This is the accompanying text for an art exhibition “skins” in 2010
The paintings that make up this exhibition have been in production over the last seven years. During this time I have partially pulled back from a purely architectural career and expanded my interests. I focused on exploring my artistic nature that has been a quiet constant since a small child, though seemingly shelved with other ‘childish things’.
This exploration was accompanied by a growing interest in psychology in relation to creative therapies. This was formally studied through a Masters of Art Therapy . The course widened my appreciation of the subconscious and emotional strands to my work. Seemingly my paintings can be read as a ‘stream of subconsciousness’ as there was no pre-destination. My work took on a strong process of putting the conscious mind to one side and exploring what my body produced without its guidance.
The more I worked with the paintings the more important it felt not to have any conscious preconceptions as I worked. This took some dedicated practice as it is not my usual way of working. There are more than a hundred paper and mixed media paintings that further developed my personal rigour. Obvious fear came up, staring at the blank canvas or paper. However no one was watching and little was at stake so this fear did begin to subside, and be replaced with anticipation. I could never quite guess what would appear before my eyes.
There are a few exceptions to my rule of free flow of paint on canvas. Some of the paintings had a genesis in a small doodle or study therapy session. But again the source material conforms to the original intent of a ‘stream of subconscious’, as did the process of completing the large scale version with added colour and texture and feeling. Always, my current feeling and sense of my feeling body were an important part of the process. I do however concede to consciously choosing some colours. Though I have often closed my eyes and grabbed the first few tubes of paint too.
It has been a process without cognitive understanding; it is primary felt and understood through sense of touch, and bodily feeling. I have to liken my process to meditation. There is sense withdrawal and mind concentration….and out of that something beautiful happens. All focus and concentration is between me and my materials. The more connected I feel to the true state of where I am at any one moment, without judgement just expression, the more authentic and centred I feel. This experience has given me paintings that I relate to, and touch something inner most. The painting has become a true core of who I am and who I feel myself to be.
I came across the following quote by Sir Simon Rattle which might help me to communicate my feeling about ART in its biggest sense. Though you will have to substitute or even add art for music.
“Music is no mere luxury, but instead a fundamental need. Music must be a vital and essential element in the life of each individual”
Why ‘Skins? The easy answer to this is that it was inspired by a conversation with my Art Therapy supervisor. I had the privilege of bringing some art therapy to a Hospital Burns Unit for several months, and we were exploring the concept of skin. I have my own minor trials with skin regarding an eczema condition for the last few years subsequent to my time at the Burns Unit. It has given me more insight and understanding of how important this layer of protection to our inner selves from the outer life is to our immediate sense of being in relationship to life.
I also see how I have spent the last few years looking at my own layers of self, both physical and psychical. The boundary, at which I reach beyond self and in relationship with another person, or society, nature, even my home, has become a frame for consideration.
There is an edge to us, though that edge also is inside of us just like skin; some are more defined than others. It protects us. Both from the outside and inside world of harmful bacteria, virus, and physical wounding but also protect our inner bodies by expelling and eliminating toxins from our body system. It keeps our body temperature regulated so we can sink more fully into all environments of life.
It is also an expression of us beyond the purely physical, it involves our psychical expression. Our feeling of self as a human body with its incumbent mind body spirit is essentially achieved through this sensitive nerve laden skin. We feel in the lightest breath of wind, the cold of a steel touch, an essence of ourselves in relationship first and foremost through ourselves which then embraces the world around us.
One of the most surprising aspects of my journey into painting has been the response from people. It seems an education in art is neither a hindrance nor help in relating to my paintings. I was quite surprised when people began commenting in quite a deep way to certain paintings. One painting will ‘talk’ to someone, but not someone else. Nor is it important to know what the painting activates within me. The painting as an entity in itself seems to be a key to unlocking a place in another person. It has been a delightful experience for me to share these connections with others.
Finally I want to express how these paintings have been part of a major journey into self for me. I don’t think there is any other way to share that journey with you, other than to share my paintings, and let them speak for me. If I attempted to use words it would inevitably fall into a clumsy stilted idiom that would benefit neither you nor me. So there is no choice but to let that communication be by way of emotion and feeling transmitted through the medium of colour.