When I originally started to develop these drawings and paintings of motorways I held in my mind Bruce Springsteen’s song, ‘Stolen Car’ as a sort of ‘working title’ and guide to the emotional tone I wanted to evoke. It’s a particularly sad and mournful song that deals with the emotional isolation of the song’s narrator as he reflects on memories of his past life and his crumbling relationship. In an admittedly clichéd way I imagined him driving this ‘stolen car’ underneath these motorways, or parked up in silence, or listening to some late night radio show, in his mind walking ‘the thin line between stability and that moment when time stops and everything goes to black’, in the same way that Springsteen has written about his bleaker songs, ‘When the things that connect you to your world- your job, your family, friends, your faith, the love and grace in your heart- fail you.’ It’s a feeling I’ve experienced, and I’m sure one we all have to one degree or another, at times along the way, and I have often found myself in this location, underneath the M5 just outside West Bromwich, my hometown, walking with just my thoughts for company, in an attempt to deal with the feelings that can often seem all consuming. Sometimes you just need to keep walking or keep driving.
As this series of works has developed over the last eighteen months, that working title has stuck and here it is now committed as the title for this exhibition. It still seems apt, as that song and Bruce’s words and music, with its obsession with cars and highways and their metaphoric use for broken relationships and forgotten or lost dreams, has formed a continual backdrop in the studio as I’ve attempted to create my first serious body of landscape work. What started as an interest in exploring formal concerns in painting, and in depicting the so-called ‘edgelands’ of landscape, the nowhere zone between city and countryside, I grew up in, has developed quite unexpectedly into a body of work that steps out of the shadows of the dark and hidden passages and surrounding bridges, and cast by the lights that often appear out of reach, and more about the mental ‘edgelands’ I often occupy, as I find myself mapping a different sort of terrain altogether.
'Stolen Car', charcoal on paper, 50 x 70cms, 2011