Back in my college days, an instructor observed that changes in my work seemed to happen in logical steps--things evolved and grew in a way that made clear the connections from one stage to another. I was pleased by that idea, and I've seen it myself over the years since then. Although I don't discount the widespread advice to "leave the comfort zone" in order to grow, I've always felt that this leave-taking need not be abrupt--that it can be just as valid as a shift rather than a leap. There is a lot to be said for allowing growth to happen organically in its own time, branching out from a solid base.
At the same time, various experiences, especially the artist's residencies I've had in the past few years, seem to be catalysts for more obvious changes, sometimes pretty noticeably. No wonder, with the intense focus on work, the stimulation of a new location, different culture, and meeting artists from around the world. One of these big changes happened after my first residency in Catalonia, in 2001, when I finally found the path into abstraction I'd been seeking for years.
For the past few weeks I've been pushed by my memories of my time in Ireland into work that is definitely out of my comfort zone. The paintings above, with their strong contrasts and bold shapes are like nothing I have done in the past. I find them both intensely personal and rather alien...compelling, unsettling.
Yet in a speeded-up way, these too show a logical progression from the works on paper I did in Ireland. From the small monotypes and drawings such as this:
and quick oil and wax paintings like the one below, which I pinned to the wall beside the larger works on panel as references. I am trying to capture the emotion and memories of walking along the wild sea cliffs of Mayo, and perhaps something more I have yet to know.