A biography of painting

From my earliest days I have always had a natural inclination to paint and draw. In fact from the time my hand could grasp a pencil I drew, usually on paper my mother brought home from the butcher. In primary school the girl I most envied was the one who had a set of 72 Derwent pencils.


So naturally I went to art school. My painting teachers there were, among others, Peter Booth and Dale Hickey, both of whom had rediscovered representational painting after establishing their careers with abstract work derived from the U.S.A.. I was taught that a painting could still maintain its abstract and conceptual qualities while still having the additional meaning of representation. The painting itself, as an object had its own art but also the meaning of that which was depicted. So following Dale I learned to paint still lifes.

An important aspect of my art education was that we were taught to look at paintings of the past as though they were contemporary and not to see history as something that is continually disgarded.

I tried painting landscapes, as Dale was doing at the time, but could never feel comfortable outside, so I conscentrated on still life (oil on board 1976).

Dale Hickey 1974

I looked at the still life paintings of the 17th century Spanish painter Francisco de Zurbarán and the 20th century Italian painter Giorgio Morandi. In conjunction with this I also read the work of Alain Robbe Grillet and Mythologies by Roland Barthes, following the concept of chosisme, which is concerned with the description of things regardless of any authorial narrative or any human expression. The artist implies their creativity by the presentation and selection of the object rather than specifically (as author) intervening between the object and the viewer. As a result the viewer sees the object in their own terms. The meaning of the object remains inherent in that object, or rather its representation as descriptive text,a photograph or a painting.

At this time I was particulary interested in the paintings of Edward Hopper, especially his buildings, as opposed to those paintings with people in them, which I thought were illustrative (i.e. imposing too much of a narrative).

I used to go to the Source Bookshop and through Robert Rooney, who worked there at the time, was introduced to the little books published by Ed Ruscha. From these I became interested in Rusha's work and his pictures that incorporated text.

Around 1978 I used to drive Robert and Rosemary Adam (old art school friend of Robert's) around on photographic expeditions. At this time Robert had taken an interest in photographing everyday objects he encountered (including people). From this experience I learnt that an object photographed directly front on and without people had an integrity of its own "thingness". I also found that milkbars, with their signage had an architectonic quality that leant itself to paintings. So I took the everyday chosisme and combined it with the Hopper simplification of areas and painted milk bars and other buildings I came across, with an especial interest in the words on the signs as an added element.

In these the painting was kept somewhat bland so as not to impose a particular style onto the image and at the same time steering clear of photo realism that had been prevalent at that time.

The other thing I learned from both Rooney and Ruscha was that anything that was part of a series had a larger meaning than when seen as a discrete object. And so most of my work continues to be done in this manner even to this day.

Buy your briquettes here 1979

For images of my paintings from this time [ Click here ].


Francisco de Zurbarán 1633

Giorgio Morandi 1956

Edward Hopper 1946

Robert Rooney 1970
This series of photos shows the influence of Ruscha. From Robert I learned that we see as we think and to think about what we see.

Ed Ruscha 1963
Part of a series of photos taken along Sunset Boulevard.

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