Basically, I feel that paintings on walls help create an environment, or an atmosphere in a room. In the same way that talking with people can effect your state of mind, so I believe paintings have a similar effect. There are paintings, and, for that matter, rooms, that leave you feeling refreshed and joyful. For me, a good painting inspires the viewer - perhaps more on an emotional level than on an intellectual level.
What I'm going for is a bringing-together of qualities like Natural, Pure and Vibrant. The aim is that it's not just the final piece that shines out with these qualities; the creating of the paintings also has to be Natural, Pure, and, Vibrant.
Well, for me it doesn't make much sense laboriously painting a beautiful sunrise, for example. These days you can fairly easily take wonderful photos of nature or get amazing effects on the computer. And plenty of artists, including myself, paint landscapes more or less realistically. What is interesting in this technique is that rather than painting a picture ofnature, you're joining in with nature.
As for the Purity aspect, I half-remember a Francis Bacon quote about the first brushmark on the raw canvas being the most vital. And in calligraphy, of course, you don't really get a second chance; you have to be confident, clear-minded and just do it. So Purity means that there is no hesitation and no re-adjustment. Inevitably, in this spirit there tends to be a high percentage of work that ends up in the bin. But that's fine, because what remains has a freshness and authenticity that cannot be imitated.
Finally, regarding the Vibrant aspect, I believe that paintings can communicate a sense of peace - not a boring peace, but a vibrant peace. For me, vibrancy is like a delicious dish or the warmth and sparkle in the face of a very loving person.
When I'm usually asked this I say something along the lines of Romanticism and the Sublime, citing Turner as a key inspiration, particularly given his interest in dissolving form into light. There is also something about the clarity and iconic nature of Friedrich's painting that is awe-inspiring. Then there is the influence of Zen calligraphy; there's something about the naturalness and confidence of movement in calligraphy that is very powerful. There is the presence of the artist's hand, so it's very personal, but at the same time it's not about the artist. It's about communicating what is utterly intangible - a particular clarity of mind - through an action and an image.
I also find inspiration in Tibetan tangkha paintings; they open up worlds of possibilities in one's mind, undermining one's limited view of so-called reality in a very rich, vibrant yet exquisitely subtle way.
Actually, there are thousands of influences all the time; Matisse's ease and purity of colour, Miro's accidents, Claude Lorraine's aerial perspective, Watteau and Degas's marks, Howard Hodgkin's personal language, Fra Angelico's purity, Ben Nicholson's subtleties, Rodin's dynamic mass, Anish Kapoor's inwardness, Rothko's human-condition-ness, Georgia O'Keeffe's organic-ness, we could go on and on!
Several things come to mind. One is that I believe everyone has a fundamental goodness that is more durable than any of their problems or bad habits. One of the purposes of art is to empower that nature. Actually, sometimes it doesn't take that much to bring out this magnanimous, spacious attitude; it's just a question of how we use our mind.
Then there's a point of how art is a mirror to life. Like in our world, or the universe, there is a sense that anything is possible, so with the creative process, things manifest as we 'tap into' this continuous unfolding of infinite richness.
Thirdly, there's a quality of 'beyond words'. Sometimes there's a wonderful moment when you first see a picture when you have not categorised it as being this or that. This sense of un-categorisation - like being 'wonder-struck' - is very precious; you can see everything very clearly in the painting, but you are not thinking about it. It would be wonderful if we could simply allow paintings to resonate - or radiate - and not jump to any conclusions...
To put it simply, there's a flat table with a polished surface on which I pour the paint mixture. Then I pull the paper, face down, around in the paint, experimenting with different movements. On lifting the paper, an area of colour remains. You have to repeat this process several times and eventually you select one and leave it to dry. Of course, it is not a straight block of colour; there are areas which are less dense and the white ground of the paper comes through. This variation of tone creates the impression of sculptural depth. Then you add another colour, repeating a similar process.
Partly it was wanting to create broad strokes of colour that were evidence of the artist's presence yet also neither mechanical nor self-indulgent. I wanted the colour to be personal and natural but at the same time not about the personality or emotion of the artist. In this sense I feel a link with both Surrealism, and its adoption of accident in the artistic process, and with 'readymades', in that the artist's role is as much to select as to create.
What also draws me to this technique is that it is a continuing discovery. It feels truly creative, in the sense that you never really know what's going to happen and you learn as you go along. It's very much about working with the materials, playing around with different conditions and allowing the most beautiful accidents to happen.