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The people I paint are, to a greater or lesser degree, all known to me. They are the grown-up world of my childhood village - whilst sitting on our cottage front wall - the people I watched going about their lives, in conversation or off down the Co-op for something for tea. This also, of course, included a large farming community, sheep farmers in the hills surrounding Llangollen and Trevor, and of course the intrepid colliers returning from a shift at Bersham Colliery – faces black with ingrained coaldust before the installation of Pithead baths. These are the spirits who helped me to grow-up, artistically. Starting a painting, I use these photos to give a general sense of form and movement to the initial drawing, but more importantly as an aide memoire for a more romanticised interpretation of those people from my childhood past. I use a brush to draw the figures in Paynes Grey onto canvas which I prime with Red Oxide. I use a palette knife because it gives an acute sense of movement in its own right. Edges and interfaces, where form meets ground, are difficult to control, so are left broken, offering an implication of moving from past into present time, and on to infinity. Attempting to convey movement, of time passing, is a constant and recurring theme in the work. Photographs capture moments. For me, paintings ought to embrace that ultimate challenge of representing a vision of life where nothing is static. A two-dimensional surface has no right to succeed in representing this. Thus, blurred faces, awkward hands, bowed legs. the very images of people when they pass before the unfocused gaze of a small boy seated on a wall, dominate. The form the figures develop into, on the canvas, is entirely a work of imagination. They absolutely are not portraits, more an evocation of childhood. Memories of friends, family, neighbours, and strangers, forgotten yet so clearly remembered, who emerge out of the mysteries of forgotten time to once again say 'Hello'. During the isolation of lockdown, new ideas emerge which lead to the exploration of humanity in adversity – whether that be the relationship of a person to their community: the dynamics of a struggling, impoverished family: the ravages of life that stress the individual, or the indignity of a man expected to barely earn a living working in an 18" coal seam for 14 hours a day. Despite the cold reality of hardship, it was inevitably illuminated with an enduring compassion, and above all a dignity that I have tried to capture in my new work.
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