‘Songhai’ is an acrylic painting on canvas 75cms width x 75 cms height. It is part of a series of paintings made to celebrate the colour, light and sound of different European and non-European cultures. The Songhai peoples are West Africans found primarily throughout Mali in the Western Sudanic region. The name Songhai is historically neither an ethnic nor a linguistic designation, but a name for the ruling caste of the Songhai Empire. The Songhai Empire was the largest and last of the three major pre-colonial empires to emerge in West Africa. From its capital at Gao on the Niger River, Songhai expanded in all directions until it stretched from the Atlantic Ocean (modern Senegal and Gambia) to what is now Northwest Nigeria and central Niger. The painting is evocative of the tribal and primitive. Other sources which inspire these particular paintings are varied and many, including historical and ancient signs, symbols and motifs, mythology , North African art, American Abstract Expressionism, John Hoyland, Paul Gauguin, Howard Hodgkin, Helen Frankenthaler, Barbara Rae, Hans Hoffman, Alan Davie, Corneille and the COBRA group. The boundaries of what can be managed in a painting present a constant challenge to me and through a process of layering, cancellation and improvisation my intention is always to test such boundaries. The compositions are structured to allow for incidental visual melodies in the same way a musician can create a sense of meaning and atmosphere through incident and improvised sound. The paintings incorporate visual melodies that have a principal part in the visual harmony.
I work on custom made frame stretched 8oz unprimed cotton canvas. The unprimed canvas allows dichlorotriazine dyes to saturate and bleed into the working area. I work over the dyed canvas using brushes, knives, cloths and squeegees to manage layers of acrylic paint. It is a continuous process of ‘correction’. At different stages I add crushed sea shells to the paint to create heavier surfaces. The paintings are built in layers over a period of time. I like to work on several canvasses at the same time, often returning to a previous painting to affect change and absorb influence from another source. Most of my work is made in series.
Acrylic paint, dyes, crushed sea shells, tissue paper on 8 ounce unprimed canvas