Figure Paintings 2014-2016

An artist's studio with a painting mounted on an easel
Studio, Park Royal, May 2014

From 2014-2016, I had use of a studio in Park Royal. It was a big space and it enabled me to make a series of large figure paintings.

I immediately began work on Showtime, which I had left unfinished during the previous year.

An unfinished painting of a fire-juggler
Showtime – early state, 2013

Like the other figure paintings made in 2013, I initially used a combination of transfer print and paint. Similarly these pictures were inspired by places and events I had witnessed during my travels. For example, The History Man is based on a trip I made to Florence in 2013.

A painting of a man pointing to a historic building in Florence
The History Man, oil on MDF, 90cm x 122cm

On the Piazza della Signoria, a man holds forth for a TV camera. I eventually buried the crew beneath a decorative fretwork and an hour glass.

A man holds a film camera alongside a woman holding sound equipment
Film crew, Florence

The History Man’s presence is mirrored on the opposite side of the painting by a drinking fountain. Meanwhile a student demonstration marches through the city, banner aloft. NON C’E’ PIU’ TEMPO – there is no time for further discussions; it’s time for action.

As these paintings developed, I became less inclined to use transfer prints, increasingly relying solely on brushwork. I also made use of hand-cut stencils.

An example is The Scrabblers. It was started in 2015, but it was not finished until the following year, shortly before I left Park Royal.

A detail of a painting depicting two women playing Scrabble
A detail from The Scrabblers

This painting does not contain any printed surfaces.

The Use of Allegory

A detail from an oil painting where figures of man and women are intermingled with the sea
Against the Tide, detail, oil on MDF, 2016

Before leaving Park Royal, I completed Against the Tide. This is a very much an allegorical work, and a very political one that demonstrates a more painterly technique. This was particularly suited to the rendering of the background, where ghost-like figures inhabit a seascape.

A large painting of a man and his dog on a stand-up paddle board
Against the Tide, 67 cm x 205 cm, oil on MDF

It was made in response to the resurgence of right-wing extremism in Europe. Observed from Brighton Beach in Sussex, a man and his dog ride the waves on a stand-up paddle board. It symbolizes the freedom of choice. In contrast to this, a seething mass of Nazis — derived from Leni Riefenstahl’s notorious propaganda film Triumph of the Will – pay homage to Hitler.