ABOUT HIDING/SEEKING [2015-]
Although I am a great lover of poetry, I do not consider my own art to be poetic. Truth and beauty have often seen their stars aligned but, when it comes to painting, my interest is in exploring the former; prizing realist sensibilities over concern for aesthetic prettiness. I approach my work and themes as I have tended to approach life; employing a kind of stoicism built for survival, but also, I hope, exhibiting frankness and honesty. This is especially evident in my current series HIDING/SEEKING, in which I explore the ramifications of a near-fatal accident I was recently involved in.
In the wake of the accident, I experienced considerable physical pain but also an emotional response that resulted in severe PTSD. When it comes to the latter, it has been a struggle to reconcile these emotional reactions with my frustrated practical mind. Duality quickly became an important component in the series, which includes both still life and figurative pieces alongside each other.
The still life paintings in the series seek to start a conversation about mental health and the stigmas associated with this subject. The paintings are are all self-contained trompe-l'œils that feature pill bottles containing various medications I have taken during recovery. They are shown within simple wooden boxes and sometimes alongside a generic day-to-day household object. The compositions are very balanced, often even symmetrical, with each object lined up in a regimented fashion. There is no perspective on the objects and no personal opinion on display. The medications are merely practical, proactive answers for the issues at hand. So often mental health disorders are looked down upon, a shameful secret kept in the back of a bathroom cabinet. My name and the prescription appears on every bottle - owning my own experience, without fanfare or apology - and confronting the viewer with direct images that cannot be shied away from.
On the other face of the coin are the figurative pieces. These are all self-portraits, set in my bedroom – my most intimate personal space – inviting the viewer to play voyeur to my very personal experiences of trauma, recovery and mental health. Unlike the still life paintings, the self-portraits are much more passive and uncombative. Most of the figures are seated and all have their faces gazing towards the edge of the paintings or obscured completely. The compositions tightly frame their subjects and give the sense that there is not enough room on the canvas to hold everything inside. There is a greater sense of narrative as they aim to show the human side to mental health, but also to counterbalance the more clinical and practical still life pieces. Since we read from left to right in the west, the figures are all inclined towards the left, so the paintings read as if that the figure is looking backwards. Where the pill bottles represent a way of moving forward, the self-portraits are the other face of Janus, ever staring into the past.