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.

If a tree falls…

November 18, 2016

I wrote the following blog last night and, like a lot of stuff I write , wasn’t going to publish it. It’s always a struggle living  somewhere with as many narcissists as St Leonards as to how much to ignore them and what to say, knowing full well how manipulative they can be and how they will deliberately misinterpret what I write as me being negative or nuts. Something happened this morning to tip the balance though. It has been enough of a struggle to avoid the grotesquerie of pointlessness arranged for New Year’s Eve but today an advert for a job came my way. It is effectively made for me, I tick every single one of the obscure skills and abilities needed and it is in walking distance no less. There are a few catches though, the same skill sets could be used far better to clothe the homeless, the sheer amount of wasted materials when the project is over and thirdly and to me the most important, it bears all the grubby fingerprints of the rancid egomaniacs mentioned below. I also suspect it will be bit of a stitch up and there will be candidates already lined up for the post. Jobs for the boys I suspect… Or in this case girls.

If a tree falls in the forest and there is nobody to hear it then does it make a sound? So asked philosopher George Berkeley back in 1710. If something has been posted on Facebook and no one reads about it, then did it actually happen? So asks me today. Over the last six months or so I have been systematically unfollowing, blocking and restricting every single bit of ego stroking, narcissism, attention seeking etc that popped up on my news feed. As the torrent of tedious dross slowed to a trickle, my life felt so much better, I only wish I’d done it years ago. 

I could be wrong but it seems to me that so many things that happen, happen for no other reason than for certain characters to be seen to be doing something, whether that is being seen to be doing good, being seen to be looking trendy, right on, whatever… I can’t help wondering, if that is the case, if people weren’t actually witnessed to be doing what they do, would they still do it? Things come to my attention despite my attempts at a news and media blackout and I think “why would someone go to all that time and effort?” Be it people sleeping in a cardboard box, doing a marathon, a benefit gig, the effort, the hours put in, why don’t the people involved just stick their hands in their pockets and hand the cash over? The same with all the other cobblers that people do, why do people make such songs and dances about thinly veiled reasons for them to be looked at in public and to be seen to be doing something cool? Is it insecurity? Desperation? A need for approval? I don’t get it.

I ask this as producing stuff to sell involves hawking my wares in some manner or another, engaging in the world in ways I find uncomfortable. I think the shoemaker’s elves had it right personally, doing what they do in the dead of night and scuttling away. I’d do what I do if nobody bought it or liked it, when I catch a glimpse of the grandiose but poorly executed nonsense that goes on around me I only wish other people locally would do the same.

I hazard a guess that a lot of it is the need to be accepted, a need for approval, a need to feel part of something, as if our identities shrink to nothing if there is no one around to witness what we do. I’ve never really got it myself, I grew out of that as a teenager, I just wish the rest of the world would try and do the same, grow up! Yes, I appreciate that that is a deeply ironic thing for a middle aged bloke with a huge collection of toys to say but it makes sense, well sort of. One can be childlike without being childish, one involves looking at everything with fresh eyes and ideas and seeing the wonder in it all and the other requires you to scream, stamp your feet and generally make a nuisance of yourself until people take notice of you. Personally, I would rather have one person notice me because I did something well than a hundred because I made myself a pain in the arse, but that’s just me I guess. 

Are you serious?

October 28, 2016

A long time ago now, back in university my tutors said of me, “Christopher doesn’t take himself seriously but take his work very seriously indeed”. I think that was supposed to be a complement but I was never quite sure. I guess everything is about perspectives… I have unfortunately had to have dealing with a fair amount of fuckwits of late and in doing so I have, by comparison, ended up feeling like some poe faced killjoy. It’s not until you have to deal with the real thing that I remember that I am usually a fun person.

My tutors were right, I do take my work seriously, I meticulously research everything, I plan to the last detail and try and make sure every little thing is just right. Even the stuff I do that looks wonky and wobbly is planned to be like that. The comedian Les Dawson used to play the piano so wonderfully badly, you can only make something sound that awful it you really know what you are doing. I try and aim for the same thing, no one notices, no one cares but I do it so that I can sleep at night. 

I am a great believer in the notion of Socratic Irony, the philosopher Socrates used to often present himself as a bit of a daft bugger, you can learn a lot about people that way, they drop their guard and the way people treat someone when they don’t think you are of any use to them speaks volumes about who and what they really are. Even the most appalling people can seem nice for a while if they think they have something to gain from you, but if their default mode is to treat people like shit it’s a fantastic way to find out. It’s also, as Socrates knew, a wonderful way to lull them into a false sense of security and let them show just how little they truly know. Give em enough rope…

I’ve had a few experiences like this, recently, and one not a couple of days ago where someone in the same line of work made a complete nuisance of themselves, demanding all sorts of ridiculous things and taking up everybody’s time and energy, doing things that would completely put people out without a care for their feelings or their needs.

I find it so hard to understand why anyone would every act like this, to go through life causing resentment and putting people’s backs up must be completely exhausting and they must make so many enemies… I guess the point is, they are so arrogant that they really don’t care. 

Aside from pissing people off, though, it is a dangerous thing to do on another level. Acting like a primadonna sets a level of expectation of the quality of that person’s work  and in all the cases that I have witnessed locally it seems that everyone who acts like this produces utterly terrible art work, there granite hard self belief might roll over a few people but it really doesn’t wash with me. In fact there was an encounter with someone like this a few years back where I went out of my way to knock them down a few pegs out of principle, childish and petty, yes, but fun too! Plus I felt a certain amount of justice had been added to the world for once.

The real beauty of people like that though is watching how, over time, everything closes off to them and over the years their lives go nowhere. Karma! It gets you it the end.

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