‘No ideas but in things’, William Carlos Williams, American poet
In 1999 I decided to strip my painting practice right back and start from scratch. I slowly began a process of emptying everything out. To help with this I decided to apply and work within certain limits. These included every painting being the same size (a standard A1 size); using just a limited frontal composition; an even, all-over lighting to flatten the image (I refer to this as ‘supermarket’ lighting); no references to anything outside of the painting itself or suggestion of any narrative; and no use of photography to record the image, everything was developed from either an observational drawing or painting in front of the subject. I also decided to restrict myself to just doing portraits of family and friends in a deliberately ‘flat-footed’ manner, like an ID card, for about two years, before feeling more confident and interested in slowly introducing other subjects such as landscapes, animals and still lives. These limits helped me feel very creatively liberated in a way I hadn’t felt for years.
This pared down aesthetic and working within certain limits still shapes my practice now.