Alban Berg

I started painting at the age of 13 when my father bought me an oil painting set for Christmas.  My subject matter in those days included copies of paintings by Constable and classical composer portraits from postcards.  I was brought up on classical music, both my brothers going on to have professions in that field, and indeed it did become a big feature of my work in the coming years.

After leaving school, I went on to study art at Wimbledon School of Art and Brighton College of Art & Design, which led to teaching in the secondary sector.  Having moved with my wife, the author Sally Spedding, to Carmarthenshire in 1979, I ended up in higher education at Swansea Institute of Higher Education (now Swansea Metropolitan University) as a Principal Lecturer in Fine Art and the University of Northampton, initially as Head of Fine Art, moving on to Acting Head of School and finally as Associate Dean within the restructured School of the Arts, which included Art and Design, Music and Drama.  While all this was going on, I was painting on an almost daily basis, and continue to do so.  We moved back to Carmarthenshire in 2007.  

My painting has moved, technically at least from work in oils to that of mixed painting media, involving oil, acrylic and emulsion paint on canvas.  This presents some technical challenges, particularly in sequencing, since acrylic and emulsion are water-based, and painting over them in oil paint can be risky and unsafe in the long term.  There are benefits as well, especiallay in the comparison between the dry and matt water-based paint and the richer oil.

However, the reason behind these techniques is to give best expression to what has become my main concern and interest in painting.  This, I think, can be best described as composition or a compositional activity. By this I don't just mean the general arrangement or placing of shapes, as is generally assumed when this term is used in painting.  What really interests me is what I call the prioritising of more or less developing form inherent in my source or observed material.  This is always a carefully chosen photograph, more often than not taken by me, which must contain forms that are ripe for development.  I use this mechanical image, not because I can't be bothered to work from the "real" thing, but to give me a clear and unchanging reference point from where my compositional activity can proceed.  If I were only concerned with figuration, illustration and depiction in my painting, then the use of photographs would be quite unjustified, since their role would be reduced to a convenient prop.  But I'm not.  In trying to create some kind of visual order and optical sense to the unrealised formal relationships observed, considerations such as those are only secondary or incidental.  In this sense I am neither a figurative or abstract painter, since such labelling is irrelevant here.

I developed this activity, to a large extent, from my interest in classical and contemporary music, and its self-evident expectations, whcn it comes to musical composition.  Here, it is expected through time to develop your material and not to leave it at its expositional, or  as in the case in painting, its description or descriptive stage.  But then you only have to look at later Rembrandt and Turner in these terms to realise that there have been pockets of similar concerns going on  in some painting  for centuries.

However, my subject matter over the last few years has not involved composers and musicians, but the landscape of the UK and France.  My main influence here is the music of Debussy, and his use of open, whole tones.  My painting as a result, has become more concerned with the fleeting movement of blocks or passages of form rather than more focused elements.