"The job of the artist is to always deepen the mystery"
Our contemporary virtual experience is illusory and two dimensional. The images on the computer/television screen and in print have no substance, there is nothing concrete that can be touched and felt, no connection to our own physicality, no connection with the natural world. What we do touch is ready made and mass-produced by machines, with slick packaging that uses materials far removed from natural sources. This contemporary life is disconnected and superficial; and without knowing why, people often feel disconnected... despite being more "connected" via electronic devises.
It is partly in response to this that I became especially involved in the material as a painter. Some years ago I began an exploration into pre-industrial techniques for the hand-fabrication of paint. I learned how to make the paint base myself with organic linseed or walnut oils and natural powdered calcium carbonates such as chalk and marble dust. In the same way that Rembrandt painted without using solvents (proven by scientific analysis of his canvases) I also have learned how to paint in oils completely solvent free. I hand refine the organic linseed oil, a physical process that requires plenty of muscle power, as does the process of mixing the medium before each painting session. The whole process involves time and patience (It takes a year or more to sun bleach the oil)...not like the instant gratification of buying ready made materials.
The paintings that result are sometimes mainly about the material, the paint's viscosity and consistency, thus the paint surface itself can be a vital aspect of the conten, where form equals content. Such textural qualities are significant in counter to a virtual experience without actual texture..where all perceived texture is an illusion within a computer screen or on a two dimensional surface. The textural qualities of the paint can also be important in the sense of attempting to express a sense of the direct experience of nature where texture abounds.
Painters who are influenced by ecology, who want to express a deep connection with the natural world, sometimes try to represent the visual appearance of scenes from nature. A tree does not need to represent something other than itself in order to express nature's beauty. And in the same way, a canvas can express nature's beauty without representing something other than itself. Just like the tree, a painting can express natural beauty through the textures, the subtleties of color, gradations of tone, balance of form, patterns of dark and light etc. In this sense some of my work can be labeled abstract, while for me it also attempts to express the direct experience of being in nature.
Often I do work with images from nature. The new work shown here incorporates collage using old-style engravings in antique botanical books. I also sometimes do my own botanical drawings of flora/fauna that I have found in nature, observed directly, then using pencil or charcoal to draw directly onto the canvas. I like the mixed media aspect of drawing with graphite into the painted surface, blurring the lines between the categories of Paintings and Drawing. (The oil glues the drawing onto the surface of the painting) When drawing natural forms I sometimes take a scientific approach, using a magnifying glass to see strange hidden shapes that may appear abstract when taken out of context.My first and abiding interest as a student was Biology. Then later when Art took over, my student work still contained images from biological science. Then and now, the idea of unifying Art and Science influences my work. Botanical images, and scientific images from microscopes, telescopes and satellites have found their way into my work over the years. Going deeper into nature and seeing natural forms from different perspectives can be both a scientific and an artistic approach. And as the scientific method involves ongoing experimentation with much trial and error, so does my artistic process. In the same way that the scientific process is fueled by an unquenchable curiosity, so is my artistic process.
I sometimes think of now calling myself a "post-contemporary artis"t. My early influences were very linked to Contemporary Art, being an art student in New York where I absorbed all the cutting edge phenomenon and where my sensibility about artmaking was formed. In my early years as an artist I worked in video/performance art and my paintings involved non-art or industrial materials and scientific imagery. Now 40 years later, many of the contemporary ideas such as