Studio visits possible by appointment.
Collage series, mostly 2010-2011. No.’s 19-25 made 2016-17. I had become quite fascinated by and knowledgeable about the lives of many of my artistic heroes, because I loved their work but in mostly negative ways their lives were quite like mine; often chaotic but always intense. Particularly a group of Irish writers notable for their originality of thought and engagement with the world; from Jonathan Swift via Oscar Wilde to Brendan Behan, by way of Joyce, Yeats & Beckett. The strange thing common to these all (and to me) is that they probably ‘had’ Asperger’s Syndrome; the high-functioning ‘autism’ that I would only around 2015 discover I ‘have’ too, and which seems to manifest particularly profoundly in men. (Women also seem to mask theirs more and better). Their lives were variously unconventional, in thought and art and often in action and often, it seemed, they had often unconventional and often niaive ideas about the world and themselves too, with the result of great achievement but often messy personal lives though they variously had correctly high opinions of themselves and their ambitions.
Over the years I went through a lot of psychotherapy (I had a bunch of PTSD and plenty more to work on) and had been thinking a lot about the meaning and ‘power’of artistic creation and life and its motivations and how it relates to social and sexual power; the combinations have been notable motivations and dynamics in human culture and history.
I thought to make collages where my very human ‘supermen’ got to meet and hang in their death-lives or dream lives with various ‘superwomen’; sometimes highly intelligent actresses, sometimes women with ‘merely’ erotic power, that they dreamed of in life; in scenes where they are sort of surprised ‘in flagrante’ by the ‘photographer’ to the extent that in these collages often the ‘What’s Wrong?’ title can be read as a speech bubble for one of the characters. I thought I might call these ‘The Consolations of Genius” after a line from Zola, quoted in a book about some of those un-social or over-social Irish genius bohemians, which went: “one of the few consolations of genius is the attention of beautiful intelligent women”. (It’s Anthony Cronin’s ‘Dead as Doornails’ and would make you laugh and cry often on the same page.)
Around the same time I had found a reproduction 1950’s British children’s card game called ‘What’s Wrong With This Picture?’ where there were a couple of dozen cards with little gouache illustrations, all with ‘something wrong’ you had to identify. But the amazing thing was that the answers betrayed an incredibly narrow and tight cultural experience. For instance, one showed a large passenger liner coming into frame but the answer to What’s Wrong? was: “The Queen Mary has three funnels, not two as shown.”
I thought I might make a series of the same title, related to the ‘conspiracy’ material I was still worrying over and worked on a few but something was lacking with them.
I had a wonderful partner at the time, but whose life did not revolve around art (she was training as a psychotherapist) and I asked her opinion about the few works I’d made.
“I can’t say” was the response, and I kept asking for some time as I needed a cold but honest eye.
Eventually, after some weeks, she gave in, and said “they’re boring.” And I knew immediately that she was right and that I knew it. They were too predictable because I was trying too hard.
A couple of weeks went by and suddenly it became clear to me that the answer was to collide the two titles, and the two series into one. For me it’s a power and function of collage to collide the two potent and loaded realities; each picture contains simultaneously a sort of Heaven and a sort of Hell. The pictures are unbalanced, unstable and disturbing. They’re very experimental work and debateably ‘successful’ but I felt I had to exorcize the need to make them. Interestingly, they sold more rapidly than any of my other collage works; a dealer of mine bought ten or eleven of them for himself and a private collector whom I met whilst selling prints in a market some years ago bought another ten or eleven.