I see my process almost like the construction of a theatrical or filmic idea of 'mise-en-scène'. Firstly this involves finding a house that I'd like to use as a location. I then plan how I might want to work with it, often starting with a vague narrative or idea of the kind of characters I want to occupy it. I start acquiring props – usually strange little objects which either have a decorative or domestic purpose, or can be used in a symbolic way. At the same time I find models and get clothes and wigs for them to wear.
We then spend a day on location where I photograph the women engaging with the house in some way or performing different roles. I take hundreds of photos, which I then start editing in the studio. These then lead on to lots of drawings and studies for potential paintings. At some point along the way, an accurate representation of the original scenario I set up is left behind and the intention of the resulting paintings overtakes. The finished paintings are often quite far removed from the source material, as architectural space is moved around and lighting manipulated to create spaces that are imbued with an odder atmosphere.
When I work with models I look for different things for each series of works, though often they have something quite distinctive about them. There is a model that I've used several times over the past few years because I find that she can be lots of different kinds of characters, and she's got an amazing collection of clothes and shoes, which she lets me raid. I starting by using life models but in recent years I've tended to opt for actors or people with performance experience so that they can interpret my ideas in an interesting way, and are comfortable working with other people. It usually ends up being quite good fun, if a little surreal.
I often try to select props and costumes that will lend a somewhat incongruous element to what we are seeing. So the costumes might not make sense for the activity, or the objects I've added in might sit at odds with the rest of the interior. The painting An Arm's Length is a good example of this where the inclusion of the red backscratcher on the table adds an element of 'out-of-placeness' to the otherwise harmonious interior where everything else has its place.
A lot of the props I use are loosely symbolic or make art historical references, for example there are often forbidden fruit, classical vases, and other general references as well as specific objects lifted from favourite paintings and/or artworks re-imagined on the walls