Chris Shaw: Much of my work centres around trawling the internet for source material, but you told me when you were over in Weymouth that what feeds into your work is out there in towns and cities - real places that experience weather. Can you tell me something about your creative processes and how you bring the fleeting conditions 'out there' into your studio and into the paintings and objects that you make?
Fabian Peake: Flatness is one of the prime constituents of painting, and as such I am fascinated by the challenge of translating three-dimensional experiences into two dimensions for the purposes of painting. Most of the things I look at and respond to are finite objects, so I suppose I could call myself an imagist. I am interested in the conflict between images of differing characteristics whether they are from real objects or flattened phenomena. I need argument and discomfort in my paintings. Conflict rather than harmony.
The things which stimulate me occur in many different places - the real world, the world of advertising, in my head, under the sea, down a volcano or anywhere else, be it physical or mental. It would be short-sighted not to consider the internet as a source of inspiration, but thus far it is not a resource that I turn to readily. Although I use physicality as a stimulus, i.e. things I have seen in the street or viewed from a moving train, I also use imagery that is already flat, such as shadows or things on advertising hoardings. It is important, though, that these things also have some kind of context - the context of the street, for instance. I think that's why computer screen imagery is rather alien to me. The substance of the flatness is unsatisfying. The flatness is too flat!
However, my thinking is full of contradictions and I change my mind a lot. Occasionally, I use imagery from the layout of a computer screen - icons or instruction images come to mind. Wherever it comes from, the raw materials from which my work is built are only the start of the process of making a painting. Like many artists, once in the studio, I put the ideas and imagery with which I am working, through their paces. Depending on my frame of mind at the time and how I follow my instincts, a haphazard dance is embarked upon with a view or hope that something good will transpire from the uses to which the ideas are put. Starting all over again on a painting is a common pattern in my studio.
You say you could describe yourself as an imagist and this is borne out by the plywood pieces which you have titled Red Writing, Shadows and Blue Scrubbings.
This work lends weight to something as bodiless as a shadow and gives permanence to the most throwaway of doodles. Tell me about these painted plywood pieces.
What does a breath look like? Is it possible to wrestle a thought? Because I write poetry as well as paint pictures and other kinds of work, I am interested in the idea of art working in some media but not others. Something that can work perfectly coherently in one media might be nonsense or awkward in another.
In the plywood cut-outs the idea started as a kind of scribbled drawing which became formalised. The ensuing object then has the capacity to be non-object like even though its physical properties refute that. The word pieces are similar in that the utterance of language and words from a person's mouth are not visible things, but when the words are cut out and made solid a kind of anarchic poetry begins to establish itself. I am guided by what moves me; then I am in a position to follow intuitions and develop a language for the given circumstances.
There are hand-cut and machine-cut iterations of the plywood pieces aren't there?
Yes. I do not have the tools to cut out flat objects of too complicated a design, so in the case of the machine-cut ones I had to have them cut on an industrial type of machine. I made original drawings which were scanned and made ready for the laser cutter. The shapes of the scribbled images (or the overlaid handwriting pieces) were repeated on large sheets of plywood before being cut out, employing as little wastage as possible.
In the case of the handmade cut-outs, I had made drawings of shadows in the street. The shadows of lampposts with their accompanying information signs were cast on sunny days. Because these shapes were a little simpler than the Scrubbings cut-outs, I was able to hand-cut them by means of drilling hundreds of holes all round the edges of the shapes and then with a saw cut out the shape. Of course, a rather eccentric edge results from this method - the drill holes are the dominant feature of the edge. But I saw that as something beneficial and a quality that gave the cut-outs a kind of individuality. I enjoy making things by hand but I am only a partial Luddite! Where handmade approaches are impossible from one point of view or another, I will certainly use power tools.
Whether produced by hand or machine, the plywood pieces are marked and scarred with experience and touch. How do you achieve this?
The painted surfaces of these cut out shapes cannot be done in any way other than by brush. I wanted to suppress the machined quality of some of the shapes by painting many layers on to them and allowing the paint to form its natural 'spread'. A crust builds up, especially on the piece that I call Shadows.