My early sketches had been very anecdotal, but from around 2005 I started moving away from simple drawings of a specific person or event, and played with form and line, limiting the story behind them.
This led to the series of coloured shapes on wood, with titles like Windflames, Hand, and Crack with Cave, or Bird and bee over Mountaincage. A hint of Latin American influence was coming through in the beings inside the hand-carved African frames. The solid shapes stood for people/characters. The cracks and the meshes of lines represent exactly that, psychologically speaking.
I then went back to greyscale, and continued making drawings of similar shape-creatures using pencil on paper. But there was an urge to develop the drawings on a more autonomous support. Canvas could hold up the pictures freely, with no need for frame or glass.
Although I certainly wasn’t missing Photoshop, I wanted to change the transparency of the pencil marks, for which I used acrylic medium and gesso. I enjoyed discovering a warm range of whites, greys and graphites, with a few icy shades thrown in for good measure. The many layers of acrylic medium over pencil on the canvases, glue down and ‘save’ each step of the pencil build-up. I have trouble abandoning this layering method when painting. Perhaps I hold on to the fear that the next step of the creation will ruin the previous one? In any case, going back is not an option.
I did, however, relinquish control over the titling of the pieces, prior to the opening of the Ghost Shapes exhibition in a North London gallery in 2009. I had given the coloured paintings, already two years old, Miro-ish, magical-realist names. But for the canvases, I got friends, relatives and the gallery staff involved in collectively generating the titles. Just for fun. And to keep exploring the removal of narrative from the images.
The opening was also an opportunity to play with Relational art in another way. Instead of an artist statement or press release, visitors could take the following pseudo-instructions and walk around the exhibition doing a bit of role play.