There I was about to write an erudite, apposite, and any other sort of ite, post about the ways in which social media are corrupting our relationships and poisoning our conversations, if not actually having much real effect on our political world, (with quotes and percentages and all) while paradoxically enriching our connectiveness and widening our world views … and then I thought: I’m tired, I’ve had a lovely relaxing day, thinking of nothing more strenuous than chickens and how to enrich their diet and ironically a new twist on chicken chasseur, which worked beautifully by the way, and luxuriating in cheap wine and warm fire and good company and I thought: sod it, I’m going to read a book and fall asleep and dream of paradises as yet unimagined, works as yet untried, triumphs as yet untasted and … well … that’s private.
Sleep well. Sweet dreams.
Oh, and I’ve added this sketch to my rolling page too. Enjoy.
I not been slacking, been working hard, just have no idea to what end exactly. Flotsam adrift on a rising tide of meaningless madness.
Politics, well, politicians, seem absolutely determined to make themselves irrelevant, terrifyingly terrible, twatty and tangential, redundant reactionary, solipsistic narcissists.
Left and right.
Hello? There are things need doing, need dealing with, need facing, there’s so much shit we never got done and you act like it’s all tweaking and finessing like plastic Tony Blairs or teenage revolutionaries or S&M nazis … voguing and dancing on the edge of a fucking volcano.
There is still one person sleeping on a street tonight, there is still someone, this afternoon hiding from a bailiff, there is still a man who fears he is about to be deported, there is still a woman who’s afraid to go to the doctors because she’s sure that what she suffers from isn’t covered by our universal health insurance, there is still a child who didn’t want to go to school today because she knew that bully would be there, there is still the person who was crushed by the man who dismissed them for just being what they were born, there is still the family who can’t pay the rent, mend the car, pay the leccy or buy enough food for tea, there are still people who live in fear and pain so that other people can live in decadent luxury and empty boredom and we fuck about around the periphery. All in one of the richest countries on earth. We all know these are just choices.
There is still so much to do and we … I … try to make shit, make art. It is what I can do. My skill, my craft, my contribution. A fart in a strong wind.
The difference is that the right are in power all over the world and they’re poisoning our conversations, polluting our stories, shitting in our wells of wisdom, feeding our fears and numbing us with laser light show, gladiatorial glitz and vacuous apocalyptic glamour and horror trope nightmares.
And almost all of the institutions that we built to counter this shit (hello, BBC) have appeased and capitulated and lost themselves in irresponsible gurning, ironic, giggly posturing and suicidal anti-elitist role playing, we’re left to fend for and defend ourselves and our communities and our inheritance.
And so many fight, so hard and so beautifully and I laugh and cry and then curl up and die inside when I see how it flickers in the dark and is snuffed out. Or is just drowned out or not even heard or seen in our wonderful pluralist pathways and long tail logic, throttled by the algorithms of greed.
And so the brightest and the best (and I DONOT include myself in that list) disengage and focus on the craft, the art, the long game, the dreams we shared and keeping the flame alive, focus on their own, what matters and lock down.
And this is not the black death, the hundred years war, the slave trade or the holocaust, the genocide of the Wild West or the monstrosities of empire, covid-19 is not the Spanish Flu of 1918 and Andrew Windsor is not Harold Shipman … but it ain’t a competition either is it? And that’s not incense.
But this is our time, our responsibility, our world … what are we to do? Us, people? We do what we do. What we can do. Physical, psychological, social, economic, educational, temporal, emotional constraints being given. Well, we don’t give up, we live all our allotted days and then we die.
And I make pictures: it’s what I do. It’s all I can do. I’ve tried. And every hour I spend doing that is not spent feeding the insatiable machine of capital so I not making things much worse. And I like to see my drawings a certain size. One of the reasons I paint them. My computer’s monitor fills my field of vision at 50cm, my paintings take up about the same field at 150. So, if you’ve come here from Facebook or Instagram on a phone and you’re using a lap or a desk top, you’re in for a new experience … not exactly a surprise and not exactly transcendental either but, hey.
So I’ve made a sort of rolling gallery of my attempts, sketches, ideas — Here. I’ll update it as I make more stuff — please comment, argue, advise, check in regularly or look at my stuff on Instagram or just enjoy.
I have no idea what I’m doing, making it up as I go along, as are we all, but I do believe it matters. It will make a difference; like the beat of a butterfly’s wing. There will be consequences, however small. Maybe I just choose to believe.
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. Then work.
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? It’s complicated. 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.
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.