Whilst on a Mentoring Course at Newlyn School of Art in 2019, I realised that psychological themes were always present in my work. Reflecting on childhood experiences, such as losing my mother as a teenager after a long battle with cancer, greatly affected how I experienced life and relationships. Frequent visits to hospitals and nursing homes where rows of white-sheeted beds, the smell of disinfectant, overheard conversations, hidden tears, and a sense of sadness and anxiety were formative memories. Memory and object associations became far more critical to how I dealt with the trauma of loss.
Subsequently, historical family stories have emerged about both of my Grandfather’s experiences in the early 20th century. One of them was an aircraftman who went on a remarkable journey at the end of World War I that involved T.E. Lawerence (Lawerence of Arabia) and a plane crash in Rome, resulting in a lifelong obsession. More recently, I discovered the other had a tragic story of illness, separation, loss and survival in the early 1940s.
Inspired by precious artefacts, heartfelt letters, newspaper cuttings and photographs, I have embarked on a creative journey of self-reflection and analysis. Through first-hand experience and an interest in history and psychology, I have developed a personal understanding of mental health issues; I observe how different generations, particularly men, have approached these issues.
Over time I have established a visual vocabulary that reveals a dimension of intimacy. This was further strengthened by returning to academic study in 2014 for a fine art degree, where I broadened my knowledge and understanding of creative processes, techniques and artistic practice. Returning to a classical style of painting in oils on stretched canvas or wood panel, I mostly paint from photographs and life drawings. With an intensely personal approach, I look for ways to depict fragments of memories, historical events and literary sources to connect past and present-day understanding of psychological states viewed from a uniquely personal perspective.
My latest series of male nudes, ‘Sensitive Nature’, is informed by a unique combination of personal experiences, family stories, the paintings of Francis Bacon and the extraordinary life of T.E. Lawerence. My research and understanding of the difficulties some men have in expressing their anxiety and fear has inspired this work. I expose innermost feelings to sensitively lay bare men’s emotional and psychological states through their body language. The figures are disengaged and isolated in an empty or abstract space; naked and exposed, a piece of draped fabric is their only element of solace. The figures reveal a sense of men’s complex nature with strength balanced against an internal vulnerability and fragility. Presented with an empathetic touch, I attempt to depict the rawness of human emotion, from exquisite pain to a sense of loss, isolation and anxiety.