The well source of my landscape paintings

These little paintings emerged after drawing for 20 minutes a day in a sketchbook to see what would emerge from my sub-conscious – an exercise encouraged by Andrez Jackowski. He advocates this as a way ‘to access the unconscious’ and ‘to tap into patterns of underlying thinking.’ He assured those of us in his class that ‘images would be waiting’ – and he was right. After a few sessions of just fiddling around, I found myself using oil bars to juxtapose and layer colour, eventually recognising that the colours were those of the landscapes where I grew up in Northern Ireland looking out to the Sperrin mountains– teals, mosses, burnt sepias, slates, mauves.

These initial sketchbook experiments grew to encompass memories of the farmhouse where I grew up. At first I didn’t realise what the little white houses with no doors, which crept in to my work were, but they were compelling. It was after I had done several of these and instinctively could not put a door into the houses (when I put them in, they immediately felt wrong and I had to remove them), that I realised that they represented the house were I had grown up and which was still in the family, but empty, as my father who had lived there for 54 years had recently died. He loved sitting at the front of the house looking out towards the Sperrin mountains and I loved sitting there with him watching as the colours shifted slowly with the changing light. The images are not representational of the view we enjoyed but rather a coalescence of my memories of when he lived there.

These paintings became repositories for memories of living in Northern Ireland. I was further inspired when reading the poetry of Seamus Heaney who lived locally and whose words never fail to plumb deep into the well of my sub-conscious. He recommended that you should ‘trust the feel of what rubbed treasure your hands have known’ and that is what I have tried to do here.