For a good few years now the Toadstool people have been a reoccurring theme in my work. The Fly Agaric (amanita muscaria) toadstool made its first appearance in the second Dweebling painting I did, which I won’t be showing because I bloody hate the thing. The red and white toadstool, has a history in art that goes back to the Renaissance and came into prominence in the fairy paintings of the Victorian era. Its history as a hallucinogen goes back a lot further, however. It was used by the Vikings, for example, to turn their beserkers (very scary fighter who would become a force of nature during battles) berserk. Being someone who has a record of mental health problems, the idea of slipping one of the most common signifiers of off kilter behaviour into my work has been too tempting to ignore. When the idea came about for the toadstool hats, I did have some second thoughts though as I could see obvious correlations with Toad from Nintendo’s Mario franchise. The real influence from my perspective though goes partly to the Pet Shop Boys stage costumery and partly to some of the more outlandish headgear from the original Star Wars films. The use of the toadstool in Super Mario Bros just screams Alice to me, so I would imagine they would come a cropper arguing that one away. Hmmm… mushrooms that make you grow larger, then shrink…. sounds familiar… Anyway, so the toadstool tribe, or whatever they are called (the Dweeblings tell me nothing,) have made a regular appearance in my paintings for many years now, dotted amongst flowers or the undergrowth, often in rather fetching polka dot dresses. A dramatic change happen just before christmas when I had a particularly bad breakdown. I was roped into doing a few paintings for charity on ten inch square wooden panels. For the first three I phoned in some of my greatest hits. I really wasn’t in a good way and just wanted to regurgitate some old ideas so I could get back to staring at the floor or whatever nonsense I do when I am suffering from a severe bout of depression. For the forth one I went the full Yayoi. A toadstool hatted Dweebling in a polka dot dress clutching a polka dot spotted teddy bear against a spotty background. The effect was a migraine waiting to happen. And what or rather who you may ask is Yayoi? Well Yayoi Kusama is a Japanese artist who first came to the world’s attention around the same time as Andy Warhol. After producing large but incredibly fine detailed paintings, she moved away from the canvas, into sculpture and then finally onto the body, covering naked people (including herself) in dots. It was not long after that she retreated back to Japan from America and ended up admitting herself to a psychiatric hospital, from where she has worked ever since. Producing phenomenal amounts of art with a team of helpers. At 83 at the time of my writing this, she is still fixated on dots and is often seen dressed in red with with white spots with with a bright red wig. According to her, everything is a dot. The Earth is a dot, the Moon is a dot, the sun is a dot, all the people on the dot of the Earth are dots. Whilst I don’t envy her grasp on sanity, I do envy Yayoi’s back up. As a mentally unwell person in the u.k, getting anything done is a struggle. Between the lack of money, constantly having to deal with bureaucracy and the buckets full of stigma thrown at you on a daily basis, I positively crave a nice warm room and some decent medical support as is more common in the Netherlands and Japan. If Yayoi had ended up in the u.k, I suspect she would be a footnote in art history rather than the chapter she is today.
Going Dotty. (again)