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I was born in Sunderland, Tyne and Wear, UK in 1961. I left to attend Lancaster University gaining a degree in History in 1983. In 1986 I completed a PGCE at Durham University and in 1991 an MA in Education (Open University). After an initial career in teaching I became a freelance artist, poet and arts educator. Since 2003 I have specialized in experimental portraiture/poetry, international cross-genre projects/collaborations, innovative creative workshops and entertainment-driven public performances/talks. During 2012-2013 I was artist-and-poet-in-residence at Ustinov College, Durham University and returned in 2015-2016 sharing my time between Josephine Butler College and St Cuthbert's Society. I continue to be based in Durham and to collaborate with the university on arts-based initiatives. I also work in a creative partnership with my wife Juliet Lunn and together we design bespoke websites and create (and teach how to make) limited edition handmade books.   

About my paintings:

My paintings begin with looking. I take a motif from the observable world and work with it to layer-up dimensions of meaning that might impact on an audience in waves of experience that transcend both detached intellectual interpretation and fevered emotional response. My starting point is always the visually recognizable and my finishing point is always a hope to send my audience away with an altered feeling of how to look at the world. In that respect my works both begin and end with looking. This is not ‘art for art’s sake’, but art as theatrical performance. The audience completes the work. Although my paintings are broadly two-dimensional, motionless and silent they nevertheless embody narrative and therefore also aim to capture time, revealed both by the explicit exposure of the technical creative process involved and by the temporal story brought by the subject-matter. Ultimately, it is impossible precisely to frame in words how I hope my paintings will affect those who look upon them, or how I know when a work is complete. These reactions are stirred by sensibilities beyond language or grammar. But when I present my paintings to my audience I do so in the belief I have travelled some distance towards achieving these goals.

About my poetry:

I write poems inspired by the real world. I never know when the desire to capture and distil a moment, a feeling, a story or something seen or experienced will grab me. I like to convey ideas simply and accessibly, but also take joy in the shape, sound and subtext of words and the power of metaphor and symbolism. My love of text, rhythm and pattern extends into my visual art work where I employ words in multifaceted ways to enhance the concepts I am striving for, often forging a symbiotic link between text and visual imagery. I am also interested in poetry for performance and increasingly develop projects in collaboration with the worlds of classical music and theatre.

There are thousands of people out here "trying to be artists". But one cannot "try" to be an artist. One simply is. And the only thing true artists are "trying" to do is avoid starvation.
Alan O'Cain, 24 November 2017 [SITE: A Plain Fish]