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.
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.