As an artist I have been developing systems to use paint as a sculptural material for the last 15 years. The simple reason for this is that I don't like the limits imposed by the traditional flat surface that you paint onto. I do want to engage the material of painting though. So I've released the paint into three dimensions by disposing of the canvas, and in the process I have developed some fairly complex systems of sculpting with paint. These often involve casting nuts and bolts out of paint, and using them to hold the work together. More recently I have sought new textures to apply to my works, to bring the real world into what was otherwise a purely abstract studio practice...
In 2009, whilst on an artist's residency in Shanghai, a friend persuaded two soldiers at an army firing range to shoot a few sheets of paint for me. The intention had been to gather some texture with geopolitical references. The resulting bullet holes were spectacular and unmistakeable flower like shatters, their beautiful forms denying the physical reality of their making. After finishing several works made with these shot pieces of paint, I decided that to continue this strain of work, the idea ought to be pushed as far as possible.
With the sentiment in mind, that the most militarily and politically significant people were in Afghanistan, in August 2010 I flew to Kabul, with the intention of casting Taliban bullet holes. Two suicide bomb attack sites had been located for me, at which we were able to confirm that the bullet holes were Taliban, as opposed to security forces or police. The first site was an attack on a private security firm in a residential area of Kabul. At the start of the Taliban's assault on this building, two drivers for the security firm were shot and killed inside a car in the street. The works in my current exhibition are from the casts of bullet holes made as the Taliban shot through and around this car, killing the drivers and pock marking the wall behind.
Amongst the dusty rubble at the second site we visited, we found an English language surgical manual which had been machine gunned. The book covered subjects from scrubbing up, to complex operations and delivering babies. The destruction of such a book summed up the horror and severity of the attack, and I'm fortunate to be able to show it in my current exhibition.
In the Taliban works, the sheets of paint are not shot directly, the bullet holes are a preserved record of the damage made in anger on the street, cast on site with a fast curing silicone putty. The texture differs from the conchoidal fracture of a bullet passing through paint, as the casting material takes the texture of clay bricks. The physical realities of the Taliban works are compelling in part because the paint is so convincing in emulating the texture of a Kabul wall.
The exhibition Taliban Bullet Holes and Crude Oil Silkscreens is at the Aubin Gallery, 64-66 Redchurch Street, Shoreditch until 24 December.