Red Grapes
My art is perceptual. I paint and draw what I see. There is a long and distinguished history of this activity in all cultures. There are drawings and paintings from all eras that show artists looking at things; people, plants, household objects, landscapes. Since the Renaissance, art education has always included drawing from the sight seen. The flowering of the ‘Perceptualism’ of the sort that I do was in France in the second half of the 19th Century. These artists, Monet, Cezanne, Van Gogh, introduced an element that was not in previous art; subjectivity. How they saw, their unique vision, became the subject of their paintings.

Perceptualism faded from the avant-garde over the 20th Century. Picasso and Braque took an entirely different lesson from Cezanne than I did; they saw his flat geometries and ignored his existential dilemma, the drama of connection between subjective and objective. The one major artist of the 20th Century to pick up on this was Giacometti.

While the avant-garde has given up on working from nature, there are many, many artists who have not. I am one of them.

My special gift, if I have any, is to see the synchronicity in seemingly random scenes. Almost anywhere I look, I see meaningful interactions; a leaning of things towards each other.

Even when I was very young I had a feeling for drawing and painting from things that were in front of me. The act of drawing from the sight seen has a numinous quality for me. It gives me an uncanny feeling of being transported into the reality of what I am observing, of participating in its physicality, the weight and texture of its forms, the emptiness and openness and quiet of its spaces, the brilliance of its light and the darkness of its shadows. I have a feeling of re-creating reality—with the extra voluptuous attraction of doing it by playing with paint, or charcoal or pencil.

‘Realism’, that appellation commonly given to perceptual works, seems to me to be often misapplied. Are Van Gogh’s paintings realistic? Or Giacometti’s? I don’t think so. Real implies objective and the works of these artists are too personal. And ‘Representational’ doesn’t fit either; these people were not representing things, they were reacting to them.

What interests me about my own work, is that even though I paint what I see, my way of reacting to what I see has shifted, sometimes subtly and sometimes drastically. The shifts created distinctly recognizable periods that seem to reflect my inner life at the time.