Gwynedd museum and art gallery in north Wales are showing two of my paintings in the exhibition “The Quality of Things” They are two paintings about my late Grandparents on my mothers side which I made in the mid 1990′s which seems and extremely long time ago now. They were responses to people who meant a lot to me in their old age and subsequent death and these two paintings reflect that theme. Below are the two labels which describe my thoughts about the paintings. If you click on the image they should enlarge.
THERE’S NO SUBSTITUTE – GLADYS AND WALTER GREAVES
This is a portrait of my Grandparents Gladys and Walter Greaves in their terraced house in Bloxwich, just outside Walsall in the West Midlands. I knew that they were both getting older and I wanted to capture them both in their home. I made this painting in 1993.
The theme of the painting is “natural forms and synthetic forms”. If you look at the painting Walter is eating an apple which he used to get from the back of the local supermarket when they got rid of them because they were bruised . He has cut the bruises out and it almost echoes the facial characteristics of his face, for example the eye sockets. I made this comparison because the apple is a natural form with natural life cycles in that it is conceived, born, lives , dies. Over on the washing tub there is some decorative artificial fruit and Gladys’ artificial leg because she had both legs amputated through diabetes though she rarely wore the very heavy legs and they were positioned around the house. The fruit and the legs are the synthetic, man made reproductions of natural forms to echo the theme that no matter how technologically advanced we are we can’t compete with nature.
I wanted a sense of “Oldness” in the painting, an old house, old people and old objects with the sense that time is running out. When we talk about “Portraiture” we talk about “Immortalising” somebody and I have always thought that there is a very strong link between Portraiture and Mortality and an inevitable demise which is why I have always felt portraiture to be so very significant.
The portrait is composed in two very basic shapes, a rectangle and a triangle. The rectangle travels around the edges of the painting, up and across the visible and covered pipe work and down the door frame and the triangle is hinted at with the perspective lines of the washing tub and the top of the triangle is the coat hanger above Walter’s head. I have tried to create depth by using both perspective and colour. There is a simple , one point perspective which creates visual depth and warmer reds and oranges in the foreground bring that area closer to the viewer and the oranges and blues, the cooler tones, help the portrait recede in the background area.
MEMORIAL PAINTING -(diptych) – GLADYS AND WALTER GREAVES
In 1995 my grandparents , Gladys and Walter Greaves both died at the age of 90 years old. They were both important to me and I had painted , photographed and drawn them on many occasions.
The first time that I visited their house following their death was quite an emotional experience at the time. It suddenly hit me that they were gone and this momentary core sensation prompted me to make this piece of work which in many ways was a cathartic process.
As I stood in the still and silent living room it brought many memories. It was asif these memories were actually floating around in the room but they were actually floating around in my head . There seemed to be this dual space where the memories simultaneously resonated , in my head and in the room. From this I became interested in seeing the four brick walls as a metaphor for the human skull which contained these memories.
All of their possessions were left untouched in exactly the same place that they had previously been. There was a tremendous sense of absence and emptiness in the house. I began to look around at the objects which provoke these memories and realised how important they had suddenly become as a reference and reflection of their identity. At first glance they are seemingly banal but since their death the personal importance and value of the objects has been elevated and they exist in a new context as an extension and a reminder of them both.
The act of painting these ordinary objects also elevates their importance from the merely banal and I became interested in the relationships between “still life” and “mortality”. Even though there are no figures in this painting I still see it as a portrait
August 1st, 2011