When I was in art school the old guard macho painters always went on about their chops, alluding to the definitive arm gesture in the kata of painting. When a group of these predominantly old men got together for a few drinks it became a swaggering group of bragging balls out sad men. All leaning on one another seeing who had the ultimate trade mark swing, it was sad. However it is interesting that as a painter once I return from a sprint through the galleries looking at paintings I invariably find myself going over what I know and what I have just discovered. The painting below was one of those arm swinging moments, going over the chops.
The Denial State, “Between the bubbles and blue skies the constant suck of the denial state, you name it from the top down and back up, we are all complicit. The facial expression in the eyes of the specimens is the tension between desire and fear, the lies are the bridge that binds them in this forced coupling.” NB1999
Painted fifteen years ago, I stop to reflect on where I was in 1999 jumping from the last gang plank of the late twentieth moving into the new expansion of consciousness. Now fifteen years later, the expansion came and dissipated and things remained the same. Here at the end of 2014 the degree of polarization between pleasure/desire seekers and pain/fear feeders is still somehow still with us. For a while the open air new possibility of the twenty first century alluded to something better coming. Yet here we are threading in the flotsam of the late twentieth and it’s lies on lies, misconceptions and blind side economics. It’s a scene out of the Matrix… with all of us in a dreamy hope filled 1999 time… bubbles and blue skies. NB
When I was fifteen my father gave me four or five magazines he had kept from the end of the second world war. Though not official magazines, but fan publications that dealt with the Trials at Nuremberg, the rise and fall of Fascism, and one that dealt with Benito Mussolini and the Italian Fascists movement. In it where all sorts of images including the demise of Mussolini, with graphic pics of him being beaten, and killed by an enraged mob and dragged through Rome to be finally hung. The one image that stood out was his large bald head swollen beyond recognition, his bulbous head covered in cuts and bruised beyond recognition.
Now we jump forward to from the fifties to 1987 and being on a night train from Catania Sicily to Rome. The train was very old, so it had a perceptible war vibe to it, at one point the train was left on a siding for about an hour, probably waiting the main rail line it was used by other trains. The scattered pot lights threw the train yard slowly moving in the four am light, old rail cars painted army green or brown. For a moment it brought me back to that image of Mussolini’s head, and it evoked that same sick feeling of our patriarchal world that I had as a male child.
In the following days in Rome we visited the many vestiges of the Vatican’s plunder in the collection of the Musei Vaticani, the still existing Fascist brutalist modern architecture, just to mention the Colosseum, the catacombs of St Sebastian or the bone heaps of the Church of the Immaculate Conception. I realized that a new painting of the patriarchy had to be painted, a brutal allegorical painting.
In this work we see the caboshed head of Mussolini in a rage as his cheek is being sucked of blood by an enormous mosquito. He is screaming into a telephone with a broken line, and another by his ear, his brain is represented with a broken oak tree, which has real acorns embedded into the panel. The city outline at the top of the painting is taken from a fascist medal which was given to me by a friend in Rome with the instruction to destroy them; which I did by going to Naples and throwing them into Vesuvius. The Duce is looking at a postcard of Rome, at the bottom two wolf paws are open with two stigmata points which are holding a copper tube presenting fresh daylilies. At the bottom you can see an erupting Vesuvius with the medal above. The patriarchal brain chomps down on a vivisected flower in it’s rage in it’s inability to connect or affect control over it’s environment.
The Patriarchal Brain was painted in 1987 for a group show in Winnipeg, Manitoba at the WAG curated by Shirley Madill, and later shown at the AGO. I have included this second painting “Patriarchal Ambivalence”, which shows a subdued ambivalent male head cut off from any outside reference point.
The other title to this work is “Possible Hidden Meaning” which seemed appropriate mainly because of the suddenness in the creation of this work. The painting was created using prepared rollers over a period of two days, I remember looking at this panel and finding sad and funny and unlike any image I had ever created and decided to leave it be. Seeing the two images together made sense for this post, rage and ambivalence tethered.NB
Roller painting inspired by the sight of protesters in Ferguson, Missouri. This figure appeared Hands Up in a few minutes, painting happened so fast that I had to lay it down to slow down the drips, and call it done. Inspired by the power of people marching and protesting of Ferguson, calling out against violence by law enforcement agents; this is an important conversation that must be sustained and kept up front. The use of extreme force has become all to common place, and is disproportionate in many cases to the circumstances. This paintings might appeared unfinished or a bit raw, but the conversation on this subject is unfinished and extremely raw. NB
The Grey Pink Ghost Woman, was created with prepared rollers, in less than twenty minutes last week. I still don’t know if I will keep it like this, she suddenly appeared on the panel and I had to stop and contemplate who this woman from the forties or fifties was or could have been or where she came from. Along with all my other random ghost paintings I am considering using facial recognition software in order to attach a possible identity to the face. Conceptually I have considered how on random portrait might produce an exceptionally long list of names associated with one painting. I’m on it.
I will update on this project on a regular basis. NB
When I visited the home of Mahatma Gandhi near Ahmedabad, Gujarat, where he sat and worked and met heads of state; I was moved to make this miniature painting of the receiving room. I wanted to be present there with him in the painting, so I chose Marcel Duchamp’s readymade Bicycle Wheel 1913 as my avatar.
In his studio Duchamp mounted a bicycle wheel upside down onto a stool, spinning it occasionally just to watch it. Although it is often assumed that theBicycle Wheel represents the first of Duchamp’s “Readymades”, this particular installation was never submitted for any art exhibition, and it was eventually lost. However, initially, the wheel was simply placed in the studio to create atmosphere: “I enjoyed looking at it just as I enjoy looking at the flames dancing in a fireplace.”
I guess the one in the readymade in the window just isn’t the same, bummer. On another note, here is another readymade reference in a drawing I did while doing my general military training in Petawawa, in the summer of 1977 just after graduating from The Ontario College of Art.
Warm summer night reading about the bees, made me think back on this painting.
BEES, Lectures by Rudolf Steiner, with afterwards of drawing by Joseph Beuys. Anthroposophic Press
I can’t recall ever having a conversation with any man about his inner temptress, I don’t even know if anyone has ever experience that sensation.
In the making of art, especially over an extended period of time, meaning many years and what appears to be various lifetimes you shape shift into different beings. My inner temptress is a reckless personality that can manifest sometimes and take me on a wild and dangerous dyonesian ride.
These paintings are from a large workbook I call my Recovery Book. After a year of not painting I started the book while dealing with a severe bout of gender dysphoria, something I have wrestled with since I was a child. The emotional turbulence during these times disrupts my entire life and consumes my thoughts all the time, I become very depressed and alienated from all the people around me; so this time I decided to focus the energy by doing one painting a day in the book. It is a very suffocating feeling when the body you occupy feels alien and like a prison.