devils.
The Viral load (April 2020)
This one works on a number of levels for me, it can be read a number of ways. On the surface, the orange Griffon character is swiping away the virus being released by the sick blue character. Underneath the surface, the orange and blue characters are interchangeably symbolic of relationship and rejection. The starred eyes are representative of the COVID; the black and white dread devils representing the anxiety of the viral load.
If you follow the bottom right quarter, they are my 2 beloved dead dogs morphing into a fearful embryo. The embryo looks waspesque, but this is a transfer and transition of emotion from loss into hope. The bottom left orange dog character protruding from the griffon is also symbolic of transition from death to life and represents pregnancy. The top left quarter is the helmeted Griffon with a fist made from fire representing the strength and ferocity of resistance/or the fear of child birth. The composition of words creates a ‘dancing’ flow and offers a whole range of feelings and emotions encapsulating my inner turmoil at the time and the outer collective fear for our own mortalities we all face at the moment.
You are the cub who was washed out to see on a crimson tide (May 2020)
The horned sitting bovine character is the cub that was washed out to sea on a crimson tide. I think we can all feel sometimes that we are still a child (cub) inside, and when things get bad we can feel very far away from hope (treading water out to sea). Trauma, bereavement, love and loss are the Crimson Tide. The painting itself is meant to be read, and I built many of the characters with the written word, some of which overflows into the outer composition. The standing character is dominant over the sitting bovine character, recognising/preying upon the cub’s vulnerability. The standing character recognises the Bovine character as the cub that was washed out to see on a crimson tide. The two main characters in this painting are a visual manifestation of my internal battle between neurosis and the need for dominance/control. I am calling out and challenging my neurosis, recognising its history and pattern of behaviour.
Within this painting, there are two interesting aspects to me as the artist. The first is the bottom quarter of the painting where the bovine character’s back legs are also operating as arms. They are scooping up or holding onto ‘dread devils’, which I consider as a metaphor for not being able to let go of painful memories and anxiety. Above the 2 scooped ‘dread devils’ is a slipped mask with a haunted face being exposed; again another metaphor, this time representing the fear of not knowing who you would be without your anxieties and painful memories. The second aspect is the central black and white ‘dread devil’ who is passing on what can only be described as a Covid 19 virus cell to the masked bovine character (this wasn’t incidental but clearly another anxiety for us all).
The Power and the glory of sleep deprivation (Sep 2020)
The main focus within this painting is that of an embryonic biomorphic character which on reflection represents the very recent birth of my son. The two faces in the chest are the parents looking on in the same direction, representing agreement and resolution. Within the main embryo head is a second head with a variety of lines cascading out, this is representative of a parent’s anxiety about parenting and the myriad of paths a child may take in his journey through life. The external composition is more intense and dense than I would normally present, this is representative of the intense emotions associated with child birth. Dread devils continue to populate the piece, some of which are embryonic in nature and symbolic of parental neurosis; COVID virus spikes mingle with the dread devils adding to the neurosis. The title refers to my first few weeks of fatherhood and a destruction of sleep patterns; the sleep deprivation contributed to a more biomorphic and abstract main character.