Paintings on Panel process

My landscape paintings are a way of interpreting marks in time and distilling them down to convey a story in symbolic form. For the paintings, I start with slabs of raw poplar panel. Renaissance artists used native poplar wood panels for altarpieces, recognised for its lightness, strength and uniform grain. I choose to use these solid bases in order to cut, scour and sand the surface, adding and subtracting layer upon layer. The deckle edge is cut to make reference to the slabs of Purbeck limestone seen in Quarries that I visit in Dorset.

The surfaces are constructed from layers of paint, applied using brushes and rollers onto a gesso primed surface. The imprimatura create translucent layers of colour, added one on top of another and later rubbed back to create faded and worn forms that appear at different levels in the surface of the composition. Areas of colour are continuously added, sanded down and over-painted, then drawn on or scratched through to expose the layers beneath, mimicking the action of weather on the landscape, and the accretion and erosion of surfaces over time. This process, reminiscent of a geological excavation, combined with the use of colour and texture, reinforces the sense of time and antiquity in the work, offering glimpses of earlier formations and indicating the passage of time.

My working methods rely heavily on manual woodworking techniques. I use a table saw to cut or ‘rip’ edges, a plane to smooth and remove excess material, lamination (the process of binding together segments of wood using glue and pressure) to build up a relief surface and a hand-held sanding block to wear away selected areas of paint. These are paintings to be looked at, but I also want to imbue them with a sense of being tangible, physical objects.

Thin plywood shapes and forms from topographical drawings are added as a raised relief to the surface. A router is used to engrave images of fossils, geometric shapes, texture and lines from the drawings into the surface of the panel, paint and cement is then poured and rubbed into the fissures. I incorporate laser cut fossils in the panels because fossils are the most direct, evocative evidence that we have for past life in deep time. Where a former landscape must be inferred from the rocks, a fossil is immediately tangible.