The paintings are an attempt to witness, to memorialize; to represent something that ultimately cannot wholly be represented, and which will fade with the memories of those who lived the experiences. The paintings pull the private sphere of the family through into the public sphere of the gallery, in an attempt to interrupt hegemonies and to disrupt a dominant narrative.
In my practice I explore myths, truth and fiction and the blurry boundaries between them. With these paintings I am deconstructing the myths of my extended family. I grew up at the junior end of a large Irish Catholic, Mancunian family, already notorious before I was born.
And yet the story told by these paintings is quiet, and of a certain tenderness, pride, and affection. I wanted to take my family’s stories and explore them in paint, because my own experiences have often been at odds with the flashy myths that have been created. How do you bring to the fore a silent violence, the curtailing and de-selection of certain stories to favour others?
Often what has been left out of the stories told about my family are the experiences of the women, of domesticity, of the everyday, of life-affirming family rituals such as weddings. This series of paintings seeks to even the balance, and to shift the focus from the bold males to the female members of my family: To explore ‘in the round’ the co-existence of notions of working class respectability alongside a fierce desire to get on, and to escape poverty. Although these paintings start from a very personal point of view, there is hopefully a universality to be found in them. In a time of austerity there will be all too many struggling with similar dilemmas.
I’m influenced by Gerhard Richter’s paintings from black and white photographs. My other painting influences are quite wide: from the techniques of Renaissance artists, Caravaggio, Velasquez, and Sargent, to contemporary artists such as Lucian Freud, Francis Bacon, Gerhard Richter and Martin Kippenberger.