Kramer Vs Dorothy

Growing up in the 80’s and 90’s I was inevitably surrounded by hundreds of videos with films of favourite television programmes recorded off television – Postman Pat, Paddington Bear, the Superman films, Muppets Take Manhattan, Masters of the Universe. My own collection grew in an obsessive fashion until the early 2000’s when videos were no longer relevant, but i learnt this collecting trait from my mother who had a large collection of recordings before I established my own.

One aspect of videos which sticks in the mind (and which also accompanies the various songs on mix-tapes) is that you tend to associate films with others based on the simple fact of them being recorded on the same tape. To finish watching one is to inevitably see the first glimpse of the next film, and if it’s an enjoyable film which you return to again and again this glimpse is repeated, and the association is forever fixed in the mind.

One such link which still has the biggest impact upon me is the one between The Wizard of Oz and Kramer Vs Kramer. From this:

To this:

Again, and again, and again. To the extent that when I watch The Wizard of Oz now, it’s ending causes me to anticipate the beginning of Kramer Vs Kramer. And it’s not just that the two films are associated, but that the characters and scenes play out within the same world, so that the father and little boy taking the ice cream (which remains the only scene from that film I have seen) is informed and informs the characters and actions of The Wizard of Oz. The missed parent, Auntie Em glimpsed in the magic screen, the rebellious boy, the girl who ran away from home, the ice cream, the poppy fields; all mirror each other in my memory.

But the association through repetition isn’t the only thing which encourages this reinterpretation of the films (and my reconstructed memories), it’s also the space and context in which I repeatedly watched them. It was a Monday night, 10’s of Monday nights which now appear as one. Me, my father and one of my brothers would be home alone due to my mom’s attending university to study Fine Art. He would cook us dinner (peas, an assortment of frozen vegetables, new potatoes, and variable meat, followed usually by a baked apple with raisins and squirty cream), we would watch a film, I’m sure there were others I don’t recall but it was usually either Wizard of Oz or Cocktails, and then we would drive to Wolverhampton Uni, park by the subway, and play eye-spy in the car whilst we waited for my mom.

The memory of this little routine is parked alongside the muddled scenes of the two films. Therefore Dorothy falling asleep in the poppy fields was my sleep. The little boy refusing his dinner and seeking solace in ice cream was my rebellion. Dustin Hoffman’s anger was my father’s anger. The longing for Auntie Em was my longing. And the melting of the witch was my regretful triumph.

Gibbles by Craig Scott’s Lobotomy

This is a music video I was involved in making a few years ago, i think February 2011, I was one of the animators/painters. I like the music a lot, and i’m posting it here because the guy who made the music is now releasing his first album, and this is on it.

I’ve lately been wondering

Motif of being held Saintly

as always. I’ve been wondering about depiction in my paintings and the level of reality i required, and it came about from doing, or attempting to do, more commercial stuff – pub paintings, landscapes and still lifes. In those i automatically went for a more refined, realistic painting style, and without thinking abandoned my more abrasive paintwork for those particular pieces. Once i’d finished a few it felt in many ways like another diversion. I’ve had so many strange changes in style and content in my work over the years, but in hindsight it is still very possible to pick out motifs and common bonds between paintings.

Anyway, i wondered if maybe i could introduce the realistic painting style into my more usual weird folklore-y work, maybe in the form of a realistic background, with spiky, liney characters in the fore, but it didn’t really seem to work, until this week when i had more time to think and started to try and reconnect with some old themes – of painting from found footage – films, photos, other paintings, internet memes, newspapers, to show more a reflective approach of modern experience.

And with this meandering i came upon a thought which stuck with me, it felt sort of true. That all painting is failure. Maybe it extends to other art too, i haven’t thought about it. But painting, all of it, is truly failing. It’s impossible to depict life as it is, no matter how good you paint, and few have attempted to try and paint how we actually see (with two eyes, moving about constantly, with person-specific thoughts informing each object seen), and even if your intention is not a hyper realistic depiction, it is impossible to attain the original desire or intention you had for the painting. At some point you have to compromise through abandonment.

So, having sort of established (at least to myself) that all paintings fail, i began to see the worth in painting: the attempt reveals the artist. At least in good art. All painters fail in different ways, some don’t care that they fail, and even stress it (Dubbuffet), some merely use painting illustratively, their searching is not in the paint itself, but in the symbols depicted (such as Magritte, or Hogarth say), others (like Auerbach, Cecily Brown, Anselm Keiffer, Freud, Baselitz, surely my favourite category) do use the paint itself as a searching tool, working the material in the hope of a revelation. And there are many other categories.

In this context my troubles with depiction began to grow in my mind as something that could be used as a feature of my work, rather than hidden. Unity has always been something i’ve strived for, and never really gained in any capacity, but if i could find a way of uniting these disparate ideas i have of painting, and the differing stories i’d like to depict, then maybe i could create something a little closer to my true self.

Thus (thus!). Motif Of Being Held and Saintly are two paintings on that road. They’re not the first of mine to do that, but maybe they are the first i’ve done conscious of that understanding.

Pubs at The Public

All 16 of my pub paintings are now on show at The Public in West Bromwich, open Wednesday to Sunday, until May 6th.

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And as they appear in the gallery as a whole –

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