My personal journey as an artist began in my childhood. Born in 1966, I was raised on a small hill-farm in England. When not helping with chores around the farm, if the weather allowed I would be climbing trees and exploring the woods, hunting for mythical beasts and building castles from fallen branches. On rainy days or long winter nights, I could be found drawing fantastical scenes or with my head stuck in a book, reading tales and creating images of lost cities, brave warriors, mythical beasts, and epic adventures in far-flung lands.
My introduction to Angkor came as a young boy when, on my weekly trip to the village library, I found a book describing the rediscovery, by 19th century European explorers, of remarkable temple cities lost in the jungle. One of those explorers, Henri Mouhot, described in my book the temples of Angkor as “The work of giants!” I was spellbound, and Angkor became a regular fixture in my drawings and imaginings but, as fate would have it, it would be almost 40 years before I would discover the temples for myself.
I studied the science of human visual perception at Cambridge before attending fine arts college in London, training as a painter before setting off to travel through Asia, sojourning in northern India, Thailand, Indonesia, and Japan. Unfortunately, after the American War and the holocaust and ensuing civil war in Cambodia, it still wasn’t safe for foreigners to travel in much of the region and, heartbroken, I didn’t witness the marvels at the heart of Angkor until much later.
I was deeply moved by the richness of the cultures and ideas that I encountered on my travels, and was determined to weave these into my work. I spent over two decades apprenticing to traditional master craftsmen and artists, learning new techniques and exploring new art media, and developing my drawing, painting, composition, and printmaking skills far beyond what I had learned at school.
Returning to England, I met my wife Annie in 2014. She also has a deep love for Southeast Asia and, over a glass of wine one evening, we said “Why not? Let’s go!” Within weeks we had sold almost all our worldly goods, packed our dog in a crate and were on our way to Siem Reap, Cambodia, a short tuk tuk ride from the Angkor Archaeological Park, where we still live today. Annie manages a kitchen garden and teaches children, as well as mentoring parents and teachers, about sustainable agriculture as a volunteer at a local NGO. Together, we fund scholarships for underprivileged Khmer artists wishing to attend the Royal University of Fine Arts in Phnom Penh, and work with Cambodian Living Arts to stimulate creativity among a new generation of artists.
My work is inspired by the ancient Japanese philosophy of wabi-sabi, a world view that embraces transience, imperfection, and above all else authenticity. I seek the "perfectly imperfect"; I find beauty in things that are impermanent, flawed, and incomplete.
The temples of Angkor are my muse, my ibasho – the place where I feel most like myself. In my mind's eye they are made more beautiful by tides of time which have imprinted the passing of the centuries on them. To me, the physical decay and natural wear and tear of the stone does not in the least detract from their visual appeal, but rather adds to it.
This beauty is not limited to the process of decay, but can also be found at the moment of inception. Everywhere one looks in Angkor, new life is clinging to the stone, taking its first fragile steps toward becoming.
I feel that it is the changes of texture and tone that provide the space for my imagination to enter and become more involved with the place. I take joy from them and seek to use this transformation as an integral part of my work.
I started work on this Spirit of Angkor project on the first day we arrived in Cambodia, but it took me several years of dedicated research and experimentation to develop the techniques I would need to make these prints. With this body of work, I attempt to communicate my emotional and spiritual response to these ancient temples, feelings of joy and wonder enriched by my experiences and travels, inspired by my childhood dreams of adventure. I hope that each piece tells a story, a tale that invokes the beauty and the mysteries of Angkor. But I also invite you, the viewer, to join me in finishing the story with your own experiences and emotions, with your own visions of ancient places and lost civilisations.
I'd Love to Hear from You!
Reach out today and get in touch! I'm always happy to discuss my work and my experiences, and I'd love to hear about yours.
I may be away exploring temples, but I'll get back to you just as soon as I can.