Both paintings in 'Reality' were shown in an exhibition I had in 2013 at Pitzhanger Manor in London called 'In Every Dream Home'. The exhibition took its title from the Roxy Music song 'In Every Dream Home A Heartache'. The song is about our obsession with material wealth and how this is ultimately empty: we might appear to have a perfect life, but things are never that simple. I was interested in the outward projection of an aspirational lifestyle, which is really a veneer for something much more psychologically dark or perverse: a tension between a public persona and private reality.
My use of affluent properties was designed to be an insight into another world, but not one where the house is seen purely as a presentation of wealth. I'm interested in these houses and their contents as a display of taste and social status. Our homes say a lot about us and the 'grand design' house is the ultimate statement of self. I've never painted the owners because I'm less interested in representing the people that actually occupy these houses than in imagining the lives of people that might live in them.
It's fascinating visiting people in their homes and getting a chance to see inside different kinds of houses. Although I've never painted the owners, I try to bring in a lot of their personal possessions (the ornaments, artworks they collect for example) and sometimes think about aspects of their personality or the way they live in their houses as a starting point for deciding what might be the underlying narrative in a particular series of work.
Historically I've found the locations that I've used mainly through friends of friends and they're all houses that are lived in. More recently I used a location that is a regular site for film and photography shoots rather than a private dwelling. The idea of this place with no fixed narrative that would be transformed through the context in which it was used interested me as a continuation on from the way I'd been turning private domestic spaces into 'sets'.
What these places all have in common though, whether they are lived in or not, is that they are spaces of performance. Whether it's the film location, the show home, or the private house staffed by cleaners, gardeners and nannies, they are all sets in some way, spaces for projected desires and performed identities.
I draw on lots of different sources when thinking about the narratives I want to explore in my work, but cinema is definitely a huge influence. There are all the obvious references like Hitchcock, Lynch and British kitchen sink dramas, but also recent Hollywood films. I'm drawn to films that use architectural space to enhance the psychological relationship between the characters. I like Atom Egoyan's 2009 film Chloe for this reason. The family house in this film is neo-modernist, with lots of glass walls through which the characters are seen viewing one another. There's a sense of surveillance and voyeurism that is used to play out the central narrative of the film, which is about distrust, fantasy and losing control.