Previous works - Paintings
No. 1: Hamila's Quadruplets: This painting is based on a photo I found on the IRC website. Hamila was amongst thousands of Somalis to flee famine and conflict in 2011. She made it from Mogadishu to Dabaab refugee camp in Kenya. She married there and gave birth to quadruplets.
No. 2: Shanty Landscape: During my first visit to Cape Town in South Africa my initial sensation was not an overwhelmingly ‘African’ experience. However, journeying into the townships changed all that. I spent a wonderful few daylight hours visiting and drawing in the Hout Bay squatter camp where the sense of community and friendliness was palpable and strong. I found the same thing in Johannesburg’s Soweto and Alexander Townships. On my departure en route to the airport, I took in fully what I had partly missed on arrival. Namely, the miles and miles of township existence. As one’s taxi whizzes by, the nature of life behind that blur barely enters our conscious understanding.
No. 3: Rainstorm: Japanese visual art, particularly woodcuts and painted screens, has been influencing artists in the West since the 19th century and I am no exception in having fallen under the spell. I lived in Japan for eighteen months. My house included a ‘tatami’ room with soft mat flooring, shoji screens and an alter enclave. Cycling my children to school in particular heightened my awareness of the uniqueness of the traditional Japanese houses with their very green gardens, beautiful, calm and understated. The glow of lighting filtered through the delicate opaque shoji screens evoked the sense of a world lit by lanterns.One of my favourite souvenirs is a print of frieze like layers of figures, boats and buildings silhouetted against simple washed skyscapes. Many of my paintings reflect an eclectic mix of these influences but none more so perhaps than ‘Rainstorm’ with its monochromatic colour scheme and filtered light glimmering out from the seaboard of its fragile coastline.
No. 4: Japanese Bowls: While living in Japan I bought these blue china bowls together with a set of matching plates. I am interested in bowls and vessels of all descriptions. Historically, the first were created around 5,000 years ago. It was thought that containers only came into being with settled communities but now from archaeological evidence we know that the hunter gatherer Jomon people in northern Japan were fashioning clay pots as early as 16,000 years ago during the Old Stone Age. They used them to carry the abundance of fish, plants, nuts and seeds available to them in their natural environment. Thus the creation of beautiful Japanese ceramics follows a very long time line that continues until today.
No. 5: Ancient Pots: This painting is based on pots exhibited in the British Museum dating back to the Early Bronze Age (c 2700BC). They come from the Central Jordan Valley and give witness to the production of commercial commodities on an industrial scale for export to Egypt. Such pots were used as vessels for wine and olive oil.
No. 6: Jugs and Bowls: In 1948 an eclectic assortment of broken pieces of pots were found on a beach in Tanzania. This random collection turned out to date to between 600 and 900 years ago. They were all of different origins from as far away as China, Arabia and India revealing a thriving trade across the Indian Ocean. ‘My’ humble collection includes a Victorian pitcher jug my mum bought for me with matching basin (which sadly got broken) when I was about 10 years old, two contemporary ceramics of Chinese inspiration by ceramicist Chris Owen, an inexpensive smooth black shiny plant pot I have always loved and an old Thai spittoon I bought in a market in Bangkok many years ago. I love them all. Things are never just things.
No. 7: After Nargis: Whatever disaster befalls people, be it natural or manmade, life is (has to be) resumed. As I watched online video images of the aftermath of Cycone Nargis in 2008, the most enduring impression was one of women washing, sweeping and to the best of their abilities putting their households back in order
No 8: Chinese Wedding: In the Spring of 2005 I was visiting Paris and took a stroll through the Tuileries Gardens. By good fortune, there was a Chinese festival taking place throughout the Gardens. To my amazement I came across a Chinese wedding ceremony in which a multitude of couples were getting married ‘en masse’. Apart from the extraordinary phenomenon of sharing with so many other couples an event that in western culture is very individual, the whole scene was one of joyous celebration and a feast for the eyes, especially a painter’s eyes. I came home and took up my brush.
No. 9: The Ethiopians: In 2004 I came across a commemmorative panoramic image of a plain in Ethiopia in 1994 where thousands of desperate people had gathered seeking help from the famine made famous by people like the journalist Michael Buerck and Bob Geldof and Band Aid. On close inspection of this image with a magnifying glass I identified many family groups and it struck me that even within this calamitous situation parents were trying to amuse and distract their children during their long and sometimes fruitless wait. This set of paintings is a series of vignettes of this 20th century biblical scene.
No. 10: The Lost Generation (pink, blue and orange): In 2003 in the wake of the Iraq war I made this set of paintings called The Lost Generation for all the children caught in the crossfire of that accursed situation. Now thirteen years later there is another lost generation in the making as the war in Syria rages and other places in the world are not short of conflict either. Must there always be a lost generation? Will there ever be a time of total peace? Sadly the paintings I made in 2003 have as much resonance in their meaning now as then if not more.
No. 11: We Used to Play: The playful individuality of children becomes somewhat lost as life's demands moulds adult identity into blurred homogeneous types.
No. 12: Women and Children First: In modern western civilian society, the custom is to open doors or give up one’s seat for women and children. War used to be the domain of men, face to face on the battlefield. Women and children are now amongst the first victims, often major pawns on the front lines of conflict. Rape is used as a tool for the systematic demoralization and dishonouring of women within ethnic communities and as a means of pure violence. Children are forcibly enlisted into rebel armies in their thousands. The title of this painting in this context has thus become a harsh pun.
No. 13: Queuing for Water: This painting was inspired by a photograph by Yann Arthus Bertrand of an aerial view of women in the Ivory Coast waiting to use a water pump, having laid their bowls in a long row running up to the well. This painting pays homage to the women throughout the Third World to whom the task of collecting water mostly falls, often involving many hours of walking every day.