After being challenged on the validity of the climate project I am working on I was compelled to think deeper about why and what I am producing. Here is what I have to say on the subject:
I was challenged to validate the reason I am painting something political and not of my direct experience; the transition of my work for this project has taken over three years and began after a seven month artistic block in 2018 where I stopped working entirely. The break from this block finally came when I made a drawing from a news report on cyclone Idai. Taking photos and drawing from the tv has been a lifelong pursuit, inspired by Jeffrey Camp’s tv drawings in the 1980s. The painting of Idai inspired me anew to paint more from fleeting news reports on all sorts of natural disasters including volcanoes, tornadoes and floods which is where the idea came from for a year long documentation in paint.
Just because I am not witnessing these events first hand, I am not in that landscape experiencing nature’s wrath doesn’t mean my paintings are not of my experience – they are my observation which I’m witnessing through the tv screen, through the news and videos on Twitter, through people’s first hand accounts that come to me digitally, corresponding with me through their channels. As an historian writes from primary sources I am painting from them.
Representing these natural events in paint means I can hold the experience of others for longer than the fleeting seconds of the constant transitioning media and say to those around me- have you seen this? Experience it with me from here, from this comfortable place, look and see what is happening there to those people and their land and lives and realise the enormity of the situation which is going to affect us all.
Painting landscape for me has long been about putting a frame around my experience of who and where I am and what I remember about my place in the past and sometimes my dreams of the future. Artists communicate themselves whatever the subject is and it is utterly impossible separate this from the work they produce. Indeed I want to put more of myself in, it doesn’t ever feel like enough of me is going in to my paintings, I can only keep trying express and communicate more. As painting is interpretive and doesn’t communicate an exact representation of my perspective, I keep trying to close in on my point. That is where the drive to make work comes from, my attempt to be perceived clearly.