The City of New York is an amazing place to me. The energy, vitality and creativity is like nothing I have ever experienced in any city. The full on dynamic of the place is infectious and somehow disturbing in a positive way. Iconic and colourful I love the street scenes and the urban style of New Yorkers and it is such a contrast to the quietness of the English countryside.
When I was younger my father took me to the Tate Gallery and he showed me the works of the English visionary, Samuel Palmer. I must confess I do not remember many of them but life has a way of going full circle and later in my early 20’s a neighbour, friend and walking companion were talking on a walk down some Neolithic lanes near Sherborne in Dorset and we discussed the painter Samuel Palmer. Steve had a small print by the artist and I began to study his work. I went to Reigate School of Art and often passed the artists grave on my way to and fro. Later Steve and I went of a ‘Pilgrimage’ to Shoreham in Kent where Palmer surrounded by his friends who referred to themselves as,’The Ancients’ did his most intense works. It was not really until I became a Christian that I truly appreciated the spiritual intimacy of his work. The deeply almost medieval sanctity that he brought to his paintings. I began seeing the landscape as he did, fused in a warm supernatural light. Many years later I began painting some small intimate works in watercolour on vellum, they are my humble homage to Samuel Palmer. The scenes some real, some contrived with places brought together. Some are very special to me, like ‘Buckfast Abbey’ where I lived for a while and ‘Walter’s Garden’. Walter was a veteran of WWI and our neighbour and one of the last survivors and a link to an old Dorset now lost forever. I revisit this style of work often and the paintings have been likened to medieval manuscript scenes.
The landscape around where I live in England on the Somerset, Dorset and Wiltshire borders is steeped in lore and mythology. This is the place of legend and magic. King Arthur country with the magical Cadbury hill fort supposed Camelot and the famous Isle of Avalon, Glastonbury. Here also is the landscape of King Alfred and Penselwood where the American author John Steinbeck wrote his, ‘Acts of King Arthur and His Noble Knights’. In Wiltshire there are old Hawthorn and Yew track ways as old as man himself, and chalk carvings in hillsides and Neolithic burial mounds standing sentinel over stone circles and henges. To walk and sit in this landscape amid it’s ancient hedgerows and orchards, the enchanting realm of the of Badger and Hare one cannot help but find it a ‘spiritual’ experience.
Life can infuriate, life can hurt, life can shock and sometimes be dark but life can be joyful and amazing too and that is what living is all about. As an artist I embrace all of these things because it impacts my work. I fundamentally believe in the goodness of humanity and being British I am a fairly patient man but there are times when my patience snaps and I grab a canvas and pour out my feelings or something wonderful happens and I run for the brushes I like these less considered moments, they are raw and instinctual
Life can infuriate, life can hurt, life can shock and sometimes be dark but life can be joyful and amazing too and that is what living is all about. As an artist I embrace all of these things because it impacts my work. I fundamentally believe in the goodness of humanity and being British I am a fairly patient man but there are times when my patience snaps and I grab a canvas and pour out my feelings or something wonderful happens and I run for the brushes like for example, ‘Freedom’ this was painted when I finally decide to give up on commission work after nearly 35 years, instead of painting other peoples ideas at last I was painting my own. That was a great feeling. I like these less considered moments, they are raw and instinctual
I first went to NYC in 1984 on a four day art residency. At the time I was living in a small hamlet of about 20 estate cottages. My neighbours were sheep. It was a pastoral dream. Going from this environment into Manhattan was a culture shock to say the least. I was born in London and have visited many other big cities and so this big city was no new thing but the Big Apple was something else. The energy was electric, the people eclectic and in the city that never sleeps I felt energised and alive. I have loved the city ever since and find it endlessly inspiring.
One of the joys of living in the countryside is walking in the early evening. If you are very lucky you might get to witness one of the simple wonders of life. The Hare, that most ancient and mythological of English creatures. Watching these magical creatures playing in a quiet corner of a field is mesmerizing, it is like listening to a lark ascending. They are shy creatures and so to see them is an honour. One evening my wife and I were sat on a five bar farm gate watching the sun slowly sink towards the horizon. Swallows were flitting about and we saw two Hares come right past the gate, for a moment they stopped and looked at us, then they continued on their way into the field and put on a show that was just a delight. They jumped over each other, boxed and played. It is a moment that we will never forget and these paintings a collaboration between Ce and I express the joy we felt that evening.
I like cats. We always had cats when I was growing up with names like Mrs Sippie, Whiskey, Tigger and Scripsit they hold an endless fascination. A bit like Chickens really, I could watch them all day. One cat of mine would sleep on my shoulders whilst I painted. I like their independence and their particular character and I never tire of painting them.
2012 was a big year for London. Hackney, a part of London I am very familiar with was transformed into a shiny place for a few weeks and this multi cultural neighbourhood became a global village. No sooner had it begun than it was over. The streets were empty again and the shiny place was silent.