Artist Statement



Memory plays a large part in fashioning our personalities and psychological being.  Memories of past traumatic events are delivered to the present via a compulsive repetition, automatically and without control, stimulating the senses and reviving ghosts of our past. My work is ontological and I have been influenced by personal life experiences and events. Many of my personal memories are joyous and reassuring, while others are fleeting glimpses of a distant past and some are disconcerting and repetitive, delivered to consciousness, without provocation. These semblances of experience have for me become effective as agents of creativity. 


The cathartic nature of my work acts to purge the past and promote reconstruction by exposing my own vulnerability. Part of that process involves an attempt to stimulate a personal connection with the viewer. I have explored the effects of memory through various media including sculpture, image formation and time-based media. My creative methods include appropriating found objects and materials, some of which have direct connections to events while others are imbued with symbolic or metaphorical significance.  By experimenting with unusual and diverse materials, many of which are appropriated from among my agricultural and industrial background, I have found new and creative possibilities of representation. 


My art practice has become a form of self-portraiture via the medium of my memory. The seeds of past experiences are sown in memory. These seeds can grow into either a productive crop or invasive weeds. As they germinate, green shoots of thought develop to produce nourishing food or all-consuming weeds. As I tend my field of memories, I decide which seedlings to encourage by nurturing them and, where necessary and perhaps unconsciously, I suppress the unwanted species. By measured attention, the crop matures to produce a fulfilling yield.    


Curiously, despite the organic underpinnings of my life experience, I find comfort in the precision of geometric regularity. This need for structure manifests itself in my work.


In earlier work, I explored the hidden addiction of excess sugar and society’s obsession with soft drinks.  At the more personal level, my current work has addressed my consumption of calorific drinks over a six-year-long period.  Each of the six faces of the cube of metallic residue of drinking represents a year of my life. All that is left to show for the prolonged craving is the empty aluminium cans; a vague reminder of everyday consumption relegated to a distant memory. The compaction of the lower layers displays the concentrated mass bearing down from the upper part of the sculpture. Similarly, as a representation of memory, the passage of time consolidates memories from the distant past, amalgamating them into a compressed mass.   


In another work I experimented with different methods of deconstruction of a car and various video techniques. I have slowed the motion, giving more time for the viewer to assimilate this destructive act, a process which has its own aesthetic merits. I see beauty in unfolding destruction. Within the act of reconstruction, I create order from chaos and contentment from discomfort. This reconciles the vulnerability that accompanies the exposure of my innermost thoughts and feelings.


As a generality, I am happy to amalgamate diverse processes of contemporary art practice. I often experiment with the process of production, distilling thoughts, extrapolating them and introducing the concept of chance, itself symbolic of life-changing, emotionally charged events. By this approach, constructed and discovered narratives are born. I have found these narratives, born from personal memories and expressed in works of art, to have significance in that they have contributed to a growing understanding that my personal life has to be tended with the same care and openness as I have always devoted to the organic welfare of my farm, its crops and its animals.    




Photo courtesy of WS Carson Photography

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© Thomas McNeill