For me, I think I have always been an artist, or rather always wanted to create art. It's not something you choose when you're having your school careers interview at 16, although I did tell them I wanted to be an 'artist'. I can't remember what they told me I would be best suited for, it certainly wasn't an artist that wasn't seen as a career. I do have a really early memory, of drawing shapes with coloured chalk on a chalkboard on my first easel, I have a Polaroid somewhere, I look about 4 years old with a big grin on my face. Anyway, I was frustrated because the chalk was hard and wouldn't give me the marks I wanted, but I loved just making marks...I didn't know how to draw things or what to draw at that time and I remember thinking those thoughts, but the love of mark making was there and seemed so natural to me, I remember clearly making scribbles and enjoying the sensation. Nothing has really changed inside for me from that moment, that's why I make paintings and drawings.
Motivation, Contemporary Abstract Art and living in the Peak District
As a contemporary abstract painter, I work in oil paint, carbon and charcoal on canvas and linen and aluminium boards. I love the way pigment is held in linseed oil and how it reacts to light, it is a traditional medium but that isn't why I use it over acrylics or other mediums, I find oils more suitable for transparent work and washes I feel it gives you more without adding mediums.
I'm interested primarily in mark making and colour. My paintings explore those areas where the chaos becomes a pattern, creating scenes and objects with familiar and more abstract metaphor exploring the line between abstraction and depiction. If you stop and listen to the sounds you hear, you start to recognise patterns and rhythms, like the static in between the MW or AM radio frequencies. I would spend hours as a child just listening to those sounds between the stations. I like exploring those spaces as images. When I start a painting I often have a 'hook' a thought process or a colour to explore, or a shape. Something I want to be on the canvas. Once the work has started it will take on something of a personality, changing and forming itself within the boundaries of the canvas, or board. Often bringing images back and forth in the space created by the lines and marks already there, then at times re-affirming the initial idea with metaphor and reference to bring it together. Working on the painting using digital software helps to try different avenues then transferring that back into the painting quickly progresses the work allowing me as the painter to keep the energy high and decisive, or just leaving the painting to continue its way as a 'thing' taking it's time to reveal, after all, artist enjoy sitting in front of a piece of work mulling it over. There is something hidden, 'a mystery' and a 'fact' in a painting, when I paint I am trying to explore what that is.
Living and working as a painter, creating contemporary abstract art in the market town of Ashbourne the 'Gateway to the Peak District' means access to the Derbyshire Dales. I love being in a town there's always something going on, and the summer is full colour and vitality. Ashbourne is a very social place and the people are friendly. I can literally walk out of the door and walk onto the hills. Although my abstract painting is rarely directly influenced, I find space clears the mind and I constantly draw whilst I'm out, there's always something new in the landscape. It's beautiful here and a constant inspiration to paint. One of the great things about being an abstract painter in the Derbyshire Dales.
Contemporary Art and modern art
The title of this website is Modern Art in the Peak District, yet I don't make modern art in terms of what that means, it's there because most people see modern art as everything that isn't a direct representation of a subject matter. Damien Hurst said that people don't like his art because it's Contemporary art and they prefer classical artworks, he said that even classical art was once contemporary. I agree with this in a broad sense of the term, but in actuality, it is more complex than that, as I mentioned most people outside the art world wouldn't know the difference and most would see everything as modern or contemporary and lump the two terms together to describe what they are seeing. The modern art movement can be dated during the 1950's, 60's and 70's and signified a break away from the traditionalism of the time. Contemporary art means the 'art of the day' if you like (Conceptual art, Performance art, Feminist and Minimalist art) the distinction between modern and Contemporary art can be described as a shift in focus away from aesthetic beauty to the underlying concept of the work. The end result of a work of Contemporary art became less important than the process by which the artist arrived there, a process that now often requires participation on the part of the viewer i.e. Performance art. I've always imagined the viewing of the artwork to be the participation and thought that was the point of art but that's not the case, sometimes the artwork itself is the point. I don't see my work as Contemporary or modern art in that respect but a blend of the two, growing up viewing Contemporary art gave me a desire to make conceptual artworks but it's a struggle to let go of the need to portray something or see something 'in' a painting, it feels like it's human nature to do so. That for me is the challenge and the mystery of the artwork through the practice of making it. It's something I strive for.
These abstract artworks are created using some form of a random method, with the drawings I sometimes create lines from one direction to another allowing myself to use my intuition to create different widths and pressures, but they must be a continuous line. Or I create a shape or cut a template to draw within as in the circles and randomly place them. My aim is to limit my input as the artist from this beginning process to allow myself new avenues of relationships between the marks, and to avoid my interpretation of marks I'm making so I don't assume a form or context. I then add new marks to create space and form and bring things together to create the narrative, generally what I'm currently using as inspiration. With paintings, I will use a random colour generator picking from millions of colours again to give myself new avenues to explore without any previous interpretation getting in the way. These are then applied in a similar way to the drawings or as I interpret allowing me to discover new things as I paint.
Quite often I will explore ideas over a period of time. Sometimes I will come in from a days hiking in the Peak District and I’ll want to immediately put the sketchbook drawings onto a larger format, or explore memories of a place or event, something that inspires me to make a drawing a 'hook' if you like. I like to work quickly, the rawness of lines and marks adds to the energy of the drawing and charcoal enables this. These end up on the studio wall for a while to serve as inspiration or mark making references. Here are a few.
View more studio work by Philip Craig