1993-1995 Neighbourhood Watch

In 1993 my subject became the suburban environment, and I immersed myself in the streets and front yard facades that had been all I had known as home. I looked at the trees and their forlorn vigilance, pruned back year after year to form bulbous knuckles from which thin branches sprouted like arms bearing the weight of seasons. I looked at the leaves that cascaded in autumn and buried garden beds in their warm textures. I tried to become removed from my previous associations with places, an observer with a strange self conscious perspective, peering into dwellings, the watcher often observed by suspicious silhouettes in a window.

Beginning with pen and paper, then drawing pad, I began to walk the streets of Canterbury and beyond, building a considerable body of sketches, notes and ideas that were to form a foundation from which art works took shape. It was the first time I had really looked deeply at a subject. My ‘Working Walks’ were crucial as a study technique, and method in which to imbue art works with real experience and the authenticity that comes with painting about the things you know. I instinctively chose to walk at night when a transformation occurred under the glow of street lights. There existed a certain wildness at this time, energy divorced from functionality, almost as if nature had crept back in under cover of darkness to reclaim lost territory. A tree becomes a dark sentinel, a car a formation sprouting from the nature strip like a bolder on an outcrop; gates and fences a playground for suburban Denison’s.

In the following year I became increasingly aware of ornamental ironwork, which seemed to be like a secret language, speaking of the underlying motivations and social aspirations of those who lived behind the walls. The spiral emblems and decorative motifs are one of the few structural elements, which are not defined by functionality. I liked to use them as a lineal overlay, much like a theme, which bound everything together in a neat and rhythmical manner.

"On The Home Front" 1993 oil on canvas 100 x 130 cm

“On The Home Front” 1993 oil on canvas 100 x 130 cm

"Street Shapes" 1993 acrylic & charcoal on paper 110 x 80 cm

“Street Shapes” 1993 acrylic & charcoal on paper 110 x 80 cm

"The Suburbs" 1993 pastel and ink on paper 30 x 40 cm

“The Suburbs” 1993 pastel and ink on paper 30 x 40 cm

"High Field Night Road" 1993 acrylic on canvas 120 x 100 cm

“High Field Night Road” 1993 acrylic on canvas 120 x 100 cm

"War of the Weeds" 1993 acrylic on canvas 80 x 130 cm

“War of the Weeds” 1993 acrylic on canvas 80 x 130 cm

"Leaves on the Pavement" 1993 pastel and ink on paper 30 x 40 cm

“Leaves on the Pavement” 1993 pastel and ink on paper 30 x 40 cm

"Autumn Garden" 1993 acrylic on canvas 80 x 110 cm

“Autumn Garden” 1993 acrylic on canvas 90 x 110 cm

"The Leaves" 1993 acrylic on canvas 90 x 110 cm

“The Leaves” 1993 acrylic on canvas 90 x 110 cm

"Last Leaves To Fall 1" 1993 acrylic on paper 80 x 50 cm

“Last Leaves To Fall 1” 1993 acrylic on paper 80 x 50 cm

"LAst Leaves to Fall 2" 1993 acrylic on paper 80 x 50 cm

“LAst Leaves to Fall 2” 1993 acrylic on paper 80 x 50 cm

"Last Leaves To Fall" 1993  acrylic on canvas 75 x 85 cm

“Last Leaves To Fall” 1993 acrylic on canvas 75 x 85 cm

"Above The Snow Line" 1993 acrylic on canvas 100 x 60 cm

“Above The Snow Line” 1993 acrylic on canvas 100 x 60 cm

'Red Late Night" 1993 acrylic on paper 80 x 60 cm

‘Red Late Night” 1993 acrylic on paper 80 x 60 cm

"Safety House Zone" 1993 acrylic on canvas 80 x 60 cm

“Safety House Zone” 1993 acrylic on canvas 80 x 60 cm

"Dream Street Places" 1993 acrylic on canvas 60 x 80 cm

“Dream Street Places” 1993 acrylic on canvas 60 x 80 cm

"Rubbish Bin Night" 1993 pastel and ink on paper 60 x 50 cm

“Rubbish Bin Night” 1993 pastel and ink on paper 60 x 50 cm

"Built Up Area" 1993 charcoal & acrylic on paper 80 x 80 cm

“Built Up Area” 1993 charcoal & acrylic on paper 80 x 80 cm

"Troubled Back Alley" 1993 acrylic on canvas 110 x 80 cm

“Troubled Back Alley” 1993 acrylic on canvas 110 x 80 cm

"Front of House" 1993 charcoal and acrylic on paper 60 x 50 cm

“Front of House” 1993 charcoal and acrylic on paper 60 x 50 cm

"Neighbourhood Watch" 1993 acrylic on canvas 80 x 60 cm

“Neighbourhood Watch” 1993 acrylic on canvas 80 x 60 cm

"Across The Street" 1993 charcoal and acrylic on paper 60 x 50 cm

“Across The Street” 1993 charcoal and acrylic on paper 60 x 50 cm

"Still Life Still Death" 1994 acrylic on canvas 110 x 90 cm

“Still Life Still Death” 1994 acrylic on canvas 110 x 90 cm

"Neat Time Road Grey Troubles" 1994 acrylic on canvas 130 x 100 cm

“Neat Time Road Grey Troubles” 1994 acrylic on canvas 130 x 100 cm

"Dream Street" 1994 acrylic and pastel on paper 60 x 50 cm

“Dream Street” 1994 acrylic and pastel on paper 60 x 50 cm

"Niche Called Home" 1994 acrylic on canvas 90 x 70 m

“Niche Called Home” 1994 acrylic on canvas 90 x 70 m

"Street Places in a Suburban Mind" 1994 mixed media on paper 80 x 60 cm

“Street Places in a Suburban Mind” 1994 mixed media on paper 80 x 60 cm

"Street Places" 1994 pastel and ink on paper 60 x 40 cm

“Street Places” 1994 pastel and ink on paper 60 x 40 cm

"Street Places" 1994 acrylic on canvas 60 x 80 cm

“Street Places” 1994 acrylic on canvas 60 x 80 cm

"Secret Places" 1994 acrylic on paper 50 x 60 cm

“Secret Places” 1994 acrylic on paper 50 x 60 cm

"Suburban Dreams" 1994 acrylic on canvas 160 x 100 cm

“Suburban Dreams” 1994 acrylic on canvas 160 x 100 cm

"No Through Road" 1994 mixed media on paper 50 x 60 cm

“No Through Road” 1994 mixed media on paper 50 x 60 cm

"Street Essence" 1994 mixed media on paper 40 x 40 cm

“Street Essence” 1994 mixed media on paper 40 x 40 cm

"Street Essence" 1994 pastel and ink on paper 30 x 20 cm

“Street Essence” 1994 pastel and ink on paper 30 x 20 cm

"Street Essence" 1994 mixed media on paper 30 x 20 cm

“Street Essence” 1994 mixed media on paper 30 x 20 cm

"Street Essence" 1994 ink & acrylic on paper 30 x 20 cm

“Street Essence” 1994 ink & acrylic on paper 30 x 20 cm

"Street Theme" 1995 acrylic on paper 15 x 20 cm

“Street Theme” 1995 acrylic on paper 15 x 20 cm

The final stage of this study then revealed a new emphasis on fragmentation and symbolic abstraction, using a bolder line and a more frenetic approach to mark making and paint application. These works tried to show the suburban environment as confronting, powerful and emblematic; an absolute show of strength, wealth and permanence. My houses became monolithic chambers; their ornamentation like aggressive grills to guard against trespasser’s and protect against intrusion in the safety house zone. The transformed appearance of these works both intrigues me and disturbs me, for they are definitely not pretty pictures. I wanted these paintings to be rather sardonic, sometimes witty and reminiscent of the paradox of the everyday human ritual. They formed the basis for my first one man show held at Tog’s Other Place Gallery in April 1995.

"Built Up Area" 1995 acrylic on canvas 180 x 150 cm

“Built Up Area” 1995 acrylic on canvas 180 x 150 cm

"Built Up Area" 1995 mixed media on paper 70 x 45 cm

“Built Up Area” 1995 mixed media on paper 70 x 45 cm

"New House, New Car, Old Money" 1995 acrylic on canvas 170 x 140 cm

“New House, New Car, Old Money” 1995 acrylic on canvas 170 x 140 cm

"Front Of House" 1995 mixed media on paper 20 x 15 cm

“Front Of House” 1995 mixed media on paper 20 x 15 cm

"Gargoyles and Guardians" 1995 acrylic on canvas 140 x 170 cm

“Gargoyles and Guardians” 1995 acrylic on canvas 140 x 170 cm

"No Through Road" 1995 acrylic on canvas 90 x 110 cm

“No Through Road” 1995 acrylic on canvas 90 x 110 cm

"Safety House Zone" 1995 acrylic on canvas 190 x 165 cm

“Safety House Zone” 1995 acrylic on canvas 190 x 165 cm

"No Junk Mail" 1995 acrylic on canvas 100 x 170 cm

“No Junk Mail” 1995 acrylic on canvas 100 x 170 cm

"Merry-Go-Round-About" 1995 acrylic on canvas 175 x 150 cm

“Merry-Go-Round-About” 1995 acrylic on canvas 175 x 150 cm

"Front Yard Diplomacy" 1995 acrylic on canvas 120 x 90 cm

“Front Yard Diplomacy” 1995 acrylic on canvas 120 x 90 cm

"Neighbourhood Watch" 1995 pastel and ink on paper 90 x 70 cm

“Neighbourhood Watch” 1995 pastel and ink on paper 90 x 70 cm

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