As a process painter, I don’t often make public reference to my private influences, nor do I think of them as particularly relevant in contemporary process art, but after so many years of investigation, I decided to acknowledge what is behind and always with me: the coal miners in my family working underground. Therefore, ‘Surface Work’, the latest series in the progression, which I began in 2017 and first installed in a derelict building yard in Montejaque, Spain, is a homage to the manual labour of these men, who repeated their laborious, monotonous, restricted movements digging in the confined space and darkness of the deepest coal mine in Scotland, The Glencraig Colliery, at 610 metres below ground.
I rub and burnish, smear and shove my crushed pigment, oil and cold wax mixtures in layers of charcoal on charcoal, graphite on charcoal, ivory black on graphite, graphite on ivory black. It is a direct response to the tradition among coal miners in some areas of Scotland including the region of Fife where my family mined. After each shift, the miners were brought up from “the pit” covered in coal dust. Their wife or children would wash them in a tin bath, scrubbing their bodies clean except for their spine. There, black dust was burnished into their skin and after time became permanent. They believed it made their back stronger. White shirts, black jackets, Sunday Best clothes covering black paintings.

These frottage are part of the Burnished Surface series, in which I constrain my process further by using only charcoal and oil on paper, burnishing the surface and repeating with the Venus mount of my hand to create extreme variety of surface.