at them. that makes me happy. i’m always hoping the viewer will feel able to meet the work head on, leaving behind, or at least questioning, any expectations or assumptions they might bring to them, and have what you so nicely referred to as a ‘visual adventure’. When confronted with an abstract painting i think it is easier for the viewer to feel able to have an immediate and sensuous experience of it. it’s as if we’re given permission to stop looking for meaning and to simply respond to the surface, and all its seductive formal qualities. But when we look at a representational painting that kind of response can sometimes feel less unavailable to us because of all the literal work of ‘interpretation’ that a representational image inherently demands of us.
FW Would you like to elaborate on what you mean by ‘formal’? cc ‘Formal’, for me, means the optical activity and tensions generated through speciﬁc colour juxtapositions, compositional dynamics, spatial games, rhythmic concerns, handling of the surface itself etc., ideas around the manipulation of colour, space and rhythm, on a ﬂat surface, within the conﬁnes of a rectangle, or square etc. the word ‘formal’ can have a dry ring to it, or feel like something exclusive to modernist abstract painting , but as far as i’m concerned its the beautiful juicy nub of what all good painting, ﬁgurative or abstract, is about. it is the formal qualities that draw the viewer into a sensuous relationship with the painting and i believe that without that, the emotional or intellectual responses we have to a representational image would have far less depth or resonance. in a painting like my E’s Rocks and Blue it was about constantly re-tuning the grey/brown/ blue relationships until the colours started to engage each other optically, altering each other’s chromatic identities. it’s these kinds of magical transformations that excite me about painting. A grey being electriﬁed into a state of ‘orangeness’ by its neighbouring blue is pure alchemy, isn’t it?! Even (especially) in my ‘greyer’ paintings this kind of optical activity is a major concern. Within a narrower chromatic range the interaction between warm and cool, light and dark can become even more tense. But whilst these colour narratives are being played out its also important for me that the ‘enterinto-able’ space of the painting and its emotional atmosphere, still have conviction. As a ﬁgurative painter i’m playing with this tipping point between the formal activity and the image itself (the three dimensional illusion). i like what James turrell, the artist, says about needing ‘the quality of the illusion to be both convincing and dissoluble’.
FW i like the obstructions in these three paintings, they exercise my imagination, they make me curious as to what might lie behind or at an imagined point in the distance. adam philips writes in his chapter ‘looking at obstacles’ in On Kissing, Tickling and Being Bored: ‘it is impossible to imagine desire without obstacles, and wherever we ﬁnd something to be an obstacle we are at the same time desiring of it’.1 cc i’m ﬁnding it hard to think objectively about the painting now …… to disentangle the viewer’s experience of it from the painting itself or from my intentions! FW i’m aware that in this conversation i am asking you to take account of my responses whilst formulating your own. this is intentional and an alternative method to the recorded interview in which an interviewer prompts or challenges an artist without fully acknowledging their own responses. i am interested in conversation as method, that is, about coming to a new understanding of something through ‘corespondence’. i also understand that this requires the artist to reach out to a viewer/respondent in a way that they wouldn’t normally do in the course of painting.
38 AmBiguOuS PRACtiCES