Premiere 'First Impressions' - Topography of Hurt

Its autumn here in the UK...leaves are turning brown and falling, like the temperature. A year ago, I packed-up my first studio and left myself only drawing materials to use over winter. Dark drawings emerged like this...



Because of this small series of winter drawings, I developed some affection for paper and charcoal plus, I felt I was getting closer to saying something more than pretty pictures say. I'd been torn between making skillfull representational portraits and making art with more meaning and purpose. 

Then, in spring, while working on a commissioned oil painting, I dried my brush on some paper and noticed the result - the oil paint caught on the folds in the paper and intrigued me. After reflecting on why this small gesture made such an impact, I was reminded of a metaphor that triggered an experiment in the studio to see what else happened when paper is folded and paint is added. Then charcoal came into it...and a new series was born.

First Impressions - Topography of Hurt

Here's the video from the studio and read about it below...

More profound than the first impressions we make on each other when we meet are those made at the very, very start of life. One of the foundations of psychology, (my career for 20 years), is the idea that people are fundamentally shaped by their childhood. For so many, the influence is detrimental and causes their later struggles in life. While this idea seems obvious to some, for others it’s confronting, dismissed and rejected…”I had a hard childhood and it hasn’t effected me - people need to get over it” they say.

As therapists we respond with something like this metaphor… You have a piece of paper, perfectly smooth and white…I take it from you and crumple it. I hand it back and you smooth it out. Do you still have a piece of paper? Yes. Is it the same? No. It will never be the same. No matter how much you try to smooth it out, how flat you manage to get it…the folds remain. It might even function quite well, as a piece of paper should but, there are fault-lines that undermine it’s integrity. Some paper is so badly damaged, so fragile, it cannot be used without becoming even more damaged.

We’ve been effected by our childhood, fundamentally and, no matter how much we try to smooth ourselves out, to present ourselves to the world as smooth and clean and perfect, the crumples remain embedded inside - a topography of hurt -effecting the way we are every day.

For some people the damage is relatively minor, for others their whole personhood is wrinkled, creased, crumpled and bent. I’m concerned with those people…those people who will never reach their potential because they can’t, for whom there is no way to recover or to be who they were meant to be. The pieces of work in the First Impressions series represent those people.

Using papers of different size, colour and weight, I’ve crumpled them in a variety of ways - a little, a lot, on the edges and in the centre. Some paper wrinkles easily and some is harder to fold; some children are less resilient than others to the same treatment. Then, I smooth out the paper - revealing the lines where the damage was done - a topographic record. No matter how much I try - the paper is never the same again. Some even gather more marks in the process of attempting to erase the crumples in the same way we sometimes hurt ourselves trying to recover and appear perfect. Using various techniques I’ve made each piece something interesting, even beautiful, to see.

In secret heroism, some people manage to transmute their damage into insight, decency, and beauty. Many never achieve this and lie crumpled on the floor…overlooked by life. This is an acknowledgement of  tragedy; for all of us too damaged to ever be the same again.

I hope you find this artwork as beautiful and poignant as I do. 

The work will be on display at The Other Art Fair, presented by Saatchi Art, in London next week. I'm unsure how people will perceive it at first sight but, each time someone understands the idea, they really 'get it'. I feel confident that now I'm saying something more significant with the work. 

Because you're subscribed to the Collector's Advantage newsletter, you're getting the first view of the work. If you're keen to see the series but can't come to the fair there's a link to some of the work here. Let me know if you'd like a private studio visit or video visit. I'll be adding more pieces soon so let me know if there's something you like or something you'd like to see.

Thanks for your support.