The thrust of my work from 2013 to 2017 was an ongoing exploration of optimism and utopia. My paintings are based largely on a historical interest in post-war Western experience, and to some degree also look as far back as the Renaissance for inspiration, yet speak to contemporary issues of discontent and social atomization.
Throughout 2013 I developed a body of work which was initially inspired by 15th Century floor pavements in Basilica San Marco in Venice. I applied a hard-edge technique in an attempt to mimic the various finely cut stone pieces which make up these elaborate compositions. I was attracted to illusionistic elements and centrally organized designs, and many of the titles of these paintings are in reference to ancient and modern Italian history. With a technical and procedural vocabulary developed, I was free to move on in my conceptual framework.
The body of work Optimistic Pictures (2014-15), is rooted in an attempt to imagine forms for possible World’s Fairs. I conducted research into the Expos of 1967(Montreal) and 1970(Osaka) in order to try to understand what types of buildings and colours helped to give these two fairs in particular such mythic status. I adopted a hard edge painting technique in part to mirror a painting style popular during the era I was researching. I was interested in the seeming contradiction of temporary buildings being erected to give a glimpse of a version of a utopian future. I wanted also to highlight the condition of a world rebuilding itself from the ruins of a disastrous war, messily engaged with inventing a new culture.
Following this was the series Better Architectures (2015-16). A further exploration of similar themes, this body of work was undertaken in a more improvisational, painterly mode, unlike Optimistic Pictures which were quite carefully planned out in advance and then executed. The result were paintings that were naturally more fluid, organic and temporary feeling, fleeting almost. This quality began to bring to the fore an idea of the connections between utopias and dreaming, as things that are un-apprehendable, that seem so vivid, but for just a split second.
As something of a synthesis of the two previous series, Secret Work (2016-18), incorporates formal and technical elements of both Optimistic Pictures and Better Architectures, but also feels to me to be more conceptually abstract. I began to work on a larger scale than I had previously been accustomed to, and this resulted in a more ambitious scope to the ideas I was working through. I began to consider notions of potential and mystery, blended with utopia tempered with the real-life disappointments of a contemporary world seemingly tipping towards new forms of fascism. As a result there is a somewhat darker feeling to this body of work.