I’ve always had an idea of what I want my paintings to feel like, and I constantly gather images I want to feed into my work: maps, aerial photographs of ruined buildings, circuit boards, children’s playgrounds… treehouses, the International Space Station, oil rigs… the list goes on. But I’ve never quite figured out how to bring these images together in terms of composition and media.
In Compartmentalisation (2012), I juxtaposed a photograph of a settlement of the Dogon people, who live in the central plateau region of Mali, and plans of villages in Chad and Cameroon, with a drawing of a circuit board.
I love painting, and no matter how much I try to fight it, a drawing still feels like a rough draft but a painting is the final piece. I love arranging the small mounds of fresh paint around the edge of my palette like my dad always does, twisting the tube to cut off the nugget of bright fresh colour, like a brief lugworm trail. I love the feel of the hairs of my favourite paintbrush, slipping through the fresh paint, as I start to pick colours to mix. So I next began a large painting, picking two images to juxtapose this time – on the left is a plan of a Carthusian monastery, on the right another circuit board – keeping it simple I thought.
In 2016, I reduced my hours in the lab and worked on this painting one day a week for more than a month. But I was failing to stay excited about the piece, still struggling to unite the two images. I played with materials a bit more to see if this would help, layering in tissue paper and acrylic paint, and drawing over the top with coloured pens, but nothing seemed to work. Sadly, my desire to work part-time for the sake of my art waned, I was awarded an Early Career Grant for my scientific research, so took this as a call to return to the lab full-time.
But I can’t leave it alone. I recently saw the exhibition of Lee Krasner’s paintings at the Barbican. The paintings that really spoke to me were her collages. Unhappy with some of her paintings, she tore them up and left them strewn on her studio floor. Coming back to them, she saw something, and began to glue them together on a fresh canvas.
I began to make my own collages.