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Hsien decorated panels, drawings & prints

Hsien Face (revised).PNG
Hsien Greyster 55 x 55cm.PNG
HSIEN POSITIVE DRAWING b&w revise - 2017.jpg
11 July 2019 Bosom flower (B&W)_edited.png

Click here to download the  Hsien Prints and Drawings Catalogue

Your work is usually more figurative and often contains or alludes to narratives. Why is this generation of images different?


The biggest departure is that something other than just me is improvising these shapes. The meaning - if that’s what you choose to call it - is attached or attributed later by the viewer. For once, I’m not thinking about the departure or calculating the destination. My hand is less present. 


So, the meaning is defined by a kind of reverse - engineering?


Exactly. I can’t help it when people say “Oh, this reminds me of quasi-African decoration.” Or another person feels that there is a spirit of something Chinese or Japanese lurking there. A Ghanaian friend of mine swears that I ’ve been influenced by Adinkra symbols. Now this is where my mind starts telling me that pure form and decoration is connected to the DNA of creativity. Ancestral Ugandan invention is a definite presence there. If you really look closely, there is Pictish stonework in some of the images. I didn’t intend that. My ex-wife sees elements of the worm holes and quark anatomies in the work. Haldane Martin thinks that some look Aboriginal.


It can’t have been easy abandoning your usual approach.


On the contrary. It’s like improvising music. The act of decorating and describing shapes from the subconscious liberates what I now believe are sacred objects. That’s why I've e called them Hsien objects, panels or shapes.

What is a “Hsien” precisely?

Look, as you know, I’m no hippy or cosmically orientated type, but I’ve come to the conclusion that a common humanity is somehow bound up in these images. I see them as road signs if you like, that suggest that all is well (or not well) on this detour I’m on. In that context, I looked for a principle or analogy that fits. In an old book on the Seven Kingdoms of Ancient China, I found reference to these immortal creatures that the early Taoists felt had unique powers. Let me quote here: “Early Taoist sages, including Chuang-tzu, referred perhaps allegorically to Hsien - immortal beings with magical powers; some followers interpreted these references literally and devoted themselves to discovering the “drug of immortality” and prolonging their lives through breath control, yoga like exercises, and abstention from grains. Adepts in these practices, though appearing to die, were believed to achieve physical immortality and admission to heavenly realms inaccessible to the spirits of mere mortals. The pursuit of this state gave rise to a vast body of Taoist alchemical and other esoteric techniques and lore.

So, these new pictures depict relics of a sort?


Any decent painting or sculpture ideally has an otherworldly quality to it, not so? The venerated object, whether it's a sceptre, an orb, a fetish, relic, tattoo, sportscar, necklace, an iPod, garment or crown of state possesses, projects or wields power often beyond or greater than its physical appearance, right? Its job is to attract, summon, focus or magnify sensations. And it is singly able to transport or relocate your sense of location. In fact, a good Hsien object, shape or pattern to my mind, should relocate or even dislocate the viewer’s whereabouts by sight, touch or both. Am I making sense?


You’re implying that the series arose through no intellectual process or discourse? In effect abandoning coherent narrative? 


I woke up one morning and made the first drawings apropos of nothing. The designs emerge from the sum of my sub - conscious, my DNA, my nurture, nature, whatever - and are the assimilative residue of repeated acts of faith. How does that sound? A bit esoteric. Not really. In actual fact, recent quantum theory suggests that common human motifs might leak through the fabric/ether of experience defying culture, conditioning, time or place.

Well thank goodness for that.

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