Ashes Round the Yard began with an urge to shift my work towards a more improvisational process. This impulse was based, in part, on my observations of my then six-year-old son, and the realization that my current methods lacked the urgency and directness that I envied in his drawings. As the work progressed, I began to understand that the animals, landscapes and simple architectural constructs that appear in these paintings might constitute a fictional world where it was possible to reflect on predicaments in the real world.
The images take as points of departure my immediate surroundings, such as rooms in my house, my yard, and especially my children’s paraphernalia: the pattern on a baby’s sleeper, finger puppets, stuffed toys, kindergarten sculptures. The paintings depict ordinary objects that reference quotidian existence, but that also evoke my own, often contradictory, relationships to family and fatherhood: responsibility, love, frustration, aspiration, regret, aging and the passage of time. The imagery also suggests to me a kind of search. The animals are guides and surrogates, both showing the way and lost themselves, the landscapes both threatening and holding the promise of new paths.
Although the work stems from my domestic life, I don’t think of it as autobiography. The situations in the paintings point to the pressure of the “other” on the “self”, a dialectic that in turn throws longing, attachment, and loneliness into relief. Some of the images edge the territory of kitsch, and although I may find them embarrassing at times, I use them without irony or sentimentality. In making this work I am trying to build a bulwark that I can raise against my own cynicism and detachment, an antidote to numbness. These conditions are in no way unique to my life, but instead seem to be pervasive. I hope that in the encounter between the images and their somewhat crude material embodiment, between viewers and the paintings, that the dragging undertow of everyday life might be set beside glimpses of more its more luminous qualities.