This painting, ‘Ars longa, vita brevis”, was commissioned in 1996 for the Narthex of the Lecture theatre in the Gilbert Scott designed Whitelands College, Roehampton Institute, London
First stage – working from sketches and full scale cartoon on paper, the 60” diameter beechwood panel is prepared, covered in stretched hessian and primed. Shapes are laid down including impressions from Koonalda cave in Australia – prehistoric engravings giving us the earliest known man made marks. Here you can clearly see the fingermarks made in the sand/plaster base I am working with. As well as using my fingers I work with brushes and a variety of other tools.
Second stage – the bas relief is made from a recipe of plaster, sand and PVA to depict cave images and other human markings, as well as words and numbers. Acrylic paints are used as well as natural ochres, which I collected from ochre quarries. The painting needs to be worked on horizontally, as the plaster bas-relief takes time to dry when applied directly onto the support.
Third stage – several weeks later and the painting finally resembles the original design. Colour laser copies of bison are laid on top of muslin; hesian and paper printed with invented scripts are also put down. The Fire alarm is set off in the studio, and building evacuated during an attempt to singe material.
Final stage (three months later) – nearly completed, the painting is much heavier than it was at the start, nearly 3 months previously. During the whole period, it took 2 people to prop it up vertically whenever I needed to stand back from the painting.
Once the painting has been completed and varnished, a 3 1/2”beechwood frame is given a walnut and pine stain, and the painting set within and secured at the back. The painting now hangs in the gallery and was unveiled at the opening of the new Lecture Theatre by the Archbishop of Canterbury.