Dark Animal

This body of work tells a complicated story, one that developed over a period of a dark personal and national mood. It began with light, the birth of my first daughter in 2008, and the successful conclusion of a six-year body of figurative oil paintings that investigated family attachment and loss surrounding a coastal, ancestral home.

But as the world felt the tremors of economic uncertainty, I too felt a looming disquiet as I watched the division of myself into artist and parent. As I willingly took on extra childcare responsibilities between myself and my salaried wife, I felt shame when I regretted the compression of my creative time. And while I embraced being lucky enough to be closely entwined in my beautiful daughter’s life, I couldn’t ignore the signs in my sketchbooks.

I have long used stream-of-consciousness sketching and image manipulation to provide the content of many of my paintings. As I was re-immersed in the children’s stories shared with my daughter, I began to absorb their metaphorical depictions of animals. But I found myself struggling to accept the ominous images that bubbled up, and resisted many of them from coming forth.

Then in 2011, a serious cancer diagnosis brought me focus and humility, and I gained perspective on the messages my own paintings were telling me. Doubt can be unhinging, but I was reminded that once examined, doubt can also yield enlightenment. It was as tools in this pursuit that my paintings proved useful, as they have in the past. I had generated a potential narrative in them like a machine stores potential energy, and I found that with that power source I could map and remap my own interpretations of the memories or emotions that brought them into being.

The animals in my paintings predominantly inhabit the coastal landscape surrounding the lost family house of the previous series, where I still find beauty and solace. It would be a gift if the wonder and menace in the paintings urge others to find their own meaning too, and we may find the darkness was like the passage of a cloud’s shadow, leaving us once again in sunlight.