One of my most vivid memories as a teenager was watching my father constantly staring at himself in the mirror. Superficially, it seemed such a strange thing for him to be doing as he certainly wasn’t a vain man. Personally, I try not to look in the mirror too often as I can’t equate the strange looking fat old git I see with the image of myself that exists in my head. The thinning hair, the unruly pube-like eyebrow hairs, the grey… I’m not sure who that rotund creature is, but it is not who I remember being. I ignore him, but he doesn’t go away. My dad was looking for calcium deposits around his irises, a classic sign of certain types of heart problems getting worse, that was his reason. I’m on medication that is supposed to stop all that, so fortunately I can limit my vanity to the occasional beard trim, haircut or self portrait noting the inevitable decline.
I seem to be attracted to women who wear little to no make-up, I’m wondering now whether the two things are subconsciously linked, my dad’s illness and people’s fondness for their own reflection, or perhaps it’s simply the dread of going out with women in the past who would keep you waiting for hours whilst they faffed about with themselves. Back in the goth days I was partial to a bit of it myself, but I certainly never looked better for my efforts, it was more like tribal war paint.
I’ve always been fascinated by eyes, from watching Disney films and earlier Japanese cartoon on British TVs like Marine Boy and Battle of the Planets. Plus my fondness for all those big eyed painting that popped up during the sixties and seventies has buried an obsession with all things ocular. I think the tipping point came in 1987 when I saw the cure in concert for the first time. Instead of the ubiquitous dodgy support band for people to scream “fuck off” at, they put together a little art house film, featuring the deft use of one of those medical cameras used to venture down people throats and up their bottoms. Fortunately, we were spared a trip through Robert Smith’s bowels but seeing someone’s eye projected some fifty foot high stayed with me forever.
Eyes are a wonderful thing to paint and draw, their reflective quality allows you to work in all sorts of pictures within pictures and hidden bits of meaning. The texture of the iris also perfect to be recreated using a fan of words around the (no sniggering please) optical sphincter. There is just so much fun you can have with just that one body part. They are so expressive too, from the ‘look of love’ through to ‘the evils’ , so much of who we are is expressed through these complex collections of flesh, muscle, and gelatinous glop. Then there is all the fun you can have with eye defects, probably not the best of descriptions, but from lazy eyes, through to squints and the full on Bowie, dual eye colour and paralysed iris, there are so many little quirks that can be worked in. I have a friend with a dual pupil in one eye, I didn’t even notice it for a year to my shame. In the self portrait that I am currently working on, I have overplayed my stigmatism as they aren’t usually that visibly wonky, I wanted to express a level of disquiet I constantly feel about myself and distorted eyes do the trick nicely.
The only problem I have about eyes is the crying malarkey. I was trained out of crying exept for in the most extreme of circumstances, I was always stopped from expressing any distress about the squalor and discomfort that I was brought up into and by the time my dad died, I was being cried on so much that there was no time left for me to shed a tear. I have since learnt to cry a little but when you are like me and you are involved with people who can virtually turn the taps on fully at the drop of a hat, you soon see which way the sympathy goes…, it flows with the tears.
Eyes are also very important to me from an “I see you!” point of view. They are so huge because they represent that I see far too much and know too much that can’t be unknown. I walk down the road and I can tell you things about so many of the people that I see, who would recognise me and some that wouldn’t. As I may have said before, there is nothing remarkable about my appearance and I am not a show off in any way. I have often passed people that I have sat and conversed with at parties and dinner parties for many hours and they have completely ignored me (this is on top of the ones that blank me on purpose). As a result I end up hearing everything that they say whether I want to or not and it is often about people I know, the curse of a small town. I find it deeply claustrophobic and I dearly wish I had the means to move, just far enough that I could still see my friends but not to have to deal with the shower of shit that passes for the community hereabouts. Being dyspraxic doesn’t help either as I have little to no audio or visual filters to buffer me from this crap heap of a world and all the drivel in it. I see the good stuff too and there is certainly plenty of that but as I am also cursed with a really good long term memory, the nastiness clings around like shit to the bottom of a pair of trainers. I see all the corruption, all the nepotism, all the lies, all the greed, all the manipulation, all the bitchyness, all the vindictiveness, all the vanity, all the cheating, all the sexual predictors and I just want to go and live in a shack half way up a mountain somewhere. Of course then I remember that I like hit baths and Netflix and flushing toilets but the general principal is there, and that is that I do not want to see any of this stuff, but I do.
The series of paintings I am working on right now have particularly large eyes, even for me. This has forced me to alter my methodology slightly but it also gives me more scope to work with in the realm of what I can fit in. I have never been able to work out how to do fine detail in acrylic paint, I find the viscosity too inconsistant and the transparency rather limiting for fine detail work. That said I do like the vibrancy and luminosity, but I will never be someone who could paint miniatures anyway, my hands are too shaky and my eyesight too poor. It seems rather ironic that whilst I am so obsessed with eyes, mine are slowly giving up the ghost. I guess there is one consolation though, and that is that pretty soon all my paintings will look absolutely amazing and, thanks to the wonders of blurred vision, when I look in the mirror, so will I.