Gothic: Of the Type revived from the mid 18th – early 20th centuries. It connects to the tone and sensibility of the work.
The Salisbury Wing. Some years ago I recall ducking late into the National Gallery out of the rain. I soaked up the atmosphere of the room with 18th-19th c paintings by Stubbs, Gainsborough, Turner and Constable. I was transfixed by the brooding storminess of Constable’s ‘Salisbury Cathedral from the Meadows’. A couple of years later in my studio and a blank unprimed canvas with nothing specific in mind for it, I took the postcard I bought of the Constable painting and instinctively started a version of it. I added my own elements, painted a white van in, out, in, out, and eventually stuck a lot of mussel shells on it instead. A very knowledgeable painter told me that they used these shells to mix paints in plein-air painting of the period.
The Ford Escort Van. My father used to drive one in the 1980’s. I recall the excitement of it reversing up the drive on a Friday evening after working away for the week. When I went back to study art again in 2003-4, I recall walking past one on my way home. They were quite rare by then so I took a photograph. It soon crept into my work as a recurring motif. Early incarnations were quite surreal, with inferences to binoculars and a pig snout. I not actually that aesthetically taken by the vehicle, but I always look out for them.
Frank. I think about this character wading through a landscape, or paint scape; a surveyor of it, or moving through it but never reaching a destination.
The Stage. I use acrylic paint, a fast drying medium, perhaps oils would be better. One thing though, I connect with the type of approach to painting stage sets, fast and loose, but detail and perspective where needed. This, in turn, relates to broader aspects of my work including installation and performance with masked characters. Maybe the paintings could become backdrops for something else. Also, the nature of collage used to create some the compositions for the larger paintings makes the figuration and architecture feel arranged like props and protagonists.
Hammer horror. I love my horror film and most of its sub-genres. Hammer horrors from the late 1950’s to early 70’s are the most relevant to this body of work. I’m not aiming for horror in these paintings, but something of the melodrama perhaps. Terrance Fisher was the master director. His 50’s -60’s lush Technicolor films and opulent set design are a painters tonic. Remastered DVD’s such as Brides of Dracula was a revelation from the faded washed out versions they used to show on TV pre-digital age. They compete with the famously gorgeous design of Italian director Mario Bava and American Roger Corman’s Edgar Alan Poe adaptions from the period.
Under the bridge. My wife Nita is an artist, and researching for her community project about the derelict Chances Glass factory in Smethwick we did a number of canals walks there. Part of the route dramatically cuts under the M5. I took loads of photo’s and then I thought I’ve got to have some of this imagery in my painting. Since Birmingham has been brutally erasing an era of 20th-century architecture in its city centre – a kind of architectural cleansing, I’ve become more attached and sentimental about it, whereas when I was younger, I was quite detached from it, maybe even slightly fearful of it.
Notes on English Gothic exhibition by Paul Newman, 10th January 2018