My artistic intention is to document contrasting interactions between people, which gives my work its narrative element – I enjoy letting a story unfold in my art. Travelling in my father's native Africa and growing up in London, exploring its urban chaos and ethnic mix, were what started my fascination with people. From the surroundings they create for themselves to the ensuing relationship with their environment. It is an ecological study using the medium of oil paint. My subject matter started with everyday, American society and culture in California suburbia – its inhabitants’ anxieties, repressed emotions and subcultures, as seen through my foreign eyes. After painting still life scenes, whose objects reflected my newly adopted country, I followed with my series, “Time on Your Hands”. It deals with the confined space of a strip mall and its existence as a place of escape from social reality and its consequences. The works are as much about the aesthetically interesting space of the nail salon - the harshly lit artificial environment with its candy-like knick-knacks - as the customer and the crew of nail technicians. I wondered if I could capture in paint the sense of time one devotes to receiving a manicure and investigate the environment and the people involved in this suburban ritual of femininity.
Amusingly, this detailed grooming has assumed the impression of a surgical procedure. Also interesting, is the extreme contrast between the lives led by the nail technician and her sitter who are joined in a highly tactile situation for an hour or two; a break for the Californian who is usually in their own personal space. Therefore the issue of containment is also central to my subject and I am using the nail salon and strip mall as a microcosm through which to make a statement about society and generational changes.
This work led to the “Service Industry” series, where I followed a group of Indian women training to be nail technicians at a night class in London. My more recent series deals with lives and environments in the Central Valley of California, a place of paradox: drought stricken yet one of the most agriculturally rich areas on earth; the flatlands of the valley and the adjacent peaks of the Sierra mountain range; the juxtaposition of natives and tourists. “Land Without Tourists”, is my first painting exploring how 21st century people experience and interact with the rugged and hostile, natural environments in the Sierra. Is a direct, profound connection and transcendental moment experienced or not? The issues of containment and time arise again in my work: paradoxically we are restricting and limiting our involvement with wild and open spaces. Technological distraction and efficiency has fostered self-obsession and detachment from “slow” time which results in a superficial “non-experience”. Can we still encounter a sublime moment or are we numb?