I'm old and cynical enough to have accepted (not quite the right word) that politicians in general have a somewhat... opportunistic relationship with the truth and facts (although still idealistic enough to get upset about it). Despite this though, some of what I see these days in global politics is horrifying - watching facts and any idea of truth become twisted to order, subjugated to a desire to seize or hold power and politicians willing to do anything to get their political end away. This is where my admittedly bruised sense of idealism kicks off (and has done several times over the years) and the rage comes out in paintings. Some of these were responses to specific events or individuals, others a more general bit of artistic moaning about the state of the world today.
These first three pieces were part of a very early series called ‘Myth Cycle’, which ws inspired by a poem I had written and dealt with the fetishizing and romanticising of violence. This was a specific reaction to the political and social climate of South Africa, where I was living at the time, but could easily be applied the current climate in America.
The poem is quite long, but here it is:
1: opening credits.
these streets swirl with memories night and day,
embedded in the yellow eyes of a million cars;
coded in the wailing and hooting of the taxis
as they rumble through the beautiful ugliness of the cities.
roadside walls pockmarked with bullet-holes
and the tar uneven with potholes and sinking.
the city has no time for sleep,
it heaves its scarred old face
between the buildings and into the sky
and lies silent in the light.
silent to the ones within it,
gleaming dully on rainy nights as
the crack of bullets and the howl of alarms
echo in the ears of no one:
faces turned up to try and find the sun.
death stalking the well-lit streets of suburbia
armed with pangas AK47s AIDS and knives,
with the pick the sickle and the shovel:
tools ready to execute the unknown
and bury it in obscurity.
rape scenes played out against damp alleyways,
screams disappearing into unheard nothingness
while blind eyes stare dead from fire escapes
and unforgiving windows and streets and
no traces are left in the morning.
beautiful freaks –
tsotsis with hats pulled down over their eyes,
tribalism armed and tooled up with knives:
refugees from township poverty, urban desolation
and moneyed boredom.
in love with the brutality and violence,
the ghost face of killers –
murderous memories and old guilt moving
beyond the vanishing point
– dead idols crippled by the bends,
surfacing in an atmosphere of sadness
where violence fills the darkness.
3: end credits.
to be in south africa is to be
constantly aware of the murdered blood
that was mixed with water to make the sky,
staining the rivers red
wherever they flow.
it is to be able to hear,
above the bass heavy beat of kwaito
and the growl of mining machinery,
the hate that still reverberates
across the naked expanse of desolate veld.
south africa lives in the past
and only glimpses the present,
imprisoned in the hard consonants and
of ancient languages.
screams tear through the dark at night
echoed by guard dogs to the ghetto moon,
hiding terrified in the thick folds of shadow
and silence in the heart of suburbia.
there is no present in south africa
and no future,
just a fearful attraction to a past
brittle with violence and guilt,
murderous prison blocks and courthouses
haunted by angry ghosts;
bullet-ridden tin shacks and houses
traumatised in cowering suburbs
and a crippled people
bled to a useless sadness and
still singing the chorus of a mourning song.
The next three are a triptych; part of a series called ‘Richey Edwards’, and inspired by the lyrics of the Manic Street Preachers. This specific piece was inspired by the track ‘Of Walking Abortion’ (from their ‘Holy Bible’ album) and really speaks of the political (and general) rage I was feeling. And still feel, if I’m honest. Lyrics to follow:
Life is lead weights, pendulum died / Pure or lost, spectator or crucified
Recognised truth acedia's blackest hole / Junkies winos whores the nation's moral suicide
Loser - liar - fake – phoney / No-one cares, everyone is guilty
Fucked up - don't know why - you poor little boy
We are all of walking abortions / Shalom shalom we all love our children
We all are of walking abortions / Shalom shalom there are no horizons
Mussolini hangs from a butcher's hook / Hitler reprised in the worm of your soul
Horthy's corpse screened to a million / Tisu revived, the horror of a bullfight
Fragments of uniforms, open black ruins / A moral conscience - you've no wounds to show
So wash your car in your 'X' baseball shoes
We all are of walking abortions / Shalom shalom we all love our children
We are all of walking abortions / Shalom shalom there are no horizons
Little people in little houses / Like maggots small blind and worthless
The massacred innocent blood stains us all
Who's responsible - you fucking are
There’s also this piece from the same series, ‘Ifwhiteamerica…’, which seems, sadly, even more appropriate these days.
The next two pieces were painted while I was living in Oman. The first, ‘A Cenotaph Souvenir’, also has a Manics link, with the title coming from their song ‘La Tristesse Durera’. Part of the impetus was my thinking about how many victims and survivors (war veterans for example), have their individuality stolen away from them, subsumed into an easily digestible symbol while the individual and what they have suffered is ignored and discarded, The other bits of text here come from the Dylan Thomas poem ‘A Refusal to Mourn the Death, By Fire, of a Child in London’ (full poem here: https://www.poets.org/poetsorg/poem/refusal-mourn-death-fire-child-london) and the epigraph at the start of ‘The Waste Land’.
"I saw with my own eyes the Sibyl of Cumae hanging in a jar, and when the boys said, Sibyl, what do you want? she replied I want to die."
This next one, ‘When There is Freedom’ was inspired by a few things. I had just recently come back from a trip to Italy and still had some of the political graffiti in my head. I was also thinking about revolutions, and the gap between initial idealism and the actual outcome. The figure is modelled after Che Guevara and the quote comes from Lenin. There’s also another Manics link in the ‘revol’ in the first part.
The political link in this next one may not be immediately obvious, as the initial inspiration was drawn from the Jambinai song which gives the piece its title: ‘They Keep Silence’. This song was about the reaction of the South Korean government to the Sewol ferry disaster in 2014, but the painting could also link to any time any government has responded terribly to a tragedy (Grenfell, for example).
The next two were specifically inspired by Trump and, slightly more optimistically, the protests against him and the far-right extremists he has enabled. In ‘Rise’ on the left I was thinking about the protests (quote from Radiohead), while the piece on the right, ‘When Truth is Uncertain’ was directly inspired by Trump and his relationship with the truth.
The spate of school (and otherwise) shootings in early 2018 was the inspiration for the next piece, ‘The Gloaming’. The title and text come from Radiohead, and I was thinking about how some lobbyists (and other political figures) are willing to sacrifice almost anything and anyone to get their way or keep hold of power, even in the face of young children being murdered in a school.
The final piece in this post is ‘A Scarecrow Prophet’, part of a new series I’ve just begun which is called ‘Age of Iron’. My personal feeling is that we are heading into dark times politically and I want this series to reflect and respond to that, to be willfully dark, using ‘shamanic’, ‘prehistoric’ tropes and images, as well as heavy textures. I want to end with something that looms over the viewer and feels oppressive, as a reflection for both the current state of global affairs and the darkest parts of our history. Sadly, there are times these days where it seems we are reliving the darkness of the past.
Part of the experience of being on a holiday away from the studio involves a lot of thinking about what will come next, so that’s what this post is about.
There are a few series I am still working on: ‘Heads’ will probably continue in much the same way as it has over the past (nearly) two decades. ‘Fictional Artefacts’ still has a few pieces planned before I’ll consider it done and there is still one more piece to go in the ‘Roots’ series.
I also have two other series in mind that will link to ‘Roots’, both involving an exploration of my past but attempting to do so in fairly ‘universal’ terms. The first will be ‘Mapping History’ and is something I had actually begun a few years back before the first piece was lost (it’s still out there somewhere, I just have to track it down) after I moved away from Thailand. The idea is to produce abstracted ‘maps’ of places I have lived in and that are important to, using the structure and iconography of Aboriginal dot paintings to remove the specificity out of the maps, encoding them somewhat.
The second will be called ‘In Bad Dreams’ and will be more cathartic. The plan is to create a small group of paintings using a similar format: a textured abstract field with a centralized form, roughly rectangular or square, similar to the ‘card’ shapes in the ‘Roots’ series. The central form will be an abstracted representation of some sort of negative experience – loss, depression, madness, violence, etc. This depiction could be a flat 2-D representation, or could utilize collage elements depending on what seems most appropriate. Again, the idea is to draw on personal experiences and try to make them into something of a ‘universal’ narrative – less autobiographical and more symbolist.
Two other ideas are more political in nature. The first involves a similar mapping idea, but applying it to sites of trauma – sites of massacre and genocide. This would be more messy than the ‘Mapping History’ idea, with looser application of paint, heavy textures and corrupted geometry, and would also involve the canvas being ripped and torn – making the wound and scar in our history a physical presence in the image. Most likely the series would be called ‘Traumatic Sites’ or ‘Wounds’ or something similar. If the ‘A Better World’ series was about Utopian ideas, this series would be its counterpoint.
The second idea is more of a ‘state of the world’ reflection called ‘Age of Iron. One piece has already been painted:
The series is planned as large scale and willfully dark, using ‘shamanic’, ‘prehistoric’ tropes and images, as well as heavy textures. I want to end with something that looms over the viewer and feels oppressive, as a reflection for both the current state of global affairs and the darkest parts of our history.
Besides these few ideas, there are other ideas brewing, but that are much less formed in my head. I’m hoping for a few more exhibition opportunities, both in Asia and Europe over the next year, with the good news being that there does seem to be some opportunities hovering on the horizon.
I’ve been lucky enough to take part in a few group shows over the past year, starting with the ‘After Hiroshima (and beyond)’ show organized by IoDeposito at the B#S Gallery in Treviso, Italy. One of my small pieces, ‘A Black Rain Over Hiroshima’ was shown there, along with the work of a group of international artists, all on the theme of the atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima. I’ve also just had the good luck that the piece was bought by the IoDeposito NGO.
My Utopian ‘A Better World’ series was on display for the month of November 2017 at the MASH gastropub in Shenzhen.
In late December a few of my paintings were on show at the Fanspace Art Hotel Exhibition in Shanghai: ‘Through a Glass, Darkly’ (which was sold), ‘The Middle Kingdom’, ‘A Cage of Air’, ‘In Our Dreams We Have Seen Another World’, ‘In Secrets And Silence’ and ‘Campaign of Sparrows’.
Through this group I was invited to submit work to two other group shows, into which I was accepted. The first was called ‘In the Name of the Painting’ and was held at the Mei Bo Gallery in Shanghai. For this show I exhibited the 4 paintings from the ‘Middle Kingdom’ series pictured above.
The second exhibition was held in Beijing by Rove Art and was called ‘Red and Fruit’. Two of my ‘Middle Kingdom’ paintings were shown at this group show: ‘Signal to Noise’ and ‘The Light Gleams an Instant’.
Not long after this I was accepted into a second Rove Art group show, ‘On the Way’, once again held in Beijing. For this show I exhibited two of the paintings from my ‘Roots’ series – ‘The Body Within a Body’ and ‘The Memory of Fire’.
Most recently, three of my paintings on paper were part of an online exhibition with other members of the artist group I was invited to join. The exhibition can be found at https://mp.weixin.qq.com/s/W2YleEE3amkxid5DtR75Bg
The paintings shown are part of my ‘Le Quattro Stagione’ series, which is a representation of the seasons and still missing the painting for summer. Shown below: ‘The Last Shunting of Autumn’ ‘In Winter Stones’ and ‘The Last Shivering of Spring’.
I’m hopeful that the coming year will involve more shows, in Shanghai and elsewhere, and there seems to be strong possibilities that this may well happen. Watch this space…
While most of my work tends to be abstract painting, I have also worked in other media. Some experiments over the past couple of years have involved photographic and digital work, as well as lino-cut prints and cyanotypes. In the lino-cut prints I am trying to recreate something of the blocky feel of woodcuts, while focusing on scientific formulae and geometric forms, as can be seen in the examples below: “Black Hole Sun’, ‘Points of Departure’, ‘Sliding Doors’ and ‘Slow Heat Death’.
In the cyanotypes I wanted to create something that linked to the idea of the sun (as sunlight is needed to make the pieces). As I was also reading about the Mayan's apocalyptic calendar (the Fifth Sun) the link between the two seemed irresistible. In this series of apocalyptic pieces, I also wanted to use the cyanotype process in a 'painterly' way, with different densities and strengths of colour, experimenting with the process for effect. The pieces work in two cycles – a bleached-out ancient cycle and a clearer, darker present cycle. They have a beginning, middle and end, but repeat certain motifs to hint at the cyclical nature of time. Below see ‘Openings’, ‘No Man’s Land’, ‘Closing Time’, ‘Under Violent Skies’, ‘A Seed in Time’ and ‘Storm and Static’.
The digital works below follow my usual process of layering and treating digital photographs, often based around an idea taken from either mythology or philosophy. What I’m after, for the final product, is something a bit eerie and surreal, taking recognizable objects and distorting or manipulating them until they become something other, subverting idea of that the camera never lies and making it something questionable and unreal: ‘Chasing Minotaurs’, ‘Harrowing the Houses of the Dead’ and ‘The Beauty of Being Numb 1 and 2’.
While I generally work in series, I have also created various other works, mostly acrylic or mixed-media on paper, that don’t fit precisely into any of them, although some of them may link either in terms of style or theme. Generally these are used to explore ideas, images and processes. Sometimes the ideas find expression later on in full scale works, other times they seem complete as they are and are kept as works in themselves.
The two pieces below, ‘Fall of Reason’ and ‘For Life’, were amongst the first things I painted after arriving in Shanghai and in both cases I was experimenting with ideas (a sort of abstract cubism and Miro-esque abstraction respectively), but they also have loose ties to the ideas that underpinned the ‘Middle Kingdom’ series.
The following three pieces all link more directly to the ‘Middle Kingdom’ series. In the first and third, ‘Locust Tree’ and ‘Roots and Thorns’ I was using a calligraphic type brushstroke to evoke calligraphic writing. Additionally, ‘Locust Tree’ also refers to an event from Chinese history, when the ChongZhen Emperor hung himself from a tree and ended the Ming Dynasty. The middle piece, ‘New Leaves After Dead Flowers’, was inspired by the landscape I was seeing in Shanghai and the profusion of greenery, especially after my time in the Middle East, but also relates to an Imagist poem by Richard Aldington.
The following two paintings also relate tangentially to literature. ‘Noises At Dawn’ was partly inspired by a line from an Auden poem, but was also an attempt at combining art history (Vitruvian Man), abstract expressionist paint handling and graffiti with political commentary. ‘Becoming Fictional’, on the other hand, links somewhat to the ‘Heads’ series in that the human form is suggested, but also to literature in that part of the inspiration was drawn from Grant Morrison’s ‘The Invisibles’.
Sometimes the paintings only have a vague stylistic link to other pieces I have done. ‘Speaking in Tongues’, ‘Descent’ and ‘Still’ feature a similar attempt at machine-like bio-morphism as ‘Fear Machine, as well as an overpainting technique used to different ends in the ‘A Better World’ and ‘Le Quattro Stagioni’ series.
In ‘Le Quattro Stagioni’ I wanted to create abstract pieces that were linked by the idea of the seasons, evoking something of them, but not necessarily in obvious or expected way. ‘In Winter Stones’ was meant to evoke stillness and silence, ‘The Last Shunting of Autumn’ to the moment autumnal colours face out into the greys and milky-whites of winter and ‘The Last Shivering of Spring’ to the last gasps of cold as spring succeeds winter. The final piece relating summer is yet to be painted…
‘A Better Place’ came about through a few impulses. I was experimenting with cyanotype processes and wanted to work more with the Miro-esque abstraction I had touched on with ‘For Life’. The title was inspired by Grant Morrison’s Doom Patrol.
In a previous post I discussed the ‘Fictional Artefacts’ series, but these are not the only pieces that are based in some way on literature. I have also done smaller directly inspired by or related to either novels or poetry, beginning with the work below, ‘The Wasteland’, which was inspired by the TS Eliot poem. The work consists of 5 parts, each one inspired by, related to a quoting a section of the poem. The quotes are, for the most part, literal and exact, apart from the last part, which inserts Hong Kong and Shanghai into the list of major world cities to reflect geo-political change since the time the poem was written.
The next piece was inspired by two writers: Dante and Larkin. ‘Escaping the Fires’ is a three part work on paper that is meant as an attack on the manipulation of people by fear. It uses the layout of Dante’s circles of Hell as part of its overall design and then contrasts that with lines from Larkin’s two poems ‘Church Going’ and ‘Aubade’ dealing with superstition and religion.
The next piece is related to Seamus Heaney’s ‘Lovers on Aran’, quoting some of the lines as part of the image. I was aiming for something map-like visually and was thinking about identity and whether it is a thing in itself, or contingent on something else (the ‘Roots’ series explores the same sort of ideas and probably had its start here).
‘Fear Machine’ was inspired by Jamie Delano’s ‘Hellblazer’. I wanted to use imagery that looked vaguely organic and insect-like while at the same time appearing machine-like. The quote refers to fear of something inside the self
The final piece I will look at in this post was inspired by and named after the Dylan Thomas poem ‘The Force That through the Green Fuse’. My aim was to create something vaguely natural and plant-like, but also with a hint of something ‘wrong’, which I tried to create through the bleached-out and ‘diseased’ colours, as well as the figure shape emerging from the background.
‘Roots’ is a series of paintings in which I am using myself and my own history/cultural bias and background as a way of making some universal questions more personal and manageable. These questions are centred around identity: where do I come from? What is the impact of nature and nurture on the formation of the self? How did 'I' come to be the person I currently am? The paintings draw from the different places I have lived and my cultural heritage, as well as experiences I’ve gone through. I wanted to incorporate iconography from medieval alchemy, and also to arrange the composition around the idea of tarot card symbolism, as well as symbolism related to the idea each piece is working with and the places or experiences they are drawing on.
‘Roots’ follows an almost chronological pattern, beginning with ‘The Tangle of Roots’. This painting utilises red as a symbol for blood and the tree for the family – nature rather than nurture. The full classical set of the four elements makes an appearance (earth, air, fire and water) as this can be understood as our starting point, the spark that generates what we eventually become. The tree itself is modelled on Yggdrasil, the Norse world tree, the centre and organising principle for everything.
Next is ‘The Body Within the Body’, which explores my British roots, albeit through common stereotypes involving water and rain. I wanted something predominantly in blues and greens, and also for there to be a ‘misty’, undefined quality to the image. These are also represented by the blue within the figure and the use of the alchemical symbol for water. The figure itself can also be understood as the self, the identity, being created and filled in by the culture.
The next painting, ‘The Memory of Fire’, deals with the time I spent living in South Africa, specifically my memories and impressions of my time there, which are dominated by landscape and violence. There are nods, once again, to stereotypes in the evocation of the wide open spaces of the savannah, of blue skies and ancient rock art, while the violence is suggested by the spray of red over and around the figure in the lower left. The image also uses the alchemical symbols for earth and fire.
The next painting, ‘The Thunder over Distant Mountains’ relates to my experiences after moving to South East Asia. Visually this piece was inspired by the many temples, and also draws on the iconography for gold and air. The idea here was related to personal change coming about through geographical change – up until my move I had been in several dark places, both mentally and physically, and this move allowed an opportunity to start over, become a bit less of a clenched fist.
The fifth painting in the series, ‘The Opening of Doors’, deals with a more general idea of individual change through seeing new places and doing new things (i.e. travel can help a person grow and change). The alchemical iconography is for both the earth and the Philosopher’s Stone, which is used here as an analog for change. The figure is borrowed from Da Vinci’s ‘Vitruvian Man’ and is used as a short-hand for a universal experience, as much as something can ever be considered to be ‘universal’.
The series is almost complete with only one piece remaining to be painted, although I do have ideas for two related series – one would be an abstracted, coded ‘mapping’ of places I have lived and that have personal importance to me. These will borrow heavily from aboriginal dot paintings as a means of presenting information in a way that would only mean something to the initiated. The second would relate specifically to negative experiences I have had personally, but that are also hardly unique to me: depression, drug abuse, violence, loss etc. The idea for this is to keep using the Tarot card layout, but with a more spare, minimal approach than even ‘Roots’ uses, as well as a more mixed-media technique.
We have all dealt with loss, in some form or other and this series of paintings all deal with a very personal loss, first of my mother, Patricia Anne Cole in 2016 and then my father, Barry John Cole, less than a year later in 2017. As with everyone else, my parents were probably the single most important factor in me becoming the person who I am today. For a long time after their loss, and even with the passing of time, finding the words to express the feelings after they died felt, and still feels, next to impossible. The paintings all try to express this sense of loss, albeit in slightly differing ways. Some of the paintings were fundamentally cathartic, an attempt at trying to capture and work through the sense of unreality I felt, the sense of something fundamental gone from my life and the world not being the same as it was before.
The three paintings below were attempts at coming to terms with my feelings in the months immediately after my mother died. ‘A Block of Muted Sensation’ was an attempt to express the numbness I felt in the immediate aftermath – the sensation of nothing being quite real, a world where colour and life seemed to only break through in small amounts and quite randomly at that. ‘Your Ghost’ was inspired by the Kristin Hersh song of the same name, and relates to the idea of being haunted by the dead, by the patterns and traces they leave in our minds and dreams. ‘For Everything That Was Lost’ was my attempt at capturing my feelings less than a month after my mother had died, and is also linked to a song by Korean post-rock group Jambinai.
‘A Mourning Air’ was created from a similar impulse in the months after my father died. The flashes of colour are there but so is the darkness and discomfort. The sacking and dark colour relate to the idea of sackcloth and ashes, of intense mourning. Likewise the small sculpture titled ‘Last Call’
Others of the paintings are also meant to function as a monument and memorial for my parents. ‘In the Company of Ghosts’ was painted not long after my mother died and, in a sense, is a cenotaph – a memorial for someone who died far away. ‘In a Silent Place’ has a similar impulse, although mixed with the same sackcloth and ashes idea previously mentioned, as well as hinting at a way I started to cope – the law of conservation of energy, which states that energy can never be destroyed, only changed in form.
This idea, this taking comfort from science was expressed in the following painting, ‘Between the Tides’. I’m an atheist, so rather than turning to religion for comfort, I turned to things that mattered to me and my family: art and science. My father was a scientist, so thinking about him in the months after his death led me to thinking about science and the conversations we’d had about it. This painting is meant to be a quite literal visualisation of the conservation of energy: the yellow shapes may break down into chaos, but, by the ‘end’ of the painting, they have reformed into something else.
There is the idea that art lives on long after we're gone, and that's what I wanted to do - create a legacy for them, in the only way I know how, so that some of who they were, what they did and what they meant to me will live on and never be forgotten.
The majority of my work tends to be abstract, but I do use (or possibly abuse) the human form in many of my pieces. This ongoing series 'Heads' is focused on the human head, abstracted and distorted, and I have been making these on and off over the past few years. These pieces almost all began life as abstract marks on a surface that, as they were worked, coalesced into forms that suggested faces or heads. They are all fairly small scale and are images I have been creating for over a decade now.
In some cases the suggestion of human form is quite vague, as in these examples, ‘Framed’, ‘Speaking With Knives’, and ‘Interior Landscape’. The three pieces below them were oils on canvas painted about 15 years ago and were heavily influenced by ‘tribal’ art as well as the work of artists like Auerbach, Picasso and Basquiat.
Many of the paintings include distortions of the human form, or hide it behind something, as in the following examples: ‘From Nothing’, ‘Nothing Special’, ‘Silent’, ‘Muted Sensation’, ‘They Keep Silence’ and ‘In Dreams’. These last two were inspired by the Post-Rock group Jambinai and T.S. Eliot respectively.
Other paintings feature a slightly more ‘realistic’ rendering of a human form, as in the examples below: ‘Preserving Beauty’, ‘Come Undone’, ‘At the Moment of Creation’ and ‘Emet’.
Many of the paintings, including some of those already shown, directly reference poems, songs or fiction. From left to right: ‘Ozymandias’ references the Shelley poem of the same name, with quotes from the poem weaving in and out of the layers of paint. ‘Film Ending’ was inspired by a poem of my own, with the text mostly buried under the paint, but raised up from the surface of the canvas. ‘Hands Down’ references a Larkin poem.
Several of the paintings also reference world events and politics, generally in a fairly angry way –from left to right, first row: ‘Gloaming’ (inspired partly by the US school shootings and referencing a Radiohead song), ‘Rise’ (also referencing a Radiohead song and related to resistance to oppression) and ‘When Truth is Uncertain’, which fairly blatantly riffs on Trump and his… loose association with facts and truth. The two paintings below that were painted while living in South Africa and are a straightforward depiction of violence and fear of violence.
A lot of my work draws inspiration from literature or poetry and this series does so very deliberately. The original idea for the series was inspired by the Borges story "Tlon, Uqbar, Orbis Tertius", in which artefacts from a fictional world begin to invade our 'real' world, slowing taking it over and erasing what was there before. Another point of inspiration was a Grant Morrison Doom Patrol story dealing with very similar ideas. The original idea was to create paintings which would, in a sense, function as artefacts from these worlds, blurring the line between reality and non-reality. ‘Orbis Tertius’, ‘The Multiplication of Falsehoods’ and ‘Towers of Blood’ were directly inspired by the previously mentioned Borges story.
The ‘world’ of the paintings has since expanded to include a range of fictional worlds. ‘From Nothing’ comes from a combination of the Borges story ‘The God’s Script’ and the work of Samuel Beckett all overlaid with a deep sense of cynicism and pessimism.
‘Indeterminate’ was also inspired by Borges, but in this case the story ‘The Garden of Forking Paths’, with green background and the maze being direct references. On the other hand, ‘Through a Glass, Darkly’ was inspired by Lewis Carroll’s Alice books, in which I was trying to capture the feeling of moving from one world to another, a sense of dislocation and uncertainty.
Both ‘Difference Engine’ and ‘Infernal Device’ were inspired by readings of Steampunk books. ‘Difference Engine’ functions as a kind of mash-up of William Gibson, chaos theory (represented by the butterfly) and chaos as an imperative of evolution, with the background labyrinth a stand in for the human brain and the overlaid gears as a steampunk lens. ‘Infernal Device draws from similar iconography, but also touches on the idea of sufficiently advanced technology seeming magical and mysterious.
The series is far from finished, with approximately another five or so ideas currently knocking about my head. All these paintings can, in a sense, be seen as remnants of fictional worlds, not just those created by Borges in his story, but in a variety of pieces of fiction or poetry which have all resonated with me strongly.