The eyes have it

June 12, 2017

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.

Yγνῶθι σεαυτόν

April 28, 2017

Or ‘know thyself’ in English is written on the temple of Apollo in Delphi many thousands of years ago. It’s one of the key rules of living a sane and healthy life.

Today I know myself but I dearly wish I didn’t. What I know is that whilst in some ways I am extremely resilient, in others I am a very fragile person. I have learnt what is likely to break me over the years, noise that can’t be shut off, claustrophobic situations, chaos, drunk people (see chaos), nasty people… I won’t bore you, it’s a long list. However hard I have tried in the past, through cbt, through beta blockers, through ssri’s, the panic has broken through and I’ve gone hurtling away at breakneck speed from the point of stress. I’ve run out of Mayfair cafes to surface in Islington with bloody feet and a broken spirit, I’ve run home from plays and planned suicide, shot out of cars in the middle of arguments, countless irrational panic responses that can’t be controlled no matter how hard I try. That’s the problem with hidden illnesses, if you were wheelchair bound and you had to attend an event in a building without ramps, lifts and dedicated bathroom facilities, there would be a public outcry, the sympathy would mass behind you and the story would make its way into the newspapers. With a hidden illness, though, most people just roll their eyes and mutter “weirdo’ or such under their breath. This government isn’t helping with its, pick on the most vulnerable, strategy. I look forward to a time when we look back in horror at what we deemed as acceptable behaviour, back in the dark days. From the casual racism on television up until the 1970’s through to the chain smoking Fred Flintstone an drampant  homophobia as recently as the eighties, I hope that one day people will look back in horror at the thoughtlessly excluding situations that they created. We are a long way from that now though and the arbitary hidden illness predudice affects me constantly.

So this is my dilemma, the one I always have to face. Do I try to fight against the illness when a situation brings it up, knowing that it could plunge me into weeks of severe depression if it goes wrong or do I except it and just hate on myself for a few days? Plus there is always the cumilitive total of the “what a rude, odd, anti social guy that Chris is.” whispers and opinions to consider. 

Today is a landmark birthday for one of my closest and most loved friends and there will be a party thrown for her and a friend of the same age. I started doing the risk assement for it a long while ago, crowds of people, loud music, plenty of booze and therefore plenty of drunk people… There were a few plus points though, lots of lovely people who I know will be there and there is an outdoor area which would service as a welcome break from everything that pushes my buttons but then there were two other factors that swung it, due to the joint nature of the party and the inevitable six degrees of separation factor of their friends and partners, there will be some absolute wankers in attendance, between having to suffer their presence and knowing to whom they will be reporting back, the are a definite negative on the list. The night of the party also coincides with yet another in the unending circle of tedious events on the boozers’ and exhibitionists’ calendar and the town will be chock full of arseholes yet again. So, after much soul searching, my decision was made or rather made for me. 

And yet I will still hate myself for it, even though my close friends understand and even expect and plan for it, it still hurts. Plus, from a selfish point of view, my inability to attend many social occasions shuts down countless options for me. I see so many lucrative projects locally that can be pinned down to the people around the table in a particular pub or a dinner party, funding options and opportunities divied out over a pint or a glass of wine. Mind you, it also goes to explain why so many things that occur are of such poor and unprofessional quality, a meritocracy it ain’t. I console myself with the knowledge that I neither have to work with nor be in the proximity of unpleasant people, which makes life a lot more bearable. It also hampers one’s chance of finding romance as not going to parties, pubs, etc makes meeting people much harder. When people have lowered their inhibitions with alcohol and have to circumvent normal rules of personal space to shout in someone’s ear over the loud music, intimacy becomes much easier. That said, it’s been a long time since I’ve woken up to the regrets and results of a poor romantic decision made at a messy party or boozy pub night. Plus, for me, meeting people under such circumstances would give someone the impression that I’m happy do such things in the future, causing friction with any potential partner more attuned to socialising, as before though, it minimises my contact with arseholes, which is a small comfort.

There is a world out there full of people like myself, if we are a minority, it is a huge one. We rarely meet though because, well, see above. sone of us are lucky enough to make it (whatever that means) or find love, some even do both, but for most of us it’s the mental equivalent some hideous physical illness or other that I dare not put into words for the shit storm of “how dare you compare your trivial ailment to… Insert illness here”. So we just suffer in silence, well, except for mouthy gits like me who burn more bridges than those carpet bombing major cities and have nothing left to lose.

So tonight, it’s bath, jim jams and a book like every other night, alone. While a world that is closed and barred to me goes on out there regardless.

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