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My studio in Hackney, London

 

 

“Taken in its deepest sense, the shadow is the invisible saurian tail that man still drags behind him. Carefully amputated, it becomes the healing serpent of the mysteries." - Carl Jung 

 

It has been my aim to dive into my personal unconscious where my shadow self is located, and allow my repressed memories, thoughts, and inner feelings to surface. By directly painting this process of individuation, I am attempting to bring my shadow self into the light of consciousness, essentially revealing my true self, and allowing the healing process to begin. I am using my art as self-therapy.

I usually don't know what I'm going to paint. It flows naturally from my subconscious. I paint spontaneously using oil paints as my medium, often working on several canvases at once. I usually paint over my previous work, keeping the elements I like, and then blending them into the next stage or next layer of my painting. My paintings can contain many layers. I work until I feel the painting is finished and I have expressed what I needed to say in it. However, if I have accomplished what I needed to say in the first layer, and feel the composition is successful, I will leave it and consider the painting finished. I have created a process subpage within the gallery section documenting my layering process.

 

When I work I am conscious of composition, but I try not to overthink it. I allow it to come together naturally. I work in the moment - it's an automatic process. I paint colourful forms, often diffused light, expressive lines, and often flat pictorial space, although the picture space in my paintings do vary. My paintings can have a flat, almost claustrophobic feel, but they can also have windows of deep space that recede into the background. I believe this flat space is a reflection of the anxiety I sometimes experience, and the deeper space represents feelings of freedom and personal space. My paintings sometimes combine text with image to help convey my thoughts and support my subject matter. These words can just subconsciously appear in my head as I work, or they can originate from other sources, for example, the music I'm listening to at the time. My painting, "Participation Mystique," has Bob Dylan lyrics, from his album Slow Train Coming, scattered throughout it. I have painted words in my work for some time - it's not really new experimentation. I will reflect upon my use of text in my painting, "Trickster," and how it relates to my subject matter further along in this section.

 

On further reflection of my work, I think it's important to mention the evolution of my colour palette during my time at UAL, Camberwell College of Arts, because like my shadow emerging from the darkness, my colours have been emerging as well. I have gone from using mostly dark colours to the bright active colours seen in my current work. I believe through this process of individuation, I am integrating my shadow self, and accepting more my true self, and I can see and feel my colours reflecting that. I can feel my personality developing through painting this process. I will reflect more upon how I use colour further along in this section.

I feel it's also important to briefly discuss my childhood when understanding my work. Recently during student critiques, my paintings have been described as cartoonish, even child-like. Reflecting upon this, I have come to the conclusion that perhaps it's because I often found sanctuary in the world of cartoons. It was an escape from a traumatic childhood. Perhaps I'm still in that same protective bubble. Healing is a slow process, but I am working through these troubled memories, and making good progress. 

 

The artist Louise Bourgeois was a French-American artist that also used this process of individuation as self-therapy. "A self-revealing, self-lacerating artist, Bourgeois took “fantastic pleasure in breaking everything,” continually probing the themes of loneliness, jealousy, anger, and fear throughout her career. Acknowledging the past as a precondition of her present, the intensely autobiographical artist poured her demons into her work" (AnOther-March 20, 2015.) I feel a special connection with Louise Bourgeois. I am greatly inspired by the way she courageously used her art as self-therapy. I admire the way she confronted fear and expressed her troubled childhood memories through her work. Bourgeois’ childhood traumas related to her fear of abandonment, stemming from her mother's illness and death, her father’s infidelities, and the horrors of the first world war. These events left the artist with life-long psychological scars, memories that eventually formed her body of work that included giant spider sculptures. I was lucky to see her exhibition at the Tate Modern in the Summer of  2016 and most recently at the Hayward Gallery. Both shows profoundly affected me. Bourgeois’ work is brave, brutally honest, and inspiring. It gives me courage to face my fears and continue on my journey. I feel it on a very personal level. I further discuss Bourgeois and her influence on me in the context section of this online platform.  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Louise Bourgeois - Spider, 1997 Frédéric Delpech, © The Easton Foundation

Louise Bourgeois -Peels a Tangerine

“Portraits of my mother… I want to walk around and be underneath her and feel her protection.” - Louise Bourgeois

"The Spider is an ode to my mother. She was my best friend. Like a spider, my mother was a weaver. . . Like spiders, my mother was very clever. Spiders are friendly presences that eat mosquitoes. We know that mosquitoes spread diseases and are therefore unwanted. So, spiders are helpful and protective, just like my mother." - Louise Bourgeois

The French "outsider" artist Jean Dubuffet is another artist that has influenced my way of thinking and art making. Dubuffet was the founder of the art movement known as Art Brut. The term Art Brut, translated from French means "raw art." It's essentially art created outside the established art scene and more widely, outside the boundaries of official culture. Although I've admired Dubuffet for quite some time for his loose primal paintings of ordinary subjects and his resistance to conform to mainstream art, he has again influenced me very much, particularly the way he painted using an impasto thickened by various materials, giving the work an unusually textured surface. Recently I attended his show at the Barbican, and was blown away by this raw tactile quality of his paintings. I was so inspired by the way he mixed his oil paint with substances as diverse as tar, gravel, sand, and pebbles, that I went right out to my local art shop and bought a new product made by the company Lukas, called butter. Using this new glue-like medium, I mixed pebbles, gravel, and sand into my oil paint to achieve a thick concrete-like texture. I felt this experiment in composite material was successful, because when I saw the results it felt like I had found a missing piece of the puzzle. I was very satisfied with the heavy textured, tactile quality it gave my painting, "Trickster." I will continue to experiment with this new technique in my future work. Jean Dubuffet will always remain an important influence on my work and philosophy.

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Photo of Jean Dubuffet, 1960

"I took a great deal of pleasure in it, and I still feel nostalgic about it. However, I felt that it had lead me to live in a parallel world of pure invention, shut inside my solitude. Naturally, it was precisely for that purpose that it was made and that was why I took pleasure in it, but I wanted to regain body and roots." - Jean Dubuffet

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Jean Dubuffet: Brutal Beauty

Jean Dubuffet: An Urban Imagination

"The real function of art is to change mental patterns, making new thought possible." - Jean Dubuffet

Like a Magpie, I have taken what I liked from the artists that have inspired me and made it my own. It's all part of my process. The symbol is one of these things I have adopted from other artists. Jung believed the symbol was a gateway to the unconscious, and a very powerful psychic engine for healing. Many of the artists that inspire me have used the symbol in their work for its healing powers. As discussed above, Louise Bourgeois is one of these artists. She often used the spider in her work to represent the mother archetype. She used this symbol to connect with her departed mother and express female power. It represents the same for me in my current work. I have borrowed this symbol from her, and spiders can be seen in my most recent painting, "Trickster." My mother was very important to me, she was the one that nurtured me, and for that l often look to women for guidance in life. With men I find there can sometimes be a power struggle. I grew up in a "macho" male dominated family, so I know how toxic that can be. I want to avoid this masculine stereotypical behaviour and explore more of my feminine side, what Jung referred to as the anima, the animus is the Jungian term for the masculine side of the female. I hope to realise this feminine side of my nature, and apply it to my work, because I believe it can help me to become a stronger artist. I don't want to be restricted to only "masculine" ideas. I feel I am growing and this change can already be seen in the colour of my palette and the subject matter I use. I am learning to embrace my feminine side, and no longer feel the need to prove to other men how "masculine" I am.  According to Jung, we all have this anima and animus side, it's just whether we acknowledge this side of our personality that we grow as a person and find balance.

For me, art transcends all labels, and can be an escape from oppressive social conditioning. I am self realising, becoming the person I want to be, and my art is definitely reflecting that. My work conveys my true feelings, and as long as I continue to be honest with myself, it will deepen and develop through this process of individuation. 

 

Please see bibliography subpage in this section for resources used.