Tierra Incognita (2005-10)

Tierra Incognita written into early maps of the world, means Unknown Lands, at least, unknown to those making the map. There are few such places left on the globe, but psychologically, such territory exists in abundance. In a certain way, we all face unknown lands, unsure of what the future holds and what sort of world it could become. Global warming will potentially create a new Tierra Incognita.
I believe art should confront us, not be a palliative, an ornament. Art charts the areas of concern that we know about, and also importantly, those areas we avoid visiting, the Tierra Incognita of our own minds.
I was asked recently, did I consider the ‘viewer’ when making an artwork, did I bear in mind how they might read the image. The answer is yes, but only as one consideration amongst many. As I work, there is a constant flux of thoughts, ideas, interpretation and counter interpretation, decisions based on formal elements, which then have bearing on the concept. The message; is it too ambiguous, or too pedantic, or naïve or boring…. Is this really what I think? A lot of time is spent contemplating the image, trying to seek out every possible reading, the apparent and the subliminal. A great deal of that which surfaces in the work comes from my own interest, experience or reading. From politics, to history, to cultural elements, to art history, to myth. Works of art are always emanations, consequences, effects, which radiate out from that centre which is always the individual, the artist.
'Imagined Countries...all made up'.
As Oscar Wilde said.. "A map that does not include Utopia is not even worth glancing at."
'Utopia' a name thought up by Thomas More whilst staying in Antwerp in 1515, it literally means 'nowhere land' or 'a good place to stay'. He wrote a book about this place.
Words attached to drawings.. word learning for children and language learners..words attached to places.. these reach an apotheosis in the Mappa Mundi, the locating of known and unknown events, empires, cities and rivers and lakes.. on a piece of terrain.. all on parchment or paper, all within the grasp of the human mind..the world made tangibile.. truly imagined.
As a child I spent hours in my bedroom drawing and making maps.. maps of imagined places which became one imagined place. Because over the years the place became quite distilled in my memory, quite fixed. It's a country with a history and geography, a political ethos, religions that waxed and waned and hero's, cultural and otherwise. It has its artists, its footballers, its film industries, its literature.. it's multi ethnicity. As I became enthralled by football, between the ages of eleven and thirteen, this country also sprang up with leagues and each city had a team, a fanzine was created etc.. as I moved into my pop music phase, then this country also developed a chart, music press and recording companies and rock festivals. Next came a film industry, with stars.
This country, or several countries, had histories, ethnicities and politics. As I fell in love with other parts of the world that I visited in real life, this country came in parts to resemble those places. Bits were like north America, others like parts of Spain .. others still like... Wales and Ireland.
This country could never be manifested in my art.. it is too personal somehow..and even now I cannot bring myself to give out it's name.
Why do artists create utopia's?.. more importantly, why create 'failed utopia's' . Is it because the artist is more honest than the philosophical dreamer, or simply that, for an artist, the very act of creating an 'utopia' is pleasure enough without the need to gain pleasure from making it an ideal one. The pleasure comes not from the beauty of the Idea, but from the beauty of creativity.. with all the faults built in. The faults are necessary. If we have to go for a creationist view of the world, that indeed is the way Yahwe seems to have done it!.