Content and Concept

My sculpture is both figurative and narrative often commenting on the human condition through dark humour or comical imagery. Bright colours often disguise the true nature of the subject matter where images are selected or combined for their variety of interpretation.

Most concepts start in response to some form of visual stimulus. It could be a poster at a Barcelona bus stop, an advertisement seen while waiting in the Metro, a medieval fresco with its underlying symbolism, the chiaroscuro of a Fritz Lang film, an 18th century theatre engraving, a piece of fairground art, a childrens story book, a Japanese woodblock print or a Heath Robinson cartoon.

Ultimately the image impacts in some way with my experience or has an awareness of and response to what is going on in the world around me. To that extent it is my way of trying to make some sense and order out of the world I inhabit. My selection of images to use is intuitive, often affected by personal experience. Sometimes images lie dormant for years before emerging.

Travel is one of my great passions. I seek out rich and thickly layered cultures. It would be impossible for me not to be unaffected by the temples of Tamil Nadu, the tile work of Uzbekistan, the gardens of Japan, the shrines of Bhutan, the religious carvings of the Spanish middle ages or the “roof” poles of Lithuania to name but a few. If you work in oak you look at what other sculptors have done with oak and similarly with carved and painted sculpture.

Importantly, I work alone. I don’t have an art school background. No art “chums”. I please only one person, myself. I make it my business to find out about art taking as much pleasure from looking at the work of the “outsider” or the unknown fairground artist as a household name.

I think my work divides into a number of categories which I have identified on the home page

What I call “carved and painted sculpture” is worked up slowly in concept and execution. What goes in isn’t necessarily what comes out. A change takes place as part of the process. Some of my early sculptures come from an imaginary group which I called the “Zirkus Dix” Like a real circus they can be read as a metaphor for the wider world . Some have names. Some tell their stories freely while others reveal them slowly or not at all. Some display their strengths, others their failings. Some are sword swallowers, human cannonballs, fire eaters, acrobats, strippers, sailors, flappers or toffs. Some are fanatics, mystics, carnival revellers, illusionists, gamblers or fallen angels. Some are alcoholics, resurrectionists, butchers, bakers or candlestick makers, Humpty Dumptys, harpies, medusas, madonnas, snakemen or multi-legged dance troupes. Some have sheep’s bodies and men’s heads. Some have a woman’s body and a sheep’s head . Some of them are just like me.

Some of this work is small in scale while others I’ve chosen to call “larger sculptures” and can be as high as 3m. The “Immortals” is a group of 6 oak sculptures I made in 2014 for outside, in a garden. The Tarot Clock (2001) in carved and painted lime brings together a complex array of images and is for inside and houses a clock.

If the carved work I do is slow and painstaking, my driftwood sculptures act as a counterpoint and once the concept has been decided upon they tend to be spontaneous. I like to think of them as “sketch narratives”.

Living by the “sea” and with a beach no more than a stones throw away it is a natural progression to collect what the water gives up. I look specifically for little pieces of timber which carry the signs of a past life. There may be evidence of a previous function – a bit of a chair leg, a rusting creel, a fence post or a part of a window. The real sculptor is the marine life or the waves or the sun or the wind- it creates the rusting , the flaking, the smoothing,and the decaying

Most decisions made in the making of these pieces are intuitive. Shapes and textures fit together naturally. You try this. You try that. It works. It doesn’t work. Trails of thought change, something suggests something else and usually the best work “makes itself”, simple and direct.

For the most part I use “ships” as my “structure” and to give focus and direction. Ships have huge variety but are instantly recognisable to everyone. They give me the opportunity to create diverse shapes in outline, in the solid and in the spaces that lie between the shapes. They are conceived to be hung on a white wall in a frame less composition.

I place my figures shoulder to shoulder as crowds, as gangs, as tribes, as comrades, as crew. Or alone as an outsider. They stand to attention. They are without gender, without hair, without arms, without legs They are heads that have found a body. But they are not without character or individuality – these little fat or tall or thin people are reserved, indifferent, sad and funny – inscrutable. Occasionally I’ll give them a belt or a hat, something picked up on the beach. There are clues to be found.

Sometimes I’ll use a touch of colour. The clouds are an iridescent piece of plastic saved from a fire. A careless splash of colour on wood. The smoke from the funnel is a piece of rope. Even Mother Nature can do with a little help with her make up. I’m not averse to a touch of tint if the composition needs it.. Unlike my painted carving, “less is usually more”.

As another counterpoint I make boxes. Little closed environments sealed behind glass. Like my other work I like to incorporate the found object to give another layer of meaning. Sometimes the boxes express a view or an observation. Or are just an experiment. In the creative act nothing ever goes to waste.

Some artists prefer to spend their whole life observing the same corner of the same room, never moving, but honing and ever simplifying what they see. It is an entirely legitimate approach. My preference is to move from room to room finding something new and stimulating in each new place. My last category I’ve called miscellaneous. It’s where I put all the stuff that doesn’t fit in the other categories.

1 comment

  1. I gifted a few days in the East Neuk of Fife to my husband as his 60th birthday present and we were so delighted when we happened to come across your totem sculpture in your garden. It was an absolute delight so thank you for adding to his treat. I wondered if you sell any pieces of work at all. Best wishes Ruby

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