In 2011 I decided to sharpen the focus for my interest in landscape painting and attempt something more sustained and coherent. I had been considering working on site underneath the M5 around West Bromwich for a few years, and had indeed made my first ‘plein air’ paintings there some ten years previously. The particular site I had in mind was a place very familiar to me, having been born not far from it in a nearby, now demolished, tower block, and also having spent many evenings or afternoons over the years walking across the train tracks and underneath the enormous, rumbling concrete motorway on the way to friends or the pub.
It was my late night, and rather foolish considering its isolation, walks underneath the motorway that had most remained in my memory, and now as a painter many years later attracted me to thinking about the black shapes and shadows made by the concrete structure of the motorway as a possible starting point for exploring some ideas inspired by the abstract paintings of artist Franz Kline and his large, gestural black and white paintings. Having attempted to work there ‘plein air’ at night it seemed too dangerous, so I returned with a photographer friend to make some reference photographs to help me. This was the first time I had used photographs in years, but it helped liberate my compositional ideas and create my first series of drawings and paintings on this theme.
With the support of a major grant from Arts Council England over two years, between 2012-14, I was then able to develop this work and research into the so-called ‘edgelands’ landscape. I found myself working further down the M5 alongside the canal, fascinated by the disorientating and dreamlike reflections of the motorway above in the water below, and also the life of the late-night transit hubs, depots and factories which are hidden underneath the roaring overhead traffic. This continues to be the current focus for my painting practise.