What I Do

I cannot bring anything with me, only what I came with. The place before I was born will always be home. One day I will return like the blossom does each spring.

Explaining art is like trying to bury your shadow.


I label my process, somewhat pretentiously, a SIGIL: Subconscious Individually Generated Inner Landscape (say that five times fast). I begin work in oils without preconceptions. Paint is splattered about, in many layers, till something begins to emerge. Using the concept of pareidolia I refine what seems to need it, allowing the painting to paint itself (a type of scrying, perhaps.) I try never to lead, only to channel the subliminal and mystical into a visual manifestation, bringing forth details and shapes until the formless becomes form. Up to this point I appropriate the Taoist term “Wu Wei”, or actionless action. What I’m doing is not a new strategy, it has been called Surrealist Automatism as well. Eventually an idea crystalizes to a point where I can introduce my technical skills of realism to hone the image into a detailed painting. Only then do I engage my rational mind and implement traditional concepts of composition, form, value, etc.

Essentially I try to combine the spontaneity of abstract art with the sharpness of realism. I’ve always seen imaginary worlds in abstract paintings and wondered what it would be like if they had been taken to a realistic conclusion (Max Ernst’s “Europe After The Rain II” being an example of what I’m getting at.) For me, the ‘completing’ of my initial abstraction leads to a surrealism that remains ambiguous yet highly representational. This has always been my nature, looking into the negative space, but I fought it for many years. I had relied upon reference photos and how things were ‘supposed to’ look. The point of my current style is to only use my imagination if possible. When lucid dreaming I’m privy to amazingly detailed clarity which is far beyond our material world; these places haunt me. The SIGILs are an attempt to translate such dream states into our inferior corporeal reality which can then be shared. Ah, pretension, my old friend… Or maybe I just make weird pictures.

I’m careful to keep the surface glass-smooth so I can enact alterations with ease; a willingness and ability to change course is essential. Plus I want the painting to be like a large Polaroid taken of a dream, it’s about the content not the brush texture. I paint in very thin layers, building up dozens of glazes and utilizing a lot of sfumato. I love the luminous quality of layered oil paint, there’s a depth that can’t be achieved otherwise. It’s a rewarding yet time consuming process, taking weeks, but like polishing an ancient window eventually all is revealed.  


What do these paintings mean? That’s up to the individual; mystery gives life meaning. How I interpret them doesn’t matter, but here are some thoughts. I’ve noticed recurring symbols which are emergent in many of my images. The most obvious, to me, is the act of transmutation and metamorphosis (nothing is true, everything is permitted.) Also, creation versus destruction, celestial versus terrestrial, the primordial, playing with the notion of scale, circles and suns, organic life, dwellings, teeth, snakes or tentacles, etc.. I want to express the eternal vastness of the unknown, the alchemical and the ephemeral, to see something I have yet to see. To paraphrase William Blake, if the doors of perception were cleansed everything would appear as it is, infinite. 

Any comments or questions, please feel free to contact me (phonetically that’s heath at yonaites dot com).

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