Painting for me is a vehicle for discovery. Ever since childhood I’ve had an interest in the way things work, the way things grow. I had the sense that there was a natural law governing everything. Finding a way to express this underlying structure has always been the most important factor in my work.
When I was seventeen I wanted to find a new way of painting that would allow me to express this. When I went to Chelsea School of Art at age nineteen I thought I would discover it there. After four years I went to the Royal College of Art, and I thought I would find it there. I was fortunate because it was a very creative time to be there, plenty of energy, and lots of activity including acting and film making .
For some time after leaving college my work was non-figurative. I was trying to express ideas about philosophy and natural law using geometry and colour. Paul Klee and Kandinsky were great influences. I read Kandinsky’s ‘Concerning the Spiritual in Art’, which led me to an interest in the philosopher Ouspensky and Advaita Vedanta . The regular practice of meditation has become a key part of living and experiencing . There is this extraordinary creation to explore and that indefinable creative force sustaining it .
Around the age of thirty-five I stopped painting abstracts because I felt I didn’t have anything to measure the results against. I couldn’t find a yardstick. For the first time in my life I began to paint landscapes, and it was as though I had to start from scratch, learning how to paint. It took quite a long time to get things working. But after a while I realised I was looking for the same thing in my landscapes that I had been looking for in my non-figurative work, which was something beyond the physical representation of things. I found that if you’re sitting in front of a landscape, painting it day after day (I used to paint at the same time every day over a couple of weeks) then you begin to transcend the physical. Somehow, you can get in touch with that which doesn’t change, on which the physical changing aspect is grounded. This is very exciting. It fills me with the energy to work.
I became interested in the qualities of stillness in landscape – water, skies, light, space – but particularly water, and reflections. I did a lot of painting on the Thames, and the Loire in France. I looked at the way things arrive in space, in the same way that in music, the space between the notes is as important as the notes itself. What’s important is the bit you can’t explain. The spaces in between.
Around four years ago there was a moment when I felt that I should try to express this more subtle world I was getting at non-figuratively. I began looking at ideas of how creation came about: what is this creation? And who am I? Is it possible to express this relationship? To actually sit down and paint the result of these explorations feels like a leap in the dark. I’m interested in looking at the movement in creation from simplicity to complexity. How from a very simple beginning the creation moves towards ever more complexity, and then trying to put this down in an interesting harmonious way.
The exploration into the nature of things continues…