I have found the reading and research crucial in my development this year-I was able to make sense of the approach that had led my thinking .I continue to work seamlessly on pieces from last year on days I cannot come into college They essentially deal with the same thing-loss and obsolescence and I find it fascinating viewing them side by side- my aim on this course was always to make sense of my work and archive and I feel I am getting there. I detect 3 or4 themes developing in my practice, creating a spring board for a further year of research rather than a distinct consolidation as the course comes to an end. The very nature of the way I work almost forces me to make all the crucial decisions about a painting before I take to the canvas-I cannot afford to get half way through a painting only to discover that it ‘just‘aint right’ and have to abandon hours or days or even weeks of work. This realisation has been quite chastening and sobering and as a result I have had to develop strategies to tackle my time management. I have learnt valuable lessons in this regard.
'Frogeye' is a work in progress that I feel I need to resolve-I had a real urge to return to this work and age it and distress it in the light of my latest work-a Tim Johnson one to one was useful regarding tinted varnishes that I could possibly employ to evoke an altogether subtly darker aged feel. During a tutorial with Lois, we discussed it regarding my research particularly in relation to the work of Richter and Shaw-the cultural specificity of the subject matter-the place, the model of the car- locating it at a certain time on typical post war estate. It’s casual but posed reality-the kind of thing that is located in countless photo albums. Lois’s interpretation was immediately one of 1960’s social mobility, of return-one that absolutely chimed with me.
Another work in progress 'Bluebird Static' that I keep returning to and advancing it in small increments- particularly my engagement with tiny details of flora and foliage, lovingly tendered and cared for in this instance. The slide image is a found element resonating with my detritus and the powerfully formative but transient nature of childhood is a direct link to the worn out scooter and trike in 'Power Devil' and 'Come as You Were'. I see the paintings as co existing truths-found image/objects with individual narratives but rooted in a recorded shared reality. I became acutely l aware of the nature of the source material whilst working on this painting-the slide/analogue image is considerably softer than the sharp digital photographs I used as the basis for my small works on panel. This is really noticeable and potentially problematic and challenging in the rendering of edges and areas of confluence in the painting which are hugely important to me in this kind of work.
A generic family snap 'Happy Holiday Heads' - a found image of tourists from my wife’s family holiday let on the Adriatic coast -I felt defiance and resistance in it -which I like-kind of punk. I reworked certain areas of the picture and exhibited it in an exhibition curated by Chris Dix in the college reception space. He titled the show Koyaanisqatsi or ‘Life out of Balance’, in the Hopi language and I was excited by the theme. I saw the film of the same name directed by Godfrey Reggio when it was released in 1982’s and the imagery together with the stunning soundtrack by Phillip Glass made a big impact on my youthful self -the issues of outrageous consumption and pollution were terrifyingly prescient then and are critical now. I did think about including this small work on canvas board in my degree show but found it slightly incongruous.
'He was once a Holy Joe'. Painting onto the instrument was directly influenced by my interest in the work of Peter Blake and his rendering, in enamel, of old pieces of drift wood in the late 1950’s and later his painted lockers, doors and shop fronts etc. Blake was always fond of painting homages to his friends and figures he admired as a fan and I suppose this could be seen as my homage to him in a roundabout way. (Right : 'Loelia the World’s Most Tattooed Lady' oil and collage on found panel 1955)
I had thought of painting on this old guitar (bought for £25 at Portobello road in the early 80’s) for almost as I soon found that it was a terrible instrument to play. But really I bought it as a fan-I had seen an old black and white photo that shows a teenage John Lennon playing the same model ,a Gallo-Tone catalogue guitar, with his skiffle group the Quarrymen-Lennon was hugely important to me when I was young, for many reasons and I want to reflect that in the piece. I decided to paint the reverse because I just can’t seem to shake the awful horror and waste that was his murder. Again, I hope this piece that will develop over time- I will gradually add images that relate to my engagement and love of rock ‘n roll -the front will develop as a celebration of youth and energy and on the reverse I will be more nihilistic. Ultimately I would like the guitar to slowly revolve-for the degree show though, I think it should lean sullenly in a corner.
I experimented with stencils of my old band name-Holy Joes-and basically used the same font that we had used to spray on our flight cases 20 years ago.(there is an old drum case in Come as you were) I always liked the accumulation of stickers and imagery that would build up on guitars, usually of band logos, slogans, etc. Joe Strummer’s Fender Telecaster in particular was a great example of this. I was also reminded of the way some guitarists in the sixties would glue and varnish paisley wallpaper on their instruments, evoking traces of the modish, the psychedelic and the domestic.
With a about 2 weeks to go to the degree show I decide to include an image of a necklace that I had made and then worn during gigs in the early 90’s.I felt the image of the snub nosed Charter Arms .38 (the make of weapon used to kill Lennon) which I had sourced from the internet was too stark and felt that the unfinished rendering of a disembodied crucifix, action man head and watch face together with the band name would create nuance and personalise the reading of the image. I wanted to juxtapose the found and personal in a very direct way on this piece to create meanings and associations-I’m not exactly in control of.
Following a one to one with Mark regarding the degree show in mid June I decided to draw up three paintings and start them simultaneously in order to effectively test them conceptually .D.I.Y (You Bastard), a self portrait; Karma Khazi -a painting of a toilet on a commuter train, and D.W.V (Dead White Van) a painting of a wrecked tour van. I was in the mood to try out altogether more aggressive slightly confrontational imagery I had visualised in my sketch book earlier in the year. – a conscious recognition of the fractious political mood in the country-in contrast to the rather muted and depressed paintings I was in the process of completing.
I did know that it would be impossible to resolve all three and realised immediately that I would find the larger figure D.I.Y (You Bastard) impossible to complete by the 30th and I have abandoned it for now. I am very excited to return to life size figure painting –a constructed self portrait-posed in front of my garden shed-I saw it as a performative statement on middle aging and banal suburban DIY-ing .The Tandy Realistic headphones from the 1970’s;the West German drill, bought in Brick Lane’s second hand market during my time squatting in the early 80’s.The M65 jacket is a direct reference to Travis Bickle in Scorsese’s Taxi driver-a really influential film for the first wave punk generation( contradictory themes of misanthropy and rugged individualistic heroism) I realised very quickly that the stance and pose were not quite right-it really wasn’t aggressive or muscular enough. I did worry as I had spent days in its formulation and with the degree show looming it felt like I had lost valuable painting time.
The depiction of the abandoned tour bus felt particularly poignant and personal in relation to both the guitar and the paintings of detritus. The transit van was always a symbol of freedom and adventure to me -of literally taking to the road with a troupe of fellow artist’s/musicians- a well worn road, both celebrated and lampooned in popular culture. Rik Mayall and Ade Edmunson and the Comics Strip’s parody band ‘Bad News preceded Spinal Tap’s hyper-real ‘mockumentry’ by a year or so.
I was also aware of the crude stereotype of the White van man as portrayed by both the popular press and politicians such as Emma Thornbury.I initially planned on doing a very large canvas of an old tour bus on a titanium white rabbit skin glue ground but again found that this would be unrealistic given the time remaining. Whilst painting my previous pictures I did know that thin washes of pure turpentine under painting would be quick drying, effective and atmospheric. I am really happy to show the dishevelled van in an incomplete state-revealing much of my ‘process in the processes-perhaps indicating an avenue for further exploration.
When discussing my reasons (a crude scatological viscerality expressing existential revulsion) for the painting of a commuter train toilet my wife reminded me of a quote by Michael Peppiat in his book Francis Bacon: Anatomy of an Enigma which is worth highlighting:
I find the sentiments ringing true but I think my approach is probably altogether more John Bratby, Kitchen Sink realist with a dose of irony-hence the title Karma Khazi. The shiny stainless steel bowl is a joy to paint –cloudy abstractions funnelling out of a black hole into the universe-which is reason enough to do it. (Above : John Bratby, The Toilet, 1955 & my reference photo)