Can you briefly describe what you do?
I am a painter. I use mostly conventional painting materials – oil paint on
canvas primarily. More recently, I have been using collage on my paintings as well; bits of cut canvas, cloth or paper. My working process is quite organic and I like the materiality and directness of painting. Each painting is a kind of entity or body, they are layered and grow in unexpected ways, they are meshed and woven together using different painterly components, small gestures and marks, threads and lines, swathes and bands. I like the idea of cultivation and gardens and the paintings often refer to these directly or indirectly. Obviously, colour, light and form are essential elements in my work but also the qualities of surface, tactility and touch are very important too. I have come to understand that painting is as much about energy as anything else, nothing is really solid and finally formed. I have always made drawings too and they have equal value to my paintings. The paintings feed into the drawings and the drawings feed into the paintings in equal measure.
What drives you to make work?
I think it probably comes from a need to bear a different kind of relationship towards so-called reality. A reality - which perhaps due to my own character traits - I frequently cannot help feeling disappointed or even disgusted by. One does everything despite onself, what at first might seem like an escape from reality, is not really an escape at all, but rather, over the years, the slow formation of a new relationship to reality and being, one that is more intense and free. On one level (and thinking of Kierkegaard) what I do is like marking the stages on life's way, hopefully with a certain grace. It is do with time and recognising one's inevitable passing.
Can you tell me something of your day-to-day working practices?
I walk to my studio in the morning and spend most of the day there.
I always have a number of paintings and drawings on the go at the same time.
I probably spend more time in the studio looking and thinking than physically working. The physical interventions are often quite quick though works can take a long time to make. My decisions are often governed by what could be loosely described as a kind of negative theology; I act in relation to what I do not want to do, to what I want to avoid doing. Essentially, this is just a tactic I have adopted to be able to deal with risk and failure.
How long have you been working in that way?
For a few years. My earlier work was more varied in its use of supports and perhaps more hermetic. I would often make wooden box-like structures that projected from the wall but they always had a very obvious front plane and were to be looked at and considered as paintings. They tended to be objects lost in the world. Now the paintings have more of an inward quality and are lost in themselves.
Which artists have had the greatest affect on your work?
There are many but I should mention Pierre Bonnard, Raoul de Keyser, Edvard Munch, Piet Mondrian…
What, outside visual art, informs your practice?
Anything, potentially, especially the stuff of my immediate everyday life, though it's often difficult to explain how it’s all filtered and transformed into something new as a painting; things remembered, the pattern on a summer dress, shadows on a path, trees (always trees), the profile of someone leaning against a bar, fragments of newspaper photographs, the corner of a room, someones face...
Music is very important for me, and certain kinds of cinema as well; Robert Bresson for example. I’m always reading something too, bits of poetry, aphoristic writings, philosophical reflections, short stories , history….the newspaper!
How would you like people to engage with your work?
No matter how isolated and introspective life in the studio might be, it is difficult to imagine a painting ever being fully realised without an understanding audience for it. Everytime a viewer stands before a painting, he or she creates it anew with their gaze and through their direct experience of it. This is one reason why painting is fragile because after a certain point it always depends on someone else.
Have you seen anything recently that has made an impression?
Paintings by the Argentinian artist Varda Caivano, the Rene Daniels exhibition at the Camden Arts Center in London a few months ago, a viewing of Samuel Beckett’s “Film” which was part of the Moderns exhibition at the Irish Museum of Modern Art and though not something seen but rather something read, a wonderful short story by Robert Walser called “The Walk”.
Do you have anything exciting on the horizon?
The paintings that I’m currently working on are always the most exciting thing for me. But other than that, one of my recent larger paintings will be on show for the first time at the Irish Museum of Modern Art in May. I will also be showing some new drawings at the Drawing Now art fair in Paris this March and also in March a book launch for a recent publication about my work will take place at Rubicon Gallery in Dublin.