Not comfortable with them. Don’t trust them.
That’s why I paint.
If you want to win an argument, if you want to change someone’s mind, if you want to change the world, you need words. I’m sure of that. And I stumble and forget and get confused but when I paint … it flows.
Art, music, a painting never changed anything. Never changed anyone’s mind.
The greatest paintings, individually, they’re 4 minute pop songs. With all the triviality of that and, sometimes all the deep connections and lingering emotional charge and potential of that. We hope.
But they can grab you for those 4 minutes. For those 4 minutes you’re not alone. We can commune. Us. Share. Dance together in our imagination.
And at my opening on Friday people kept asking questions … derr … of course you did … I would.
And so …
Take my piece: The Adoration of the Golden Calf.
I started with the “civil” war in Syria.
Guilt and shame tearing at me.
And I look to Nicholas Poussin’s painting.
Because it’s embedded in my cultural world.
Because it’s in “the canon” — so it’s embedded in others’ worlds too.
Because it’s shared in our stories, the stories that still, almost, bind us together.
Because, when I started on it, we were “commemorating” the end of the First World War.
And because it was Aaron what done it. Fucked up. But he still got to lead us to the promised land. How does that work? It was a little bit personal.
OK, so we need an altar, a plinth. And I take Edwin Lutyens’ cenotaph on Whitehall. An empty tomb (a kenotaphion).
And then I need Wilfred Owen’s poem, written during the first world war, quoting Horace: Dulce et decorum est pro patria mori (It is sweet and right to die for one’s country), yeah, right, whatever. English lessons at an English school. So it goes on the plinth.
And then we need a golden calf. And so I take Arturo Di Modica’s tacky and revolting Charging Bull from Wall Street as an appropriate stand in. What drives this sort of international politics after all? Money … wars.
And we need a place for it all to be and so I steal the mountainous landscape from Poussin’s own painting.
And in the sky, tracer fire over Damascus.
And I put it all together and make a drawing. Lots of drawings.
And do you need to know this shit? No. But does it help? Maybe. Maybe it always did. It did then, in the 17th century. And maybe we shouldn’t forget the way our culture grew and consumed and subsumed new ones and can now welcome new stories and bind us all together in a shared dreaming.
Hmmm … it’s just not good enough. Doesn’t come close.
Going to have to put some serious thought into how to properly photograph my paintings. Their dynamic range, gamut, whatever it’s called, is too wide to grasp with my DSLR. We do have a big white gazebo‑y, tent‑y thing that might do as a giant lightbox in lieu of monster strobes. But that’s going to have to wait for the rain to stop so … who knows … it is entirely possible that there might be a dry day next year … some time.
I’ve tried to put up some pics on Facebook and Instagram as well but I’m not sure how well they work and as these things take anywhere between 2 and 6 weeks to paint, they’re not exactly going to be frequent posts.
It’s weird: social media totally baffles me. It’s not that I’m anti-social, don’t want to share … don’t get me wrong — after all: it’s what I do all day.
Maybe I’m just more comfortable monologuing like a psychopath in a third rate super hero movie. Or communing, wordlessly like a shaman. Or that once I’m done, I’m done in. Nothing much left to say.
Strangely, in the past couple of weeks I have heard two singers talking about how important it is to take your instructions from the outside. One of whom was a shaman from the Amazon talking about the importance of performing the ritual absolutely correctly or the gods would be displeased and punish him. And the other was a great Sufi singer who said that, when you get it right, you do not sing, you are sung. I loved that: by the song, by god, the universe, whatever.
And I’ve always been very uncomfortable about traditional crafts being shown as “Art”. Masks and statues and fetishes. Their making so often absolutely precludes self-expression of any sort — the god cannot come and inhabit the form if it is not exactly right. It is almost the opposite of what we usually mean by “Art”.
The weird thing that happens when I’m painting, so close I can’t see the image, often upside down, so I can’t see what I’m doing, is that the line seems to draw the brush, not the other way round. It’s not when you step back and see that it’s right, it feels right as it moves, as it heads off wherever it wants to go. And the fear goes and the doubt and you trust … believe. Or not. And I love to paint them so much because vectors and Bézier curves on the computer, rock and flex and rotate so elegantly but they have no intention, no destination, no purpose, no reason, no meaning.
A syncretic little troll-like fetish standing in for a real human being — apparently articulating fears and frustrations but actually a tacky bit of posable plastic shit pedalled as a panacea, masquerading as myth — all impotent roar and fury signifying, doing, nothing … to change anything.
It’s there to prop up and perpetuate the staus quo — a silent but deadly war on the rest of us, robbing us, poisoning our dreams and our world … actually killing us.
Fuck off back to whatever shithole you came from — I don’t mean the US, more the imaginary aryan nation of daddy’s German American Bund — you aren’t welcome here.
After all, I hail from, officially, the mental health shithole of this country — let’s hear it for Stockport and shitholes everywhere!
The sad and frightening thing is that this crappy Trulk might just as well be the raging Id of our own national psyche too.
Just the second BBQ of the year but on a very special evening as Spring turns to Summer. Clearing away a shed load of the detritus from the old year.
Spring lamb Kebabs to die for … a glorious feast culturally appropriated from the wide fertile crescent and cooked on an American BBQ in a Cornish field … whatever … it was nommy.
With the stars above our heads, in a beautiful clear sky, and the earth beneath our feet, faces burning in the heat of the flames and the wind in our hair … and, very much, life bursting, bustling, snuffling all around us.
We even carefully, hurriedly, anxiously, carried the burning embers inside to rekindle our home fire … and it caught.