Graham Boyd
The Drifters

Graham Boyd in his studio

'I always need to take an idea as far as it's potential will allow... and until I feel I can too readily predict the outcome.'. I do 'nt think that creativity exists beyond that point.

Why should I continue ? It'd just be boring. So I bring in the changes.

These works done since 2014, are another shift in direction. Beforehand I' d be working quite freely a, la prima, using rollers and palette knives 'to apply a thick and malleable impasto gel to create a palpable surface. It was an expressive sensual and frankly ' Dionysian way of working, all about touch,which I love and dont want to abandon. But I felt the need for a more considered or ' Apollonian ' element to offset against it. I don't want texture just for texture's sake. So now I'm increasingly using the brush rather than the palette knife,slowly building up washes of colour in thin transparent layers.

I'm also using the grid as a structural counterpoint following a period of making constructions,I did a series of meticulous, systemic grid drawings ( recently exhibited at Parndon Mill ).But now my grids have become more painterly, more reliant on my nervous system rather than measured control, with colour playing an increasing role. A lot of this new work centres on the balance between the grid as a skeletal armature and the ' skin ' set against or over it ( either in thick gel, or in thin washes or a combination ). The painting 's done when the two opposing elements cohere. It's challenging b ut I'm very happy to be fighting this battle.

It' not about routinely colouring squares.It's about feeling Verticals and horizontals embody stability, diagonals convey movement. I might start by drawing with charcoal, or begin a grid whil'st applying white gesso primer with colour of whatever viscosity, soft or sharp-edged, the colours interlocking with each of the opposing colours. There are many variables as the grid and colour elements combine to set up a momentum.

To counterbalance the grid, I sometimes literally disrupt the process in a kind of act of exasperation maybe pouring on a diluted mixture or even heavy impasto- a bit like a mudslide onto a railway track. ( I work with the canvas on the floor so I can move around it as it progresses )The grid can be almost washed away and then its faint image reclaimed in another way. All this to challenge the predictable and to take chances. There is the potential problem of working over heavy gel textures once they've set .But such risks are part of the commitment to push forward into some place I have'nt been before, even if I have to abandon the painting. You have to take risks to break through what the late Peter Schmidt called "The Good Taste Barrier "

These recent paintings are taking longer, after that lengthy spell of "a la prima "- say four or five weeks, or even three years, off and on..Sometimes I spend the best part of a day in here, just looking at a painting, trying to figure out how to progress it. I cant even get out of the chair..You have to outstare the painting, to know all about what its up to. Then however much you may treasure some areas you have to make changes to reach a point of resolution, where you are unable to add another mark.

I want each picture to be like an energy field of charged particles held in a state of what Mondrian called " Dynamic Equilibrium " The forces represented are the forces at work in our natures. We are volatile and complex creatures- made up of atoms, all pervading and universal.This is what I'm trying to reflect.

I shall just go on with this until I feel I'm repeating myself and quoting myself. But more than ever, there are so many possibilities in what I do that I cant see myself running out of options.I I've just turned 90 and cant imagine what life would be if I could'nt paint.

Graham was talking to the broadcaster and painter,

Mark Halliley