Materials of My Mother Tongue - Painting with Oil & Wax
Simple imagery with a strong graphic quality draws me in. Rhythmic bands of interest broken with a vertical focal point is visual poetry to my eyes. The striping delineates and dissects the panorama. Whether wide or sinuous - it’s the dynamic of the sections that is exciting. It is the balance and harmony versus the abrasion of colours and textures that is engaging. I see the challenge as an artist, is how to make such basic inspiration intriguing - to translate the joy into something tangible through media. A lifetime of layering different materials to build and excavate has led to multiple approaches. The current fascination with pigment and wax has evolved over many years of experimenting to source a painting medium that embraced all that I needed to execute the energies within. In these natural materials I have found a voice that speaks my mother tongue.
ABOVE: SERENITY, HOLKHAM BEACH, NORFOLK
I am seeking to create on the canvas, an almost reincarnation of a fleeting moment that requires an enveloping of the elements at the site. Whether a tranquil haven or a dramatic storm the immersion is aided with research: sketches, colour studies and photographic details. But the process of absorption, reflection and creation is so full of energy and dynamic interactions, between myself and the medium, that I find the best way to record my inspiration is by filming the subject matter. Just by taking video clips, the essence of a place is better transported to my studio, than through stills that freeze the energy I wish to evoke. Whilst, wishing to paint on site seems attractive, my chosen medium is very limited, as intense heat and power are critical.
Artist's Materials & Process
In the studio it is a juggling act of controlling hot and cold - an alchemy of materials and old techniques mixed with new technologies. The materials are natural: pigments and bees wax, mixed with dammar resin to set the strokes. These are brushed, knifed, poured and rubbed onto specially sealed wooden boards, then layered and fused, layered and fused and repeated. The rhythm is broken by incising, texturising and sgraffito. The process is reactive with a strong element of serendipity tempered by intuition. I embrace the challenge and realise it will take more than a lifetime to hone any skill set.
The heated palettes provide softened creamy molten colour in tins waiting to be saturated with pigment or thinned and translucent. Mixing colours and different quantities of wax opens up endless possibilities for saturation and washes. The range of hand tools employed is vast from fine dental steel implements to large chunky brushes made of wood and natural animal hair.
Wax and pigments are fused with heat, which dries quickly, capturing brush strokes, drips and textures. Encaustic art is an all consuming very physical practice. One is seduced by the process of not just applying paint with a brush, palette knife or hands but also the harnessing of heat to energise materials and move the liquids around. The fluidity of the process allows the materials to mix and metamorphose.
Encaustic Painting - an Ancient Art
There are examples of this ancient art, practiced by the Greeks and the Egyptians, from 2000 years ago. The British Museum has examples of portraits from 100-300 AD. The Fayum encaustic pictures are still vibrant, providing an amazing historical testament to the longevity of the medium. Painted as part of the mummy casing, the deceased’s portrait was depicted fully dressed with a background around the head. A visit to see these in the flesh is at the top of my list for my next research trip to London.