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.