After training at the Slade School of Art and the University
of Provence, Houghton's formative years as an artist were spent in South Africa
as Head of Fine Art at The International School of Cape Town. On returning to
England, and the village of his childhood - Broadway, he established a studio
and fully devoted himself to evolving a personal aesthetic. A stock of
photographs of local history, people, family, and the chronicling of everyday
life often provided a starting point for creativity. The archive also
referenced the Arts and Craft movement in establishing a line of artistic
activity from an American colony of artists, including John Singer Sargent, to
the present day.
But it is in the wider context of specific commissions and
international exhibitions that a broad variety of experiences have influenced Houghton's
artistic development. He was an official artist for London Fashion Week in 2007
and the Olympics in 2012; resident artist at Highgrove in 2013; and commissioned
to paint HM the Queen in 2009. In recent years, he has had solo exhibitions at
The Saatchi Gallery (London), The Everard Read Gallery (Johannesburg), The
Visual Arts Gallery (Delhi), and The Life Gallery Amsterdam.
Houghton's prevailing concern is vested in a Japanese word he uses to describe
intervals in his work that give shape to the whole. 'The Eastern consciousness
of place acknowledges and respects the concept of space, pause or interval with
the word ma. This could be between musical notes, brush strokes, or footsteps.
It is when the silence can be heard; when the emptiness touches the edges. It is not
regarded to be possible to make: only when the walls and chimes have been
created can ma exist, to consequently provoke its awareness. Whilst pictorially
it may be seen at face value as negative space, the intense feeling of ma is a
much greater enhanced vision, of what exists within the form.'
In pursuit of this idea, Houghton's abstract and figurative
paths evolve concurrently, often arriving in similar territory. Fundamental
relationships between a painting's ground layer, surface, and identifiable forms
are often ambiguous. In this hinterland, the physicality of air and space, and the
ebb and flow of the making process are substantiated through Houghton's
reflections on human activity and nature.
The different contexts of work, sport and war foreground his
perception of the specific human gestures and actions which disclose them. His
paintings of Olympians are like time capsules that are pervaded by the past, and
by the legacy and shared narratives of Olympic events, whilst being implicitly
wedded to the unpredictability of the present moment.
The vicissitudes of time are not only apparent, but inextricably
linked to the shadowy semblance of potential images and hallucinatory forms
that, particularly in his water-colours, work like repositories of related
narrative, evoking a sense of continuity and change in nature.
In these works, negative spaces of unblemished paper abut
positive spaces of tonal variation. With the contrast turned up, the viewer is
bedazzled with light, and ushered into an imaginary perception of motion. In
larger works, figurative forms appear to transform into abstract marks, or
transmogrify into cryptic codes. Though the eye may be steadfastly locked on a
recognizable image, a fluctuating, sensory experience is elicited by a picture
space imbued with optical vibration.
Central to the meaning of his work is the interpenetration
of anthropomorphic and object forms with the air that surrounds them, and, in
that space, the air is thick with memories.