Revisiting Neo-Expressionism, and Looking Closer to Home

As I mentioned previously, I had realised that the formalist approach was limiting, in that it’s not an approach designed for expressionism. I wanted to work in a way which was more intuitive, and could express my feelings in a simple way which could appeal to a wide range of people. Of course, I was still wanting to use non-toxic mediums, but I hadn’t really experimented with watercolour and acrylic.

So I purchased some hardboard and gum tape with the intention of building up grounds with blending and blotching techniques. The resulting textures I could then gaze at for a while and anthropomorphise whatever figures and forms I see. I was getting into various conspiracy theories at the time, and these kind of became source material for the works, which were devoid of colour, for the dual purpose of making the process simpler, and expressing feelings of despair which were associated with working a lowly part time job and needing some welfare to supplement my income.

The meek shall inherit the debt     Austerity Measures


I continued exploring the same themes while beginning to bring in colour, especially by way of water soluble crayons and acrylic.

Treadmill    triangle circle square


I was enjoying these much more, but still felt like they were a means to an end. They are imitations, especially of Jean Michel Basquiat, from whom I was definitely learning helpful things, but whose style i also wanted to divorce myself from a bit.

I decided to look a little closer to home for inspiration for how to move forward. I took the time to watch a few documentaries on New Zealand artist Ralph Hotere, whose ingenuity gave me some good ideas. He uses words in his work, and he manages to merge minimalist style with expressionism. I’ve also been lucky to have been exposed to the paper assemblages of James Robinson, who really exploits paper in ways which allow for the element of surprise akin to that of how I imagine the alchemists of old went about their work.

He’s also a fellow chigong student, and introduced me to Yuan Gong, a simpler style of chigong invented by Yuan Tze, which I have since begun to learn and practise.

These two artists, along with Shane Cotton, have managed to continue along the same line as Colin McCahon, in the way that they explore the sacred and the sublime aspects of New Zealand life without resorting to obvious and over-used “Kiwiana”, as so many here are like to do.

During this period I picked up another part time job, so another challenge these days is managing my time so that I can continue to be productive with both poetry and painting.

This almost brings us up to present day, where I find myself trying to find the best way for me to do all of the things I want to in painting, and to make it cost effective.

Getting Back into Painting after Arthritis

Now that my physical and psychological states were on the improve, I decided to return to the painting, but knew I would need a new style and technique. Having a love of words, I had been wanting to try to incorporate them into my visual art for quite some time, but just didn’t know how, or in what way.

I had seen the film “Basquiat” on the life and art of 1980s New York painter Jean Michel Basquiat, which opened my eyes up to styles like Neo-Expressionism, Art Brut, and even childrens’ art. I was also looking more at NZ artists Colin McCahon, Ralph Hotere, Phiip Trusttum, and James Robinson, who all had different ways of using words in their paintings.

I set out to imitate ways they were doing this, but had the idea to also bring in some mathematics and references to science.

Here are some of my first steps into that unfamiliar realm:

science 2008 resize       shadow 2008 resize

music is... for email      thankyou 2009 copy

to critic 2009 copy

aum 2009 copy


So, as you can see, two things are obvious: my intention to get away from detailed rendering, and the way that they all look quite different, and so I was having trouble thematically, technically, and stylistically.

I also had the urge to want to communicate my journey into Chigong:

wall squat 2010 copy     TIME IS AN USHER 2010 copy

stretching qi 2010 copy


These works were A2 size, and done with a big fat calligraphy brush, and the only thing that remotely links them to the other works was the addition of my own words, which were sometimes in the form of poetry.

A friend and I applied for and received a creative communities grant through the Christchurch city council to have a joint show, at Gallery O in the Arts Centre, which we called “Cultivation”. I didn’t sell any work, but the fact that it was a public gallery meant we manned it ourselves, and it was interesting talking to people about their perceptions of different works. There was enough encouragement to make me want to continue along this path, I was just foggy on how to go about it.