As with earlier series of works, the subject matter of 'The Anatomy Lesson' is paint, but both the manner in which the paintings are executed and the way the subject itself is arranged and depicted, presents a break from earlier pieces. In the past it was more important to me to stumble upon chance arrangements of paint, but in this new series, while the mounds of paint I depict are still largely arrived at by accident, how they are presented is a different matter. Any configuration is now lit carefully using several artificial light sources, often including different temperature bulbs (torches, daylight corrected bulbs, tungsten, halogen and LED lighting) to enhance the sense of artificiality. Furthermore the works are made from a combination of a number of digital images. This way of working is, in part, a recapitulation on a traditional, pre-photographic manner of assembling source material towards a final piece, but also, working in this way undermines the work’s relationship with photographic verity and brings it more in line with a set of values more akin to Hollywood film production. The paintings themselves are looser than previous works. While they still allude to the photographic, closer inspection reveals them to be made from an accumulation of gestural marks which animate their surfaces. The works are therefore hybrid: paintings in the grand historical manner using oil on canvas, but also utilising a wide variety of technical apparatus and digital processes.
Everything is open to interpretation. Words develop additional meanings, both through common use and the further overlaying of personal associations linked to our own histories. We live surrounded by images and symbols whose interpretations rely on context, juxtaposition and our own pasts. Even reality seems to have multiplied to now include the sub-atomic and the interstellar, the speeded up and slowed down, x-ray and infrared, the cinematic, the virtual, the prosthetic. Not only are we now told how to understand what we see by a bewildering array of authorities, but also we now have the opportunity to become authorities ourselves and expound our views on a global stage. Maybe it is this constant proliferation of information and the illusion of understanding that characterises the world we live in; maybe I just see too much in everything (a condition made worse by practising as an artist and undergoing a prolonged spell of psychoanalysis) but once you begin to see connections between disparate things, you see them everywhere, and you reach a point where everything means everything else.
I wanted to make works that suggested immensity, hubris, monuments. The kind of scale we associate with authority and power, yet the figures appearing in these landscapes had to also seem vulnerable, small things stubbornly resisting meaning. If the work is about anything, it is about this sense of contradiction and the uncertainty of interpretation that points us in many opposing directions; works that could be seen as an embodiment of the notion of a forest of signs. I wanted the paintings to be suggestive but ultimately inconclusive. I needed to make works that would be felt rather than decoded.
So far, two works from this series have been exhibited at the Pulse Art Fair in New York in March 2008. Two further works were shown at Pulse, Miami 2008 and Marmite Prize, Studio 1-1 Gallery, London 2008. Funding has been provided for development of the series by purchases to three major international art collections.
Three new works from this series will be exhibited in a solo show at Mummery and Schnelle in February 2010.