My practice at any one time is bound by what I am experiencing, what I am interested in and what I am reading. Each informs the other. The context for my most recent body of work is social. London, like any big city, can be a very lonely place but feelings of loneliness and isolation are no longer limited by city boundaries. The normalisation of non-face-to-face communication is one obvious factor. As well as further isolating those who are alone, it has caused families to turn inwards, creating little islands of self-absorbed exclusivity. Conversation with the next door neighbour has become at best an amusing novelty and at worst an unwelcome intrusion. As a result, a vast epidemic of loneliness has spread across the whole of society.
But there have always been individuals who have felt alone and isolated. They tend to be those who can’t or won’t conform. In her book, ‘The Lonely City: Adventures in the Art of Being Alone’ (2016), Olivia Laing gives several examples of artists who have expressed these feelings in their work, sometimes consciously, sometimes not.
Lately, in the studio, I have been toying with the idea of life as 'doing time'; a phrase used by the American artist-activist David Wojnarowicz (1954-1992). It follows on from a period of study concerning ways in which artists and philosophers have addressed the question of life's meaning. A common tool for approaching such difficult topics is humour, especially satire. This is true of my own work and it is something that I have recently focussed my attention on.
Brazilian artist Lygia Clark talked about ‘catching herself in a moment of improvisation’. For me, it is about catching myself in a moment of transgression, revolt, or flippancy. It could be likened to the tension released by a school child who, frustrated at not being able to grasp something in class, mocks it instead. As adults we are expected to contain our frustration and outrage. Such expectations do not stop at the doors of art schools. Diplomacy is everything and one must conform to get on. In the studio I set myself durational and often arduous tasks with the hope of eventually provoking moments of revolt. When I am successful, the things that emerge walk a fine line between the puerile, the sardonically amusing and the absurd.
Rhythm and repetition can be found throughout my work. It is both soothing and hypnotic and relates to my interest in the passing of time. The lighting in my multimedia installation, ‘The Last ‘ee aw’ of Buridan’s Ass’ lights up one object after another, creating a slow rhythm, around and around the space. A metronome counts sixteen one-second beats. Just before the sixteenth beat and before the light switches focus, the metronome performs a ‘silly step’; a subtle reference to a silly walk that my late father taught my brother and I when we were children. I suspect that he was influenced by that hilariously absurd Monty Python sketch, ‘The Ministry of Silly Walks’ (1970). I am sure now that the nervous glee and liberation I felt whilst walking that silly walk with my father, was closely related to my young self’s instinctive understanding that the given was being knowingly subverted