Shape Shifters And The Daily News

Making shapes and painting them are very different things. I came to painting by way of "making stuff" and sculptural shapes stayed to feature prominently in my work as a painter. The Sienese artist Sassetta had a profound influence on me when I first encountered his work some three years ago. Looking at his paintings changed the way I see shapes, both those in my paintings and those out on the street. His work compelled me to imagine the kind of shadows the shapes in paintings might create and add them as another dimension to my work. The Wolf Of Eyelash Mountain was the first body of work that dealt with that shift of perception. I like how the shadows become shapes in their own right.

I am interested in the idea of creating 3D versions of the shapes that inhabit my paintings. I want to examine the completeness of them in ways that would be impossible through painting alone. I need to walk around them and stretch them from different angles. Once they are objects I can treat them like all the other things I see around me and first draw them until my hand has absorbed the movement then let the sensation of that shape simmer inside me. Whether or not they decide to hop back into the paintings is up to them but if they do then the idea of letting the  shapes pass through a different medium with the chance of new versions emerging on canvas becomes really exciting,…

When Tom Campbell showed me one of his beautiful papier-mâché sculptures I realised that papier-mâché was exactly the medium I had been looking for to explore these shapes. It’s immediate and you don’t need furnaces or special equipment. Its like a 3D sketchbook that grows alongside the paintings.

I like the pace of working with papier-mâché. It feels intuitive. New forms begin to appear quickly and so do possibilities for looking at the shape in different ways . Papier-mâché is not precious and it has a rhythm that’s very similar to painting. Layers followed by drying time followed by some more layers. I can see myself working on a few paper pieces while the paintings are drying and vice versa. It might even become a really cool way to formulate ideas about sculptures. I used to think of papier-mâché as fragile but Tom explained how strong and durable you can make your finished work, strong enough even to use an electric sander on. 

Tom was kind enough to teach me the basics of working in papier-mâché. We went out early to collect cuttings from a nearby willow tree and some cardboard boxes from the supermarket. He showed me how to make the initial support structure and how to start working around it with rough layers of newspaper. Then he prepared a big pot of flour glue and that's where I really got into it. We spent the next hours layering and shaping the pieces, chatting and drinking tea.  


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