15 - 24 April 2021
I painted ‘The Abyss’ in 1996. It was the last oil painting I completed. There was something traumatic and final about it, as if the pursuit of art had come to an end and my work in art had nowhere else to go. I put the work away, and the medium, and shifted my focus to works on paper.
I’ve built this exhibition around ‘The Abyss’ (never exhibited), seeking out some older introspective works that prefigured the content of ‘The Abyss’, works concerned with purpose and ends, and liberation. I’ve mingled these with more recent works on paper that variously contemplate the self in relation to the seeking of purpose and the marking of fate.
In the beginnings of my work (along with the struggle to become articulate with the medium) I conceived my purpose in art as a search for authenticity and deeper contact with the world. In the context of the time (of the Abyss), and as I then understood it, Postmodernism cast a shadow over such apparently antiquated, perhaps even gauche aspirations. A quote (I later discovered) from Yeat’s memoirs - ‘I found at last what I had always been seeking, a life of order and labour, where all outward things were an image of inward life’, seems to sum up my then hopes, even if I always doubted the possibility of such equilibrium – being born in the decade after World War 2, the beginning of the exponential impoverishment of the planet by humanity and our very possible end as a species.
A primary thematic concern in my work has been the fate of the natural world and how that expresses in my inner life, and whether art can make a difference. In gathering together works of intermittent self-reflection (spread over many years) I hope the result is not solipsistic, is driven by enquiry and perhaps even the possibility of spiritual purpose.
It’s apparent how our life wounds psychologically leave their mark, but less clear how we sublimate the wounds we inflict on the Earth. In myself I know these to be intertwined and there is no escaping the entanglement. But my sense of vocation in art seemed diminished after painting ‘The Abyss’. Perhaps there was another road? Yet, though I equivocate about art making, I still find in it my ends.