Cedar Avenue Paintings
These paintings were adapted from photographs of the houses, shops and small factories of my hometown in the West Midlands. Cedar Avenue is made up of bungalows and two storey houses built on rolling farmland on the slopes of the Malvern Hills. I became aware that this intensely familiar scene was potentially rich in visual material and resonant in far wider terms than I had previously imagined. In particular, the estate as a solution to housing needs fosters a form of microculture where issues of identity, community and conflict are played out in the most sublimated and ritualised manner. As the sequence developed I tried to explore the infrastructure of small town life in terms of our customary assumptions and to encourage a constructively critical distance on what, for many of us, represents everyday experience.
I began the project by building a documentary archive of the streets and buildings of Malvern, consciously employing a range of compositional techniques familiar from the windows of estate agents and also from the tradition of documentary photography. Working with photographs underlines the contingent nature of representation since each snap represents an unrepeatable instant of time and contains a certain amount of unforeseen information. At a formal level, the treatment of brightly-lit subjects in a combination of realist and colour field techniques is a means of creating a hybrid of visual conventions that is rich in internal contradictions, whilst reinforcing the object nature of paintings as material artefacts. The depopulated nature of the source material, together with the occasional use of visual obstructions (such as lampposts etc) is intended to draw the viewer into as direct an exchange with the depicted scene as possible.
By dealing with familiar generic forms of domestic architecture via a democratic medium I hoped to activate a process of recognition and to communicate a shared experience of the built environment and its conditioning influence. The Cedar Avenue paintings are not just about what they are of and are certainly not necessarily ‘true’ in any way. They represent an attempt to construct a model for the way in which time and memory can make even the most routine visual experience into something enigmatic.