‘You know there’s no way l can handle a cage, man!’ ~ Bodhi
Return to the Fields
I grew up in a council house in a village on Dartmoor overlooking a beautiful valley we simply referred to as ‘the fields’ where we would spend many an hour building tree houses, attempting ninja moves, wild swimming and exploring the terrain free as birds. The fields seemed a world apart from the village with all its rules and in many ways to us harboured mysteries akin to ancient myths and folklore. I was creative as a child; I particularly enjoyed drawing cartoons and was very good at theatre. My parents also like to remind me about the time I ‘Jackson Pollocked’ their bedroom with Mum’s nail varnish! It was Thatcher’s 80s so tough times for those in the low income bracket but, although my parents struggled a lot financially (divorcing when I was quite young), Dartmoor was a truly magical place to have spent a childhood. The wonderful feeling of freedom and creativity amid nature experienced by my brother, friends and me remains, I think, the single biggest influence behind my work as a ‘grown-up’ artist.
I was a rebellious indie-kid who came of age in the 90s (another physical confrontation with my father led to getting kicked out of home, aged 16, during my GCSEs, thus underachieving at school big time but that’s another story!). Early on it was all things indie and grunge – from Senseless Things, Ride, the Cure, Nirvana and L7 (and outrageous shows like The Word) to the dub and spaced out electronica of Mad Professor, Dub Warriors and the Orb. I remember discovering the golden era of hip hop from A Tribe Called Quest and the Beastie Boys to Public Enemy and the punkish gangtsa rap from groups like NWA. It was BMX, skateboards, Super Nes and Street Fighter 2 in an era of Strictly Jungle and The Edge mixtapes, late night cruising country back roads of Devon, high as fuck and trippin’ on shrooms, boppin’ to the D’n’b riddims of Hype, Nicky Blackmarket, Micky Finn, Darren Jay and more! Most of all, I’ll never forget the first time I heard Demon’s Theme on LTJ Bukem’s Logical Progression compilation, it blew my fuckin’ mind and got me into DJing! There was Bristol’s Trip hop and D’n’b scene from Massive Attack to Roni Size’s Full Cycle Records. There was the time we got loved-up to see Leftfield’s Paul Daley do a set at Plymouth Warehouse (with Fabio in the back room) and my first crowd surf was at a Prodigy gig on speed. We had music with energy, diversity and spirit that made it genuinely exciting to be young.
At college I encountered the barminess of Brit Art while visiting the now infamous Sensations exhibition at the Saatchi Gallery. I recall being particularly drawn to the paintings of Fiona Rae and around this time decided the dream was to be an artist. After college I lived rent-free in a village pub while working in the bar and kitchen, deferred a place at uni, saved some money and travelled Australia and New Zealand. I attained a Bachelor’s from the Nottingham Trent University and later got my MA at Central Saint Martins, London. The former I spent most of my time in record shops (spinnin’ a mixture of dub and intelligent drum ‘n’ bass on Nottingham’s Fly FM and various bars and clubs); the latter I discovered that I don’t much care for the capital’s insipid art scene. The ensuing angry and disenchanted experimental years eventually led to a return to my roots, as it were, i.e. I found myself increasingly drawn to landscapes, in particular the coast and countryside of my native Devon, contemplating romantic ideas of beauty, unity and connectedness taking interest in the work of Jung, Eastern philosophy and art of the early modernists. This, coupled with my love of underground dance music, helped coin the term ‘dub spectrum.’
In recent years, I ran a couple of studios while working a mixture of jobs in mental health and teaching at a language school in Exeter. During this time, I undertook various projects and collaborations as well as exhibited paintings in Exeter, Paris and London. My paintings also got reviewed in French magazines and radio shows and a Russian student in Moscow contacted me to ask if she could reference some of my work in her PhD thesis! Writing was becoming a more prominent feature of my work and, previously while in London, I’d had some poems feature in a few online publications (none of which exist anymore, unfortunately); later I took to fly-posting various pieces around Exeter, Plymouth and Bristol (partly as a means to tackle crippling anxiety – another long story!). It would be in my second studio in Exeter that I began writing a novel, which drew extensively from personal and professional experiences of mental health. At this point, I had also started experimenting with making short films that drew from various bits of writing, some of which features in the book. After finishing a draft of Adrift in Amnesia, I packed my rucksack, grabbed a sketchbook and embarked on a road trip from Marrakech to Porto. I later wrote a second book, The Cycle Diaries, while living on Dartmoor – a long-form poem of which samples can be found here. Extracts from Adrift in Amnesia can be found here.
If you would like to get in touch, please email me at: unityofkana(at)gmail(dot)com
truth is vibe
Update 2021: Living on Dartmoor during the first lockdown – going for long walks amid springtime bloom, mountain-biking through the woods with roe deer and buzzards for company, reading tonnes of books, hearing nothing but birdsong outside my bedroom window, getting off social media and watching hardly any TV – made me realise how much I want to live closer to nature and that I’m really not a city person at heart (too many rules and not enough trees). I’ve always fancied living by the coast and I moved to Cornwall after lockdown one to study a diploma in Personal Training, while working part-time on a psychiatric ward, with a view to progressing into being an Exercise Referral Specialist with the NHS. Not doing much visual art at the moment, but would love to hear from anybody interested in either Adrift in Amnesia or The Cycle Diaries. I have started a second novel though it’s kind of on the back burner while I’m studying.