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When a clockwork orange finally chimes

a clockwork orange

 

Reading Anthony Burgess – ‘A Clockwork Orange’ and yes, it is disturbing. Half way through I’ve finally got used to the garbled lingua of the main protagonist.

I read it sitting in my car in a vacant parking lot, a few stolen moments each lunch time.

Schoolboys, linger on concrete steps nearby, smoking and laughing in the early spring sunshine.

I’m pulled from the drama between the covers to a scuffle that has broken out. Raised voices and loud guffaws.

Two boys in green school uniforms are sparing, at first playfully, while the others, one fat guy in particular shouts encouragement.

A few blows are thrown and the playfulness soon drains from their confrontation. They lock arms and wrestle, finally pushing each other away. One throws a wild kick which connects with a dull thud, and a new degree of violence descends. The others boys sensing blood, now howl their advice, urging them on.

To my alarm I then notice that my only exit is to drive pass them, and they’ve looped into an ever widening arc. A makeshift swaying ring of bodies that has no concern for my car, or even my presence.

I start the engine and manage to inch past them. None look my way, so consumed they are in the unfolding action.

Back safely at work, I think of what has happened. The two kids fighting, a lanky tall dark skinned guy and his smaller, stumpy opponent. They aren’t anything like the guys in a clockwork orange, but I was shocked by the suddenness of the hostility.
I did find it amusing later in the snug safe environment of the office that it was almost a case of life imitating art. If I had not being reading the book I might just have shrugged off the enveloping conflict between the youths as a minor nuisance. The reading had definitely informed my reaction. It gave me a new appreciation of the arbitrary nature of violence, in whatever form it presents itself, and how quickly it can escalate.

Picasso said that art should be an ‘act of war’ and not something to merely decorate living room walls. He was, I think, referencing his painting of Guernica, which ironically does decorate a lot of living room walls. A little knowledge goes a long way, which is why it’s always good to know the story behind what you choose to hang on your wall.

If nothing else it deepens your appreciation and leaves an aftertaste when you take leave from the painting.

It what I try to do here, tell you the story behind my paintings, to give you not just an appreciation of the actual physical painting, but what informed it, so that it may go on and inform your greater existence.

It’s a grand, large sounding enterprise, but we do it every day in simple ways. This way is mine.

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self portrait

selfie – old style

 

The other day I painted a self-portrait.

It felt surprisingly good.

I now understand why artists indulge, occasionally in this pursuit. It affords the opportunity to take account of yourself, how far you’ve come and helps clarify where you want to go. On this hilltop, a brief respite in time, your image is frozen underneath your own hand, stamped by subjective prejudice and labelled with a longing that is entirely yours.

My self portrait is no grand inquisition, but there is a likeness and it’s unflattering.

I like that.

Its shows my asymmetrical features and tapering skull bones, a familiar pug nose and full sensuous lips. The eyes are kind but veil an unmistakable glint of latent aggressiveness. Maybe time will soften all this as the body continues its inevitable journey southwards, towards clay. A final home in earth.

 

In a world dominated by ‘selfies’ do we ever truly see ourselves?

What do I mean by that? Its sounds profound but what does it actually mean to see oneself?

I mean to recognize that each day we’re on a journey toward death. We’re changing, hopefully evolving toward something. That something, for me, remains just out of reach, which is why I keep painting. Perhaps another self portrait? Rembrandt seemingly painted dozens.

I have grappled a lot with the question of portraits. I have seen whole forums on the web dominated by arguments over techniques and skin tones and composition. All valid points for debate by the way.

But for me portraits come down to seeing into the person’s soul and bringing it forth, manifesting it with the tools of canvas and paint. It’s about stilling the critical part of the brain, and allowing the hands, long schooled in technique, to take over and do the job.

 

I can paint your portrait. It may be as unflattering as my own and then again it may not. It all depends on what I see and what I’m feeling when I see it. Its not something we can legislate or sign a contract for. Which is a good thing in case you were wondering.

“Those things that nature denied to human sight, she revealed to the eyes of the soul.”  ~~  Ovid

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