Whenever I'm in London I try to go and see the classical marbles in the British Museum. These extraordinary artworks, created as early as 500BC in Ancient Greece and Rome, are often severely damaged, with arms or even face missing; but this unintended effect renders them even more enigmatic and powerful for me, giving them an intense melancholy.
I'm very interested in the notion of a 'parallel past' peopled by ghosts who are adrift in space and time. I base my paintings on found images – old family snap shots retrieved from car–boot sales for instance. I'm often moved and intrigued by the content of the photos: how did the people get from such a warm happy moment in time to a discarded lot in a car boot sale? In my effort to capture this notion my figures are often blurred or have parts missing – it's a visual metaphor for the idea of 'memory' that I'm exploring.
Richard Unwin writes:
David Storey is a Brighton based artist whose emotive paintings explore a shifting world of half-remembered characters, forgotten places and lost moments. Playing with our appreciation of time, the scenes he represents resonate with our memories of experiences such as childhood holidays - of days on the lake or down by the beach - yet the characters who occupy them could as easily belong to the generations that have come before us. In part, the paintings might make us hanker back to some perfect day or better time, but these are not studies in nostalgia, there is also a darker edge here: a sense of something gathering overhead or an unexpected turn in circumstances waiting to enter from off-stage. Here too is a lingering melancholy, a sadness that merges with the still, calming quality of much of the work.
Brought to life from complex layers of paint that Storey often manipulates with his fingers, sponges and rags, the artist's work has an uncanny ability to mould counterpoints into a single image, such that happiness and sadness can co-exist in the same space, or a moment of quiet reflection might be wrapped in a wider context of turmoil. Likewise, while the paintings are powerful, psychologicaly-charged pieces whose colours, contours and textures appear to brood with a deeply personal meaning, there remains a domestic commonality that enables us to share in the emotions they evoke. The juxtaposition of opposites is similarly apparent in the way Storey works, with an initial idea perhaps developing over years through sketches and drafts, whereas the finished painting itself will be completed in hours or days.
The final burst that comes as Storey executes a painting is something he has clearly honed to a fine art, achieving an economy of content and composition that emphasises the emotional aura of the work. This expressionistic approach sees backgrounds that cross into abstraction provide ballast to the figurative centre ground. Working in this way, Storey is able to channel a diverse range of artists from Walter Sickert and Frank Auerbach, to the more purely abstract work of Mark Rothko, whilst still being influenced by old masters such as Rembrandt and Caravaggio. In a contemporary context, Storey's paintings therefore sit well in a climate of renewed appreciation for the technical and artistic skill required to produce figurative work, but where the 20th century developments in abstraction and representation remain equally relevant.
Having grown-up in West Cumbria, a landscape he describes as "a bleak coastal plain welded onto the side of the Lake District", and now living in Brighton, the influence of the sea brings its own weight to bear on Storey's art. The dramatic possibility of changes in light and weather on the coast, of sunsets breaking through across the rain-soaked Irish Sea, and the expansive plain of sea and sky, have been harnessed in much of his work: whether overtly in a very conscious way, or more subtly in the simple contrast of light and shade. A sensation similar to the way in which standing on the coast can make us feel small or isolated is also something that recurs in many paintings, the composition focused on solitary moments that might quickly slip back into the ether that envelops them. It is here, on the edge of passing between being and unbeing, in the hope of preserving something that cannot truly be frozen in this way, that Storey's world seems to hover. The fact that the faces of his characters are often blurred, as though caught in a passing glance, reminds us that these images are, or were, part of a moving world. With that comes the knowledge that we cannot go back to these moments, irrevocably severed from them as we are by the flow of time. And yet, perhaps…
Richard Unwin, Fine Art Consultant
"My paintings are an exploration of memory. They offer glimpsed or half-remembered figures and faces – 're-imagined ancestors' recovered from a personal archive of the forgotten.
I come from West Cumbria, which is an isolated, bleak coastal plain, welded onto the side of the Lake District. The municipal buildings and churches are mainly Victorian and built of sandstone that turns black when it rains... and it rains an awful lot there. This melancholy and primordial world is the one that often features in my work.
An idea can come from anywhere: old photos, TV, books, the internet etc. I then embark on a process of unlocking the idea through a series of sketches and experiments. This journey of development and discovery can take anything from 5 days to 5 years until a kind of alchemy takes place and things seem to harmonise of their own accord in a way that can be very rewarding.
I paint in an expressionistic way using rags and sponges because the physical marks and textures are a fundamental element of what I am trying to achieve. The challenge for me though is to retain an economy of execution – an effortless effort."
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© 2018 David Storey