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 landscape 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.
These paintings became repositories for a tangle of memories of my childhood in Northern Ireland. From my sub-conscious I dragged into being, the smell of frost under star-spangled, dark inky skies, damp grasses, spongy mosses, and the noise of mating frogs from the lint-hole next to our mill house, where flax had been grown to be made into linen. 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.