Your work is intertwined with sociopolitical themes that are prevalent in our society. Has the increasingly unstable environment we live in made its mark on your recent work?
It has, but not in the way you would think. My earlier work addressed these issues bluntly and up front by showing our youth battling to survive in dystopian hostile environments, something that as a parent I can not deal with but recently it has changed. One reaction to the current sociopolitical situation is to become depressed and my attempts to push back against it through my art resulted in an emotional downward spiral. I have come to realize that my responsibility as a parent and artist is to lead by example and instead of adding darkness to an already dark world I should attempt to bring light. I found it much more challenging and courageous to try and show beauty wherever possible instead of falling into the hysteria. It is hard because many would say that it’s turning a blind eye to the issues we currently face but I now feel it is more a meditative practice of guarding what I allow to enter my consciousness and an act of will to look for beauty when most others see the ugly. I am in no position to help my family nor anyone else for that matter from an unhealthy resentful mind. As the Dalai Lama said, “We can never obtain peace in the outer world until we make peace with ourselves”.
Your journey as a father has had an influence on your artistic direction. How have you seen your work transform after becoming a father?
As I mentioned above, I thought the way to protect my family was to show people what a mess they were making of my and all our children’s futures but this fell on deaf ears because it just fuelled the negativity bias that we all carry. These days I’m trying to take things a little more lightly and I’m spending less time trying to change the world and more time being with and nurturing my family. There is only so much one can do through the medium of painting to really help others and create a spiritual depth and wealth because if I am honest, art and painting is often a luxury item (both the practice and the consumption) and I am becoming jaded by the fact that my paintings are only available for those with big wallets. My painting has become a vocation (much bigger than me and putting food on the table) not simply a career and therefore I really believed I could do some good for all by making beautiful works. I’m taking a little pressure off myself and my painting practice by finding ways to help others outside of the medium of art. Hopefully, this will allow me to find a better balance in my work and rekindle the joy, and playfulness that has somewhat dwindled.
You are from Wales and now live in Los Angeles. What sparked a move from where you were raised and has it had an impact on your artistic vision?
I moved to Los Angeles as a musician 10 years ago. The actual climate was my primary motivation to emigrate. I was also delighted to discover the pop surreal art scene here on the West Coast and it inspired me to pick up my brushes again. When I was a young painting fresh out of university I had a loud voice with not much life experience to shout about. When I returned to my painting in my late 30’s I felt I had something to say and the language used by many of my contemporary pop surreal painters here was a perfect vessel for my expression. My own individual style has developed over the past 10 years as a result of experimentation with techniques and mediums and continues to grow in response rather than in reaction to my families circumstances.
You believe in using your art for philanthropic purposes. What are your thoughts about the healing powers of art? Has art impacted you in a therapeutic manner personally?
This question is ongoing and my thoughts about it sway to and fro like a pendulum. Sometimes I have a gut feeling that my gift can work so much harder than it currently is to help others. I often see animations and cartoons use art to really successfully hit home some deep human concerns and issues. Believe it or not, I was amazed when I watched the movie ‘Happy Feet’ for the first time and the ingenuity of using the medium to not only entertain children but to really push forward important global climate and environmental issues to all who watched it. My paintings fall short by a long way but I will continue to try and find a means to share this gift in a way that it actually helps. On a personal level, my recent solo exhibition was a big step for me in terms of using my practice to heal.
The notes from my show are below because they explain most clearly how it happened.
Artist notes on ‘Immersion’.
This body of work is an expression of, and a meditation on deep rooted feelings of dissociation, isolation and the difficulties of realizing a union between mind and body. I get trapped seeking meaning and understanding at the expense of becoming unaware of the life-giving source that supports and nourishes me each second and while my attention is on insignificance I miss the majesty of what is all around and within this existence. As a result, life can sometimes appear devoid of any vibrancy.
The challenge, therefore, has been to try and express this perplexity of uncertain and unclear ideas into a tangible and communicative expression using color and form, or as Plato puts it ‘render the realm of perfect eternal ideas into its imperfect copy’.
Ultimately my hope is that meditating on interconnectedness and immersion in Life will attend to the struggle and ease some suffering. By portraying this paradox of solitude of our human condition I hope to relate and connect through relationships to others feeling the same smallness and often frightening isolation of this human incarnation.
I yearn to feel what poet Tagore eloquently describes as:
“The same stream of life that runs through my veins night and day, runs through the world and dances in rhythmic measures”.
In each of these paintings, I have tried to return to some equanimity. I have used the painting practice as a way to release the struggle by embracing all aspects of experience without judgment. While making the art I adopted a loving kindness to all the inner feelings of confusion, frustration, and limitation, and also an outward expression of compassion to others in the knowledge that they are likely to be experiencing the same difficulties in their lives.
The space and quietude I’ve injected into in my recent paintings is an attempt at opening up my inner space and embracing both the sea of sorrows and the unbearable beauty of this journey as human incarnation.
I’ve introduced simplicity and harmony in an attempt to subtly reveal the complexities of being alive, sensing, feeling and expressing, without trying to grasp, understand and explain every detail.
I have used this body of work to learn to trust the natural visual response intuitively and emotionally and stop thinking that thinking is more effective and more valuable to the process than allowing the feelings and the eye itself to guide the way.
I’ve deliberately omitted anything that doesn’t strengthen the feeling I wish to express and throughout the development of each work I’ve maintained my attention on spaciousness, balance, poise, courage, vulnerability, harmony and stability to guide the development of each painting.
My hope is that the paintings evoke the same feelings in the viewer that inspired me to make them and that somehow, in a small way, we can for just a moment not just be ‘on’ this little world, alone and isolated but be together and ‘of’ this nature and vast universe, and with compassion see in each other both beauty and suffering.
What’s next for you on your creative journey? Do you have any upcoming projects you are looking forward to?
I am currently attending to all the commission works that I put on hold while I focused on my solo show. It is very enjoyable to take one work at a time and also not feel the necessity to correct all the wrongs in the world. My solo show was a very exhausting experience and I have been traveling and taken some time away from painting to recuperate. I’m looking forward to helping others in a hands on manner through coaching and instructing and hopefully, this will allow me to be a little more playful with my paintings.