Years Ahead But Way Behind

I’m only 23, and unlike many writers of past ages or even the present, I’ve not experienced enough of life to have anything truly profound to impart to any who may read this. But, Life is ‘ard. Ungratefully disappointed with my 2/1, I left Peckham for an almost riverside house in Woolwich with my girlfriend, another housemate and a coursemate. The house was large and comfortable and afforded me space to host… well, grand dreams that have faded into naive memories now. I worked hard to get a 3D printing business going and made many mistakes (2 years on and still trying). I got a job in a pub and made good friends, and since lost some, alienated others or faded away from my own life. I struggled for money, my relationship broke down and we got a house cat. I miss that cat. I got good at my job, I began to love my job, then I began to grow a little restless with it. My relationship ended, my housemates decided they didn’t want to live in Woolwich anymore. It would be unjust of me to say on their behalf they didn’t want to live with me anymore, but it was clear to all that I was the sore thumb. I couldn’t afford on my own the space for my printing I desired, so I had to move back home to Croydon, quit my job, lose my housemates and the close company of peers. I try not to be bitter, but it is hard to escape feeling I made concessions and sacrifices in order to keep others happy, where none were made in my stead, and still I feel I have shouldered all the blame. I don’t know if any of them realise how hard it was finding out they had made a group to look for housing. Of course, I knew they would have but the reality of it was striking. Or how much, despite the breakdown in communication because of the calamitous way the post-breakup, pre-moveout period ended, I still held on to the idea that we were a little housing family, and not being invited to Christmas dinner hit home the reality. Each time I let my mind wander over these events, how these relationships exist in the present and how the past unfolded, I always know I could have done more, tried harder, been less self-centred…but here I am, sat in my mum’s basement that I turned into a studio, jobless (though I haven’t really tried), writing my first blog post in a year and a half.

Some 3D printed sculptures/ideas made in collaboration with Ben Coiacetto

The first year after uni was relatively devoid of creation, I wrote 20k words of a sci-fi novel, but, to paraphrase mad men, ‘In the bottom draw of every man’s desk are the first 10 pages of a novel’. But really, I was struggling. I managed to get a job just before I ran out of money and I was working hard to keep not running out of money. Physically, I was tired, mentally, I wasn’t doing too great and creatively, I was probably burnt out. I felt isolated, scared, lost and inadequate. I felt like I’d failed to meet every target I had set myself and the worst part was my parents could always bail me out if things really went tits up. I was failing to succeed and I couldn’t even succeed to fail properly, in a privileged no-man’s land. (This is not to be ungrateful towards my parents, I love them both very much and am thankful every day for the love, support and security they provide me. It is just to say the fortune of the circumstances of my birth led to a nihilistic worldview where my own existence had no real consequence and therefore no real meaning.) Well, as I say, I got a job and I started to work my way out of the debt rent had given me in the two months I had spent looking. And as the financial security, social life and responsibility grew, I started to breathe easier.

Sorry I made you a man, Mixed Media on paper, 100 x 180 cm, 2018

April came, and over a week or so I made the first “Art” of post-university life. An investigation into architecture and landscape working with oil pastels, inks, acrylic paints and sharpie. At the centre of this piece is a bad portrait of Harriet, my housemate and former coursemate, in which I ended up making her look like a man on HRT. The piece would be entitled ‘I’m Sorry I made You a Man’ if I had actually given it a name when uploading it to Instagram. It was the beginning of making work with a sense of honesty towards itself, myself, and my and the artwork’s relationship to the viewer. Although it was a sincere apology for an unflattering portrait, it becomes a reflection on the comfort and reassurance I desire from the universe, to say, ‘It’s not your fault’ whatever the problem confronting me is. I so often wish to apologise for my very existence but I realise that is futile, that I must take responsibility for my actions and impact on the world, whatever they may be, even if I feel I’m treated unfairly because others aren’t. More so because I almost certainly am equally ignorant of allowances made by others for me. ‘I’m sorry I made you a man’ admits to myself that I am the arbiter of my own formation, I made me a man, and though I would say I don’t subscribe or feel particularly subjected to masculine stereotypes, the way I describe my recent past suggests (from a biased position) otherwise. Emotional repression, insular depression, financial impotence, feeling helplessly overwhelmed, resentful and yet responsible. But then again, none of this is unique to me or men generally, it could just be a bad portrait.

The Crucifixion of St. Peter, Ink and Enamel on Paper, 200 x 180cm, 2018

A couple of months went by as I worked on my next piece, ‘The Crucifixion of St. Peter’ dealing with the feelings of morose forlornness at my dying relationship. The image came to me when watching a programme about the art of Lisbon. Mentioned in this show was that St. Peter was crucified upside down, so as to show he was not worthy to die like Jesus. I’m not a religious man, but I am sentimental, and something about this image clicked with the way I’d lie on the floor staring into the void comforted by the support and stability of the hard, carpeted surface beneath me. I also wanted to draw plants, and interiors, so this image came to me. Bright colours and a flat look were how I wanted to portray this room, stylish in some way.

The outcome is alright, the plants are good, gold contrasted to the green, but the curtains are a bit crap, I tried to indicated the folds with black lines as shade, the effect is visible but unimpressive. Further to this is the figure itself. Emaciated and Schiele-esque it may just about be, but it sticks out from the rest of the image, an attempt at harsh lighting with no sense made by the scene. Not quite there, sort of floating on a different plane in front of the rest of the image. I’d say it’s still a pretty image and has a sense of itself but in reality could do with a recap on the curtains and figure.

Tomorrow’s Orgasm is Cancelled, Mixed Media on Board, 200 x 80 cm, 2018

Whilst painting St. Peter, on a break and with a friend I started painting the above. I have started to call these ‘shouty word paintings’ which I think describes them well. They make for sometimes interesting reading, if not always for interesting viewing. There’s not much new about them, an angst-ridden, contempt-filled middle class Basquiat rehashing they may be, but they act well as a therapeutic medium and allow me to write funny, abusive or rude statements on my art, which I like. The phrases in these style of paintings are often stream of consciousness, no more thought about than the time it takes to paint them on. The title comes from the top right corner of the work, and appeals to me in that promised future pleasure, prescribed bureaucratically is equally nullified before it starts.

After this, when home clearing out the basement and building the studio, I gathered some materials to create another shouty word painting. Trying different methods of scraping and dripping paint, layering wet on wet and writing into it. I’m not sure I learnt much from this, but again, catharsis.

Say No! To Intolerance, Ink on paper, 60 x 42 cm, 2018

There’s lots of problems in the world, and I’m probably not gonna help solve any of them. These two pieces about intolerance were thought of as a way to take the piss out of movements purporting to be for equality and the betterment of the downtrodden but are instead a way for people like me to get outraged and climb up onto their high horse on behalf of some minority individual or group identity. People too easily take or claim offence at something not directed towards them, virtue signalling to themselves and their peers to prove their wokeness. This ironically often leads to those groups being unheard and forgotten behind a chorus of self-victimising SJWs spouting incoherent mixed messages about equality because their outrage is not coordinated and is self-motivated.

Say No! To Intolerance, Ink on paper, 60 x 42 cm, 2018

This is not to attempt to de-legitimise all such movements and actions, and was not in response to any particular event. But I thought using propagandising language and poster formats of people slicing bread and milking an udder to outlaw gluten and lactose intolerances that people don’t choose would make a point. I tried to make it so the person seemed to be aggressively slicing bread and suggestively milking the udder for added impact. I think they are decent images and would like to do more.

The Sore Throat, Acrylic on Board, 80 x 60 cm, 2018

The sore throat painting came about when I had a sore throat. Initially it was a small sketch I did on a night I couldn’t sleep due to the illness to try and visualise what I was feeling. The rasping, burning of each breath and pouring tea, strepsils and cough medicine down my throat to numb the feeling. I found this orange house paint in a little tub with loads of other house paints we have and it has such a bright, lovely, rich, warm tone, I had to use it.

Chicken + Potato + Tomato, Acrylic on paper, 60 x 42 cm, 2018

This was a fun little piece on paper. Every meal I eat seems to contain at least one of Chicken, Potato, or tomato. Perhaps the title should be something like ‘The Makings of Me’ or something alluding to the fact that’s what my body is constituently created from. But it’s simple as is.

The Toilet Seat Over Oblivion, Acrylic and Enamel on Board, 60 x 80cm, 2018

This piece is a story from when I climbed Kilimanjaro. Somehow, don’t ask me how, and probably not very healthily, I managed not to need to defecate for the first 3 or 4 days. The time when I did choose to take my only number 2 on the 8 day mountain trip came when there was a lush (relatively) toilet cabin by the camp. I remember it as behind the cabin was a massive drop seemingly off the side of the world. This is my interpretation of it in pictorial form some 6 years later (blimey).

I decided to include this work in progress image of the initial drawing for the painting below because I liked it at the time but thought I should work more into the piece before I declare it finished. It took about a month to then move to a point I was satisfied with again.

But I’ve got her name now, So I can google her for pieces, Acrylic on Board, 60 x 80cm, 2018

The story of this painting is a creepy one I must admit. When I go to a big show at say Tate alone, I often find there’s someone who’ll go through the show at the same pace as you. As a result of this you end up locking eyes a few times and I always sort of feel a bond with them, brought about by our silent passing. Moments of tension arise when you’ll stand a couple of feet away from each other, surveying the same painting and my tongue will burn as I’ll want to say something but by the time you feel able, they’ve moved on. The girl in this figure is based off the memory of one such exhibition friend and the title from a conversation I was having about the Jenny Holzer artist room on the same day, I hadn’t taken many pictures of her work but went back to the room to grab her name to google later.

Love, Hate, Spread It, 42 x 60 cm, 2018

More poster work with an ironic call to action. I was playing around drawing in red paint and started the pattern seen here. To me it seemed like advertising and I thought about people spreading hate on their morning toast. And of course, Hate contains no animal products.

Yes Charlie, I’ll have some wine, 60 x 42cm, 2018

I went to a show in Vauxhall and felt unable to really speak to anyone, and followed someone round for a while, tagging along into his conversations with people we’d gone to college with or that he knew. Then we joined a group stood outside with 2 other people I knew and this guy I didn’t. And I stood there silent, out of the picture hidden behind my friend basically ignored and with nothing to add to the conversation anyway. Listening to people I don’t know talk with someone I do know about more people I’ve never met. But Charlie made a fatal error, he’d brought wine and now wished to go to the afterparty and relieve himself of his wine, but alas! none of the present company that he went through one-by-one asking if they’d like some desired any. So before he had the chance to pass over me, I pre-empted the question and offered to relieve him of his remaining burden. To-wit he first asked my name, how kind. And this image is the moment I popped my charitable head round my friend’s shoulders and offered help to the needy.

Meanwhile…, Acrylic on Board, 60 x 80 cm, 2018

A close friend had given me some burnt pieces of a french comic. One such one was this section, depicting a spacecraft taking off from a mountain. The trail the craft leaves put me in min of a volcano, so I decided to try turn it into a John Martin style apocalypse. I was very happy with how I made the sky, it seemed exactly as I had hoped. The rest of the surrounding landscape I feel is alright but could probably be improved upon, I’m not sure how well the city to the left comes across, but I like the colours and overall composition and comic book reference.

Eve and the snake, Acrylic on board, 60 x 80cm, 2018

The pose for this image is weird, I’m not sure I fully managed to pull it off, perhaps because I’m also uncertain about the proportions. I like the background colour though, and the hair.

This image is a digital edit of the below painting of the garden. I loe the colours that it gives out and the ghostly garden from projecting an image of the garden onto the painting when I took the photo.

The Garden at Night, Acrylic on board, 60 x 80cm, 2018

This painting started as a lazy drawing of the bench and table, however, the more I worked around them, the more they seemed to make sense and I enjoyed them for how they looked with a little border. Very flatly done, similar to Matisse. Perhaps it would have been good to try extend this to the rest of the image but it was more about the weird way colour and tone changes in your eye at night.

Housing Prices in Orbit, Oil on board, 60 x 80cm, 2018

This painting is inspired by the Russian artist Ilya Chashnik’s work, and the two shapes featured are two of his ‘Architekton’ drawings. I was looking for inspiration and found these shapes he creates with their undulating heights and flat surfaces, and knew I had to use them. When put on a flat plane they look like spaceships.

Robin the Aspirational, Mixed media on paper, 180 x 90 cm, 2019

My first painting of the year was a shouty word painting that I did as therapy to get out some negative thoughts. I remember it helping, and after the initial day of working on it, it was difficult to add to. Something about the process, writing boldly the thoughts that irk you and then slowly adding to the piece until they are covered up. Blurring it out through meditative practice.

A study of Van Gogh’s Garden at the Asylum
Cancelled by popular demand, mixed media on paper, 180 x 90 cm, 2019

Another shouty word painting. This one shows the difference when planned elements are brought in. There’s more dead space and less abstract mishmash. Sometimes I like this one more because it is a bit cleaner than the last, but then it also doesn’t feel cohesive itself either.

Not all dogs go to heaven, Clifford went to art school, Acrylic on paper, 42 x 60 cm, 2019

I thought about the joke of Clifford the Big Red Dog being somehow mixed with Clyfford still. This is that joke, realised and painted. It’s alright, I think the blue is too dark and it throws off the whole painting, but its quite nice in the patches and strip through it, scratched the itch so there you go.

I started to 3D print stencils and spray paint them because I spoke to a framer/gallerist and he didn’t seem keen on my attempts at brushwork towards the end of last year. In response I decided to try making something easy for me to create and more commercially appealing so I can continue to sit on y arse all day, but this time make some money from it and justify my calling myself an artist, even if that means conversely eroding what I wanted to be as an artist. But I’m into the prints and I’m making more and more complex compositions now and putting serious effort into creating stencils and trial-and-erroring my way through creating good colour combinations.

Desire and Impotence, Acrylic on Paper, 180 x 100cm, 2019

I couldn’t sleep one night, went downstairs, put a documentary about Francis Bacon on and worked out some angst. Again, this is an image that sprang out of the act of painting, rather than as a planned exercise. The strokes I was making started to form what I saw as plants/pubic hair, I then turned the imagery more into the former and tried to push the metaphor into the latter… what does it mean? I don’t truly know, only what I thought it did at the time. The addition of the sign I thought was cool and funny and confrontational, but it hasn’t had great response.

It’s not my fault, you’re wrong, Acrylic on paper, 60 x 42cm, 2019

Again from the sleepless night. I decided to just pattern a stencil together with different colours, but because I didn’t wait for them to dry, it dragged paint around to the other areas of the image. So I wrote the phrase across the middle and named it as such just as a little poke that really I messed up when creating the image, but that nowadays there is to some people a sense that there’s nothing wrong with them and the world must accept them rather than they should try in some way to better themselves. I’m very much prey to this type of thinking, but I’m trying not to be, so does that count?

Further from the sleepless night, this is a portrait of Michael from Vsauce made with the spare paint on my pallet as a bit of fun.

Study for Pride Rock 2019

A little oil study for trying out pallet knife techniques.

Hugh Ran 19, Acrylic and enamel on paper, 180 x 90 cm, 2019

I painted this when my friend Hugh came round and I made a big portrait of him. and we crafted the composition together based on the conversations we were having. Was a good night, I kinda like the whole thing, hop you do too.

Two clouds, oil on canvas, whatever, 2019

This was a little landscape inspired by waking up and seeing a beautiful sunrise glowing behind the horizon and these two clouds just floating there. It was hard to get a good photo of this without the glaring so the dark land part of the scape is a bit muted, I promise it looks better IRL.

Finally, these are further creations of stencil work that I have been doing recently, messing around with colour and composition. There are a million and one ways I could adjust and change the way each stencil is used or in conjunction with other stencils or patterned on a larger sheet etc… And I will continue to do so, but for now these are what you have to enjoy. I started to name them at some point and haven’t put all the names in yet because I’m lazy and it’s already taken me like 2 weeks to write this, I’m sure you can tell the point I started tonight, it’s where everything becomes unexplained and brief, probably for the best, idk.

I have more works in more styles on the way, some oil colourfield paintings on scrap fabric I’ve sewn together and more stencils every day and maybe a little simulation piece as well. You’ll just have to wait and see… I hope it doesn’t take another year though.

And just to finish, I’d like to thank all my friends, parents and everyone who’s been there, and those who haven’t because I’ve been a dick or they’ve had some tough times of their own going on. I thank them for listening to all my whinging and complaining and I hope they won’t have to suffer it too much more. It’s been a rollercoaster and I want to be better, for all of them.

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