2.14 - Painting 2011
2.03 - Deliverance

Fertile Ground - Rising Stone

These works describe the emanation of thought from material. At various periods throughout my career I have explored this ‘extraction’ process as a kind of physics of my own invention, using a variety of models to evoke the transition from a physical condition to immateriality.

In 2005-06 I made two major paintings that referred to the form of marine organisms, although this only became apparent to me after I had intuitively produced shapes that related to the internal regions of the skull. Both these paintings are oil and woodcut on linen, and measure approximately 1.7x1.4m.

At the base of both the paintings are large woodcut images of the back of my skull. I printed these images with wood to represent a material state distinct from the atmosphere surrounding it. I imagined the empty skull as if it were a giant mollusc shell.

This form has many precedents in my work, dating back as far as 1989 when I shaved my head so as to create pinhole photographs of it resembling a rock or a continental plate. An example of this can be seen halfway down the Uproot section in Sound of No Shore. Also, ‘unsighted’ drawings were made around 1991, through the process of blindly feeling the contours of my skull and translating this information onto paper.

As well as this, I had made work that imagined the gentle radiance of a secret light that reflects from the surface of the skull as a type of magical communication between worlds in How to Describe the Shining, Upon the Dreaded Loam

So the notion of the head as a thinking rock—a large physical mass that resides below the surface, within some subterranean or aquatic space—has long informed my work. 

In the Rising Stone paintings, the hollow husk of the head was presented as if it were a fossil; an empty vessel for the life forms that have taken their leave. This is not an allusion to death so much as the sense of weightlessness that consciousness acquires during a meditative state.

The woodcut forms of the skull represent the empty habitation of our material state from which an alternative ghost-like imprint emerges, rising inevitably like a bubble to a higher realm. This sense of release parallels the unlocking of a memory that I had when making these works—of a family holiday as a child, swimming at night in a sea of a billion glowing jellyfish.

The works above had their genesis in the series of small gouache drawings below. The lower facial forms in the following images are monoprints, produced by tracing over my reflection in a mirror. Other examples of this methodology can be found in the series Out Of Our Heads.

Some of these images incorporate the structure of the empty studio within which they were drawn. The drawings express a desire to ‘lift the lid’ on that space and the physical encasement of the body itself.



A group of these drawings is held in the collection of The British Museum, London.


Explore this theme

1. Introduction

2. Rising Stone  (You Are Here)

3. From the Underturned Stone

4. Mind's Eye

5. Undergrowth