Currently my work, which primarily consists of painting and drawing, is focused on the role of authority in contemporary society. In particular I am interested in how power manifests in individuals and nation states and how it translates into iconography, actions and the formation of a sense of self. The work arises from situations of civil unrest and social instability, largely drawing on, but not confined to, my experience growing up in Northern Ireland. The recent work explores urban and rural terrain along with compositions involving subjects who adhere to a unified worldview or socio-political outlook. The rural landscapes examine the duality implicit in areas that are repositories of romantic ideal and yet which contain hidden threats. In the works exploring urban areas, modernist and neo-classical architecture are referenced as signifiers of imagined order, stability and permanence. The works are largely executed in black and white, with the surrounding white space referring to ideals of purity, cleanliness and removal. White, in this context, is described by Allen Feldman in Formations of Violence (University of Chicago Press 1991) as “the color of total and exhaustive exposure in which nothing can be hidden or disguised, in which there are no recesses or depths, only the self reduced to a figure against a ground- a diagram.” In this sense, white refers to attempts to create, improve or perfect a state or territory through physical and psychological processes of removal of the ‘other’ (enemies or subversive populations, both real and imagined).
The figurative compositions reference the history of portrait painting and large-scale narrative works conceived for public spaces, and examine the politics of sociological and spatial control. Drawing on the legacy of history painting, these works also reprocess the narrative and mythological frameworks that operate in epic landscape painting, socialist realism and fascist aesthetics. The iconic stature of the figures that populate the recent large-scale gouache drawings is undercut somewhat, by a sense of disquiet or unease. In these works, (mostly male) groups perform social rituals as a unit, their sense of cohesion a bulwark against an unseen enemy, or collective triumph over unseen victims.
The aim of all the work is to explore the various manifestations of social order and raise questions relating to the control of space, personal and national boundaries.