STATEMENT 1995: Tate Liverpool


For several years (beginning in 1979) I made works based on the visual language of zoological museums and textbooks, in the form of display cases and collages incorporating objects, images and words.  From 1987 until last year all my work was based on some sixty objects within a large still-life arrangement represented in a painting called ‘The World’.  This work as a whole consists of paintings and drawings which examine the still-life as an environment and the objects as exhibits from an unfamiliar world.

Eight painted canvases produced in 1994-95 isolate one object from the still-life against a field of flat colour.  These attempt to embody the mystery of material objects seen as themselves alone, separated from function, context, association and so on.  There is also some sense of what I think of as an everyday miracle – the wonder of representation.  The skin of paint covering the canvas is read as abstract colour in some places, while elsewhere it is taken to be the image of an object.  The unmodulated colour continues over a wooden lip at the edge of the canvases and around the side.  The works appear to be some sort of flat domestic objects simulating paintings.

My recent work abandons any connection with the objects from the still-life and moves closer to being actual painting.  Basic elements of picture-making, such as composition and colour, are used in rudimentary form.  The ordinary objects represented in the ‘Domestic Landscape’ paintings of 1995 do not risk their fascination being attributed to rarity.  The division of colour could be taken to be a horizon, or perhaps the surface of water seen in cross-section, though other factors contradict a figurative reading.  The highly representational images are placed on a simple ground which flips back and forth between abstraction and pictorial space.  While retaining some feeling of ‘the mystery of objects’ these works play with the mechanics of depiction, yet still remain very much objects in themselves by means of the raised wooden moulding and painted edges.  Absurd conjunctions are displayed – emptiness and detail, abstraction and representation, surface and illusion, exterior and interior, artistic order and domestic chaos.  I don’t see this as radical art which extends the practice of art-making.  It is a self-conscious (but more intuitive than logical) attempt to use some of the conventions of painting to evoke the extraordinary from the banal, while alluding to the history of art in general and modern painting in particular.