Before starting the residency at Freemason’s Hall, I knew very little about the craft. I had the same misconceptions that most outsiders have: that it is a dark, shady and secretive organisation. But this, I was soon to discover, could not be further from the truth.
When I first visited the building I was immediately impressed with the architecture and collection of exquisite paintings. It seemed to be a place that respected the past and traditions of previous generations and yet was incredibly contemporary. This I felt, was similar to the art that I was looking to create, and a place which would inform my practice.
I paint from life, using as many traditional techniques as possible, but I firmly consider myself a contemporary artist and reject any label such as “classical” or “traditional” as this sets up a power structure within the art world which seeks to separate my peers from the mainstream artworld.
We are part of a new movement in art, which does not seek to break with the past, or co-opt it; an art that seeks to elevates craft to an equal status with fine art through practice and discipline; an art very much grounded in the present moment, acknowledging that it cannot escape its history and yet, no artist can escape their time either.
All of this can be applied to contemporary freemasonry. While a mason is performing a ritual, he is using the past to create a moment which grounds him in the present. By reciting a text, you are drawing on three hundred years of tradition, and yet here you are, in that particular place, at that particular time, reciting those lines, and by partaking in that ritual, you the mason, have created a unique moment which can never happen ever again.
This is how I approach painting. For me, the act of doing it is more important than the final object that i have created, as doing it adds value to my life. When visiting Freemasons’ Hall, it is easy to assume that masonry is about the ornate clothing, expensive objects and visually impressive ceremonies, but scratch a little deeper and you’ll see that all of this is is not true. All of this merely supports and adds to the experience of freemasonry, enjoyed by thousands of people across the globe, and it is the teaching and values which the craft imparts which are actually most important.