Archive | November, 2014

Self Portrait Thoughts

28 Nov


Acrylic and Oil on Plyboard
4′ x 2′

I am within a screen, looking out at myself looking in on myself.
In my ignorance I was shocked to discover the tablet I recently bought only had a one-way camera, meaning I can only photograph myself, easily. The whole “selfie” concept is in part what inspired this painting, though artists have been capturing themselves in this same way for centuries I feel unhealthily attached to my tablet since I bought it as a work tool and I think my portrait is an expression of that, of the way we are in a sense imprisoned by the technology we crave and create. I held it above my head to photograph myself then I painted the painting looking at myself on the screen for reference. Computer screens are difficult to see in sunlight, so we hide ourselves away in shaded rooms, our skin becoming pale and colourless. Maybe that’s why my skin is grey, ashen with the deprivation of the elements and the worry about the radiation and lit by the screen’s artificial light. My clothes however are acid and toxic in their chemical brightness. I wanted a clean private studio away from the detritus of children and animals, plants and mud, excrement and ash, the stuff of living. I have it now, and here I am sealed away in the sterile sealed vacuum of it, very much raised up above the primordial slime, engaged in the very modern act of self examination and introspection. But my thoughts always seem to stray back to the damage we as a people do to the earth and how we justify it in the name of art among other things. I am no exception. Every second we produce another gadget charged with the spurious task of improving our lives, but it may just be upping the chances of us getting cancer tenfold. Many people believe the continual manufacture of better and better machines will solve all the world’s problems, this I seriously doubt, but there is no stopping any of it. I am however torn between their siren-like, addictive wonders and the consequences, from the mining of the last of the rare earth metals to the children dying from inhaling toxic fumes as they melt the computers down for their valuable parts to the possibly irreversible poisoning of our environment. I am alive but maybe when I am attached to this dead thing I am only half alive, yet I can’t put it down. These were the thoughts going through my head as I painted myself and gazed down at the little black flat thing that contained me, trapped, flattened, looking up at myself through the glass screen.

I won a place in the first round of Sky Arts ‘Portrait Artist of the Year Competition 2014’ with this painting and travelled to Edinburgh in July where the filming took place at the Museum of Scotland. Painting under pressure of time, in the presence of cameras and under the gaze of the general public. Many of the artists, including myself had to retrain for the competition, because of the time constraints and spent the months before filming painting as many portraits as possible. I was one of seventy two competitors from around the country, selected from over 1500 entries, who competed against 11 others in the regional heat at Edinburgh where I had four hours to paint a celebrity, whose identity was only revealed on the day. Five other heats in various locations around the country narrowed the field down to six in the second round and three for the final which took place in London. The winner received a prestigious commission to paint a highly prominent public figure to hang permanently in the Scottish National Portrait Gallery and £10000.

The whole experience was pretty adrenaline fuelled. I had a panicky moment in the middle where I almost lost it but pulled it together enough to get the painting under control and finished. I got to quite enjoy the performance aspect of painting with an audience and found it changed my technique slightly, I took risks I might not have taken in private, like pouring ink on to the canvas at quite an advanced stage, because it was more visually exciting.

The series “Portrait Artist of the Year 2014” started on Sky Arts on November 4th. The programme including me aired on the 18th November on Sky Arts 1.

daniella portrait

This is the portrait of actress Daniela Nardini that I painted in the 4 hours on the day.

It is around 16″ x 20″ and is Acrylic and Oil on linen.


From the Dark

8 Nov


From the Dark
Oil on Plyboard, 4′ x 2′

This is a song based on a dream which led to the painting between 2013 and 2014.

From the Dark

The playground of my childhood becomes a warzone
Familiar walks cemented into frightening arcs and loops
And there is darkness and the gathering
And then its gone in a deluge of murderess rain
And there’s the baby girl, the doll, the twin, the unloved one
and she falls, into my care.

I smashed her head with a porcelain plate
Chipped away till there was no more
No one must know, i have to cover up my tracks
But I’ll be tracked down
I’ll be found out
They’re coming as we speak
I’m going round in circles, staring at the spot
How can I get away when my body turns me in?

Sometimes he comes with an iron bar and means to knock me down
Sometimes he comes with a baseball bat
And he is senseless and relentless and almighty strong
Oh he is strong but so am I
Something’s trying to break through
And I’m not sure I want it to
I needed you, did you hear me?
I needed you, did you hear me?
I needed you, did you hear me?
I’m not ready to be needed.

I kept her in the fridge so long,
But she’s enchanted by,
Enchanted by the world which I show her.
And guilty, I’m so guilty,
I could easily misplace her, lose her, forget her
I needed you did you hear me?
Oh I needed you did you hear me?
I needed you did you hear me?
I’m not ready to be needed.


5 Nov


September 2014

The torturess state of desire often felt during ovulation seems to something not much talked about among women. Maybe because of hormonal methods of birth control interfering with natural hormones, many women don’t feel as I often do. The wild, reckless, violent all consuming power of it. I had it down merely as the drive to procreate but only recently have I realised that it can also be an incredible well of creative energy if it can be channelled that way. Sometimes the fantasies and urges become overwhelming, distracting and putting my body into a trembling skittish state which becomes all consuming and really I feel that nothing else but some sort of physical sexual release will do. I didn’t actually paint this picture during this phase but in the immediate aftermath, when my body had entered premenstrual territory. In the painting, however, I was trying to express that wild, thirsty, insatiable state.

I seem to be going through some sort of awakening. You could call it creative, sexual or spiritual. Some sort of detaching from the child I have been, maybe, all this time, because my children are becoming adults and I was in many ways still a child when I had them. I have been subsumed all this time in mothering my offspring and i have been partially submerged, awake but in another dimension. Throughout the last 17 years I have periodically partially surfaced releasing little creative explosions. But now, for the first time in my adult life, a bigger part of me is emerging out of mothering long enough to feel I am at the brink of something else. Something big and new, as big and new as mothering first was in it’s time.

I am entering new territory.

The painting was bought by a woman and it seemed to me that her reasons for buying it and what she said about the flux in her life has somehow merged with my own reasons for painting it and what the painting is about. Maybe the parallels in our lives regarding daughters becoming adults is why the painting spoke to her. Interesting how paintings can take on a life of their own that way.