Paintings which imaginatively expands the mind of the viewer along multiple pathways of interpretation
It took me years to realize that it is the darkness in things that I respond to, whether it is a painting by Francisco Goya, a song by Leonard Cohen, a play by William Shakespeare or a film by Pedro Almodovar. When I was a child living in Africa, I was outside on a night lit by the moon and, feeling a little scared, I stepped from the light into a dark shadow. The darkness wrapped itself around me and fear was replaced by an understanding that I was being protected. Later, when I was twelve, a boy walked into my classroom with drawings he had done in pencil. They were representations of figures, that went from the white of the paper to the blackest black that the graphite could muster, and from that moment the artistic light for me was ignited.
A wise old German painter friend once said to me, after seeing me floundering around trying to explain away one of my paintings, “Remember, Alan, your paintings are like a bubble, and a bubble with a hole in it is no longer a bubble.” So with that in mind, I will tread carefully.
All the shapes and forms my work takes, have evolved over the years. Painting clothes that resemble period clothing, for example, happened naturally. At first, because it just seemed right, but I now realize that it brings to the work a sense of someone lost and out of time, desperately trying to work out the universal question, “What the hell am I doing here?” Especially when modern items like a can of coke or a scooter are included. Max Ernst once wrote that an artist should have one foot in the subconscious and one in the conscious. This, I think, is what I am trying to do.
When I begin a painting, I feel like I am embarking on a journey, one in which I have no idea of the ultimate destination. As a result, there is a real sense of adventure and excitement as you set sail into the unknown, armed only with a belief that, one day, you will find a faraway beach on which to land. Unfortunately, too often, the ship founders on the jagged rocks of doubt, leaving your heart to sink into the inky depths, from where you have to resurrect it. On the luckier voyages, though, you arrive somewhere that is strangely familiar, but which you have never seen before. It’s a distant coast of you.