A great deal of art is artifice. Artists create works that are meant to convince the audience that they are something other than what they really are. This is true of drawing, painting and sculpture, as well as other art forms such as fiction writing and film. We become immersed in a good novel to the point where we may believe that the story we are reading actually happened. We watch a film and forget that the characters we see are merely actors. Likewise, a painter may convince us that the flat canvas is a window looking out upon a vast landscape or into an interior space or that the oil paint is a bowl of fruit or human flesh.
Some artists intentionally attempt to disguise their materials and their process such that the viewer might declare "I can't believe that's a painting! It looks just like..(whatever the subject of the work is)!" Contrarily, other artists embrace the artifice and make it an integral part of the work, leaving the viewer to ponder how something that is obviously just paint on canvas can appear to be something else.
Like many artists, when I was learning my craft, I opted for the first approach – trying to defy the artificiality of the materials and process in order to convince the viewer that they were seeing an actual, recognizable object. This is a great way to learn technique and mastery of our materials because we can measure our success or failure by referring directly to our subject. However, the more adept I became at creating illusionistic images, the less interested I became in working that way. Eventually, I moved away from this mode of working and began to make my paintings and drawings as much (if not more) about the process and materials than about the subject. Wanting my work to look man-made rather than illusionistic – to look like painting rather than nature – I embraced gestural drawing, painterly application of the paint, and subjective color and made them integral parts of my process.
Over the past few years, as my technique has become increasingly more personal and I have continually explored new territory with regards to my methods of applying paint to the canvas, I have become fascinated with the idea that my paintings don't look much like painting but, rather, look like something that occurred in nature. The world that we live in exists in a precarious balance between order and chaos an this becomes acutely apparent when we observe nature. On one hand, there appears to be an incredibly complex organizational structure and myriad systems that work miraculously and in perfect balance to hold everything together and yet, simultaneously, nature is characterized by savage acts of violence as organisms devour one another and fight for survival and the elements wreak havoc on all and sundry. Even a cursory glance whilst walking in the woods will reveal the scars and corpses left by the merciless onslaught of Mother Nature and yet sublime beauty abounds.
Although I never know what a painting is going to look like when it is finished, because my process involves a lot of improvisation, intuition, risk taking and spontaneity, the initial stages of an image are characterized by a great deal of planning and design - composing, organizing and creating a cohesive cast of colors. My hope is that the finished work will, like nature maintain a perfect balance between order and chaos.