I was born in India in 1952, where my father was a tea planter. We resettled in England in 1953, and I initially studied Modern Languages at Emmanuel College, Cambridge from 1970-74. I then worked for the Museum of London as an archaeologist for a year, where I developed an interest in uncovering the past by excavating layers of human occupation.
I went on to study Fine Art (Painting) at Camberwell School of Art from 1975-79, graduating with a First Class B.A. Hons degree, and continued my studies in painting as a postgraduate on the M.F.A. course at Reading University from 1979-81, which I chose because it was run by Terry Frost and Adrian Heath.
On graduating in 1981, I was awarded a Boise Travelling Scholarship from the Slade School of Art, and I chose to visit New York to pursue my interest in contemporary American painting. I also admire the St Ives painters Peter Lanyon and Roger Hilton, Ivon Hitchens, the Scottish colourists, and 18th century Indian miniatures.
On my return, I worked as an artist in London before moving to West Dorset in 1987, and I was able to give up part-time Art School lecturing in 2002, to concentrate more fully on painting. In addition to exhibiting regularly, I now enjoy running occasional workshops from my studio, as well as residential painting courses in Devon and France during the summer months.
The Indian Series
It was not until 1993 that I was able to revisit India, my country of birth, returning several times since then to gather more research for my paintings, which are a response to the light and heat of North West India, in particular the state of Rajasthan. The richness of colour in the folk art, its unbroken link with the past, and the uncompromising heat and aridity of the Thar desert provide me with powerful and enduring memories. These are the catalyst for a series of paintings spanning the last 8 years. I like to use oblique references to architectural forms and artefacts which symbolize elemental forces, and to suggest the passage of time and the complexity of Indian culture through layering and scraping down the paint surface. These transparent layers of paint allow glimpses of previous forms, and through their ambiguity, invite the viewer to bring a personal interpretation into play.
The Dorset Series
In the Dorset series I have been researching the coastline near my home. The permanence of its ancient Jurassic fossils contrasts with the impermanence of the cliffs, which are constantly eroding. These semi-abstract paintings combine distant views of hills, sea and sky with a closer scrutiny of the etched and weathered surfaces of rocks. I use sgraffito and other graphic marks to describe their fossil traces and delicate linear patterns, while contrasting this filigree lightness with more broadly brushed passages. I enjoy responding to the richness of colour in the limestone rocks (yellows, through oranges and iron reds to grey-blues) finding similarities between their shapes and more recent, man-made forms such as Iron Age burial mounds, strip-lynchets, footpaths and field systems. This series continues my interest in layers of time and the potential for investigating universal links between ancient and modern forms.
The Moroccan Series
I visited Morocco in spring 2003 and again in September 2004 to find inspiration for this recent series of work, concentrating my research on the mud-built kasbahs to the east and south of Ouarzazate, and the desert region near the Algerian border. Travelling by bus and hired car, my itinerary followed the valleys of the rivers Ziz, Todra, Dades and Draa between the High-Atlas and Anti-Atlas mountains.
I was struck by the wild beauty of this landscape: the startling contrasts between the snow-clad peaks of the High Atlas range, the hot reds, pinks and purples of the foothills, and the verdant greens of the oases and palmeries along the river valleys. It was almost as if these disparate elements had been collaged together in horizontal bands of colour. The bare, forbidding Anti-Atlas, on the other hand, were starkly beautiful in their predominantly steely grey and pink hues.
In this new series I want to evoke a sense of harmony between man-made structures and the land. The many shades of ochre, pink and red to be found in the rocks are perfectly echoed in the mud-pisÃ© buildings, so that they almost appear to grow organically out of the ground. There are frequent references to mud walls, peppered with holes from the timber formwork used in their construction, and to the fortified towers of the kasbahs, which abound in this region. There are also oblique references to minarets, marabouts (saints' shrines) with their pointed domes, and linear geometric forms, which relate to Islamic ironwork, inlay and ceramic decoration. The intention is to evoke a feeling of earthiness and oneness with Nature, and to create a sense of mood in each work through the use of atmospheric colour.
The desert paintings are a response to the beauty and tranquillity of the dunes at Merzouga and Tinfou near the Algerian border, and I also want to convey a sense of the awesome emptiness of the desert and the feeling of being totally alone in a vast sea of dunes.
I was struck by their stature (some as high as 800 feet) and by their variation in colour, ranging from cool pinks through pale yellows to rich golden ochres. It was difficult to gauge distances, which further enhanced the feeling of unreality and mystery, while the occurrence of sandstorms and whirlwinds caused a blurring of the normal division between land and sky. In the foreground of these paintings there are often marks and tracks in the sand which suggest the passage of humans and animals, and the distinctive black shapes of Berber tents appear as a reminder of man's precarious existence in such a barren landscape.
The Greek Series
This new series is inspired by snorkelling off the coast of the Greek islands of Amorgos and Tilos. Shafts of light create diagonal axes which give structure to the composition, creating a sense of tension with the loose and experimental mark-making. Translucent glazes of colour suggest that the viewer is below the water's surface, inhabiting an undersea world of mystery and surprise.
Above all, these works celebrate the beautiful diversity of blues which characterise the Aegean sea, its remarkable clarity enabling one to observe minutely the rock and plant forms on the seabed, and the fleeting shapes of passing fish. The fluidity of the paint has been allowed free rein, and literal description of this marine context has been avoided in favour of a lyrical evocation, which invites the viewer to interpret the content in a personal and imaginative way.