Mary Fletcher reviewed my show at Redwing and I thought I needed to reply.
I live down here, out on the raggedy edge, in Penwith — witchy and wild, beautiful and hard and a long long way from any metropolis.
Why would I try to evoke the atmospheric landscape, why would I want to wallow in expressionist, material, slippy sloppy slidey, sweeping, oily paint. It’s all too easy and all too hard — impossible. Been there. Got lost and lonely and felt the strength draining from my hand.
Sunrise can take your breath away, the thundering surf can inspire real awe, the hard undertow of riptide and granite batholith beneath your feet can unnerve you, one false step … the wind can scour and the wide skies drown you, beauty is real and terrifying, so what can I do, say, about that? And why would I want to? There’s more to life than this.
Be honest. Be simple. Be modest. How modest can you be?
I make things. Decorative panels to decorate. That’s all.
And that’s a lot. I am confident, skilled, still and hard. I know what I’m doing. I think.
And the subject matter is arbitrary. Stuff.
And not. Surreal in that it bubbles up, crystallises, makes real dream images.
Nothing, no-one is blank … we can’t pretend to be … we are moved by forces bigger, deeper than us. I deal with it, OK. I want to be blanker so I take what I’m given.
It can be grand in terms of culture but does anyone care that the Lamassus were the guardian spirits of Mesopotamia? That Reapers are hunting them down?
What do I think about our alienation from the natural world, “real” food, “authentic” poverty? How do I react to the fetishising of weapons, to the visceral fear and hatred of the dispossessed? How do I feel about the abuse of power and the immunity of privilege?
I am furious and raging and impotent and confused … glamour is glamour, power is power, the world as it is is all we have, and we are just what we are. I want to look it all in the face … and try to understand, not lash out and condemn — I know what I believe but who am I to judge?
The English are implacably binary: if it turns you on it’s porn, if not it’s erotica. If an image of heroism doesn’t inspire, conjure up, illicit heart pounding, wide eyed pride, what’s the point. If an image of fear and despair doesn’t unnerve you, disarm you, crush you a little, what’s it for. If an image of something powerful doesn’t give you a moment of swaggering, arrogant superiority, why bother? Good drugs make you feel good, no?
I am ambivalent. Implicated. Guilty. And sad. And angry and full of joy and fear like all of us.
And busy … making images.
Banksy does what Banksy does and does it brilliantly but I have no interest in easy scores, in polemic, lectures, stand-up … one-liners. All I ask, I suppose, is that you stop.
Stop and think. Question. Pause.
Every minute you spend with a painting, a work of art, is a minute you are not being bought, sold to, exploited, working for someone else … it’s a minute for you, your time. So precious.
And so I’m drawing like crazy. Searching for a theme, a guiding star.
I’m so unsure that I need a head of steam, can I do it, is there enough, does it make sense, is it strong and true, does anyone care? And so … getting there.
So the plan is … a sketch a day … a theme will emerge. Ideas are already accreting: Doing, Women … we’ll see.
And then … today … I didn’t get to finish anything.
Except this …