"My practice was fuelled by my stay as a working artist at the Prado Museum in Madrid for The Richard Ford Award. During my time there I became deeply engrossed in Spanish history, more specifically, the periods of time that are well documented in the oil paintings of the museum. I was particularly interested in the family tree of the Habsburg dynasty and the last Habsburg King of Spain, Charles the II (The Bewitched King.) The dynasty was rife with incest and intermarriage which resulted in the bizarre phenomenon of the Habsburg jaw along with many other physical, intellectual and emotional disabilities. Charles II was subject to many of these ailments as evidenced in the documentation of his madness and his rather tragic autopsy.
However, the way artists such as Diego Velázquez and Juan Carreño de Miranda captured the family shows them in a powerful, beautiful and graceful light – smoothing out many of their more damning physical attributes. This façade that was carefully crafted for the Spanish working-class public fascinates me. This year, I have developed this idea further by adopting The Habsburg family, Charles the II (Charlie) and Margaret Theresa (Margie), into my Theatre of Memories. My caricature Charlie is not unlike the modern drag queen: someone who dresses up elaborately and flamboyantly to project a character that is fictitious. Leigh Bowery’s vibrant red clown lips was one of my inspirations for Charlie’s big pouty Habsburg lips. I’m mostly interested in the idea of the façade/mask and how I, along with many others, use a false face when interacting with people and on social media. This echoes how we show a more perfected and desirable version of ourselves and seek to hide our insecurities and mental and physical ‘lackings’. Charlie’s clothing is a modern take on the type of clothing Charles II of Spain would wear. In place of a fur cloak, he wears a dark fur coat and Charles’s wide white collar becomes an avant-garde fashion accessory for Charlie."
‘Charlie’, March-May 2018, sculpture/puppet made from wire, masking tape, acrylic paint, cotton, mixed fabric, watercolour, 117 x 90 cm
"In 2017/18 my work primarily focused on memories from childhood and how they can become warped and distorted over time as recollection and situational understanding fades. I approached this idea by creating a collection of dolls and puppets which were representative of both the people in my family and more abstract emotions and states of being. (Example: anxiety, existential dread, motherly love, unconscious cruelty, etc.) These characters, or 'The Theatre of Memories', were used as life models in my artwork as I recreated scenes from my memories that became increasingly more surreal and bizarre with the addition of the more abstract and fantastical characters and settings. This year, I revisited these characters to create a collection of works telling an overarching narrative.
In therapy, dolls are often used so children can re-enact situations that have made them uncomfortable or have caused them hurt. Similarly, I have used my puppets and dolls to explore my own emotions to perhaps discover how my mental state has been molded
over the course of my life by my relationships with friends, family, strangers and myself. The character Bodie is a representation of myself: Bodie being a childhood nick-name of mine."
‘Bodie (III)’, November–January 2017/18, sculpture made from wire, masking tape, acrylic paint, human hair (my own), cotton, Mod roc plaster, watercolour, bonnet, 60 x 37 cm tall