Cityscapes and Figures in oil, acrylic and watercolour
My interest in figures was established in my local shopping centre at Salford. Here I found access to a variety of figures in relaxed poses. My early studies concentrated on groups of seated figures engaged in casual conversation. My immediate concern was for the intimacy of the group rather than the environment they were in. The architecture merely served as a backdrop to the characters portrayed.
I returned to the setting of shopping centres and precincts, but with a new vision. Increasingly the architecture was becoming a dominant feature of the composition and the figures almost anonymous within it. The interiors of the contemporary precinct created a different spatial relationship between figure and ground. There were various levels, heights and depths within the interior studies further enhanced by the use of reflective surfaces and the use of artificial light. The individual identity of the shop front was irrelevant to the composition. The interest lay mainly in the overall architecture. Whilst the interior structure was well documented the main concern was to create an overall impression. Within this context, the figures were no longer viewed as individual characters but almost become as one within the interior. Figures merged into crowds and receded into the distance, or in more recent work, whilst maintaining individual form, blended into the structure of the composition. The contemporary precinct was faster moving and appeared to be less of a social experience. People had less opportunity to rest, relax and communicate with each other. This was reflected in the composition and treatment of figures.
Site visits, sketches and photographs played an important preparatory role. Initial compositional studies were in watercolour and mixed media on a smaller scale. Oil studies afforded the opportunity to build up more layers of colour. Colour was applied with a dry brush to create an airy effect and so a shimmering quality which added to the sense of movement of the figures and the reflective interior surfaces. Figures were deliberately indistinct with small glimpses of detail picked out. The softness of the figures created a sense of impermanence.
As my work continued to develop, certain qualities began to dominate more fully. The architecture featured more boldly within the composition, and there was a stronger sense of the symmetry and geometry of the interior. There was more interest in individual blending into the environment, rather than the earlier crowded more panoramic views. Recent paintings featured escalators and stairways which showed the use of different levels to break up the canvas.