Interviewed by Susie Pentelow, Traction Magazine, 29/08/16

‘Hardboiled Wonderland’ brings together three artists who each draw inspiration from Surrealist canon. How has Surrealism influenced you and your work?

The Surrealist canon that deals with the human psyche and explores our unconscious as a main subject is one of my influences, but perhaps the main aspect is that which relates to the idea of the overlapping realities which is outside of a perceived reality. These aspects explore the reality in which our reason and logic get put aside, things happen in a more symbolic manner which can be described as mythological or perhaps like what Jung called the collective unconscious. I am interested in creating spaces dealing with those different layers of reality where things of nature and animal can exist as spirit, the sense of time and space is non locational. These can be seen as fantastical worlds and also our internal landscape. One of my favourite artists is Leonora Carrington as she uses a lot of symbolic language which refers to her background of folklore, mysticism, paganism, and alchemy to create the world which looks like one’s dreamscape, or altered conscious reality.

There is an eerie quality to the almost-deserted landscapes in your compositions. Are these inspired by a particular place?

Not a real place but the place I imagined from books, films and poems that touch our inner reality. Emily Bronte’s “Wuthering Heights” or Akira Kurosawa’s film “Ran” are some of the big inspirations in terms of atmosphere of landscape.
I like to create landscapes where you feel time passing, an inevitable sense that nothing can prevent the passage of time and change. Lives born, rise, be, fall, and die. But the vast landscape continues on as they always have, our lives a mere echo that fades. The seasons pass and the wind blows the same. Like a Haiku poem by Basho “That summer grasses, All that remains, Of ancient warriors’ dreams”. The sense of time and space where everything happens in a place of joy or tragedy passes eventually, leaving as if everything was dream. I like to create the contrast to highlight our tenuous existence and fragile mortality.

Looking at your work I am struck by the fact that your subjects often seem to be striving for a connection - with nature, or with one another - especially in those pieces which depict rituals or ceremonies, such ‘Rock Party’. Is this an important theme in your work?

I love reading books about various mystic traditions and have attended rituals in the deep mountains of Japan. The experience gave me long lasting impression and some understanding to the sense that there are many layer’s of reality and our everyday normal living are deeply connected to the surrounding nature in every moment. It also led to interests in animism which consider everything in this world has some sort of consciousness, and there are lots of ceremony and rituals based on this philosophy. They symbolise not only trying to connect people, but people with the land they live in, or sometimes people with more abstracted ideas such as another world. I am interested in this aspect because they express our sensibility to the very layer of reality we live in and its boundary, a sensibility to the worlds beyond our perception of reality. Animals in my work can be seen as a projected form of our personality tapping into its critical core where our everyday reason and logic is suspended.

The title of the exhibition references a novel by the author Haruki Murakami. How does this work reflect the themes present in the exhibition?

Murakami’s “Hard-boiled Wonderland and the End of the World” is a novel in which two seemingly independent stories or reality proceed, one is closer to what we live in, the other more fable, symbolic and fantastical. They seem unrelated at first but as the stories unfold it is revealed the two worlds are deeply connected and interdependent. This can be seen as different layers of realities in one person. We think we are living our surface conscious, but in truth, what lies beneath are thoughts, emotions and images accumulating every day to form something which affects our every day narrative and decision making. Murakami put someone, something or an event as a catalyst to work as gateways to access this abyss which gives an understanding and communication to the everyday. These things are applicable to the subject of my work and to the act of painting itself. Also I like the novel's ambiguous ending that feels like everything is not lost, the end of one dimension continues to the next even though it seems like echoes or ripples across time and space left from one point of view. The sensitivity to the fragility of life yet the interconnectivity of multiple dimensions of reality gives me a deep sense of spiritual recovery and profound meaning that I find in the expression of painting.

What is coming up next for you?

I have a solo exhibition at the House of St. Barnabas from Oct 2016 to Jan 2017 followed by a three person exhibition, including Nahem (who is also in Hardboiled Wonderland) at the Royal Albert Memorium Museum in Exeter in 2017 summer.