Who are the artists you admire and have been an influence on your work?
My heroes are mostly artists who have challenged or redefined traditions. I was fortunate to have a great high school art teacher. Shout out to Ken Frost. His love of art history was infectious, and he had a huge impact, not just on me but on lots of his students. I remember learning about Andy Warhol and Robert Rauschenberg, about how their work could be understood as an alternative to the abstract expressionist’s focus on the communication of an individual artist’s emotions and the romantic aesthetic of the sublime. What they were doing was instead a reflection of the entire culture. That made sense to me. That art could be about striving for a shared understanding of how the world works, that it could reveal the truth of things. It felt like a revelation, like it was becoming clear to me what being an artist could mean. And many of the artists that I discovered when I was young are still important to me.
I mentioned Jasper Johns earlier. I think I’ve been influenced as much by the way he writes and speaks about his work as by the work itself. He’s said, for instance, that a painting should include more experience than simple intended statement. The poet Charles Olson advised that an artist’s problem is to “give his work his seriousness, a seriousness sufficient to cause the thing he makes to try to take its place alongside the things of nature”. And there’s John Cage’s insistence that “art should imitate nature, not in her appearance but in her manner of operations”. These are all sentiments that have influenced and guided me for ages, almost like a set of instructions.
What is the significance of the fingerprint imagery? What are you looking to communicate?
It’s tied up in these ideas about art and nature. I’m interested in how painting can reflect the complexity of nature and reveal something fundamental about what it means to be alive, something about our relationship to reality. This is the thing that I think makes painting valuable, especially in today’s technologically dependent world.
Physical, gestural painting has the capacity to elicit a felt kinesthetic response, a gut reaction that reminds us of our physicality and embeds us in the natural world. This process I’m describing, the methodical application of layer after layer of molten beeswax, results in a complex surface that can be read as a chronology of the painting’s construction and as a record of the painter’s physical presence and actions. So, my paintings are not just concerned with human physicality but also with the body’s inescapable submission to time.
The fingerprint imagery has been a prominent feature of my work for quite a while. As a subject, it naturally suggests ideas around individuality, identity, and the classification and categorization of information. But I prefer to think of the fingerprint simply as a metaphor for painting. These are fundamental human marks. They’re the traces we all leave behind. Painting can be thought of in similar terms – as the residue or marks left behind.