There is a photograph of me taken in 1995 on East 75th Street in New York City. It was the first time I’d been to the USA, and I was on a university field trip. Since I was studying Fine Art, our field trip had no agenda other than to soak up the culture of the city and go to as many galleries as possible.
It was on this trip that I started to do something that I had never really done before, but I have done a lot of since. One afternoon we were wandering around Broadway and went into the Guggenheim Soho (a branch of the Guggenheim museum that is now closed) to see an exhibition of paintings by Antoni Tàpies.
Tàpies was an abstract artist who painted with a palette of dark, earthy tones in a thick impasto, sometimes sagging under its own weight. He shunted slabs of colour next to each other, and bisected them with scratchmarks, daubs and smears. It was the first time I’d seen his work and it was somewhere between sculpture and painting and was really cool. Afterwards we all went out into the street and one of our party said “look at the pavement – it’s all Tàpies!”.
Of course, he was correct – it’s easy to think of the pavement as a single surface, the safe bit of the street instead of the road. But it is very often an uneven scarred document of engineering, roadworks and utilities. And it was at that point on, that I started looking down, searching for Tàpies in the tarmac.