New paintings continue to work with a ‘contemporary medieval’ aesthetic but as an experimental preparation for the painting, I ‘wrote’ it first. Pre-describing visual content and feeling, before painting it was inspired by AS Byatt’s book ‘Portraits in Fiction’ and part of this painting is based on a rare self-portrait life-drawing made in 1997.
This is the ‘written painting’. How do words and image operate differently and over time?
‘There is a medievalised portrait of the artist. Based on a moment in time captured yet false. She is heavily pregnant and seems to calmly appraise and record herself, her body. It contradicts a memory of unreal time; illnesss, loneliness and poverty.
Behind her is a delicate historical pattern with fronds that entwine. Below her there is a tranche or line of figures that are queuing as if going to work or to a war camp.
A large brightly coloured parenthesis or bracket shape taken from an illuminated manuscript divides her from the rest of the painting frame. The medievalesque is also used in a motif at the top of the painting that uses a marginal pattern of faces. On the left there are comic figures that hang over a this pattern as if they are on a balustrade, like peeping Toms or voyeurs.
The other main figure is not based on a life-drawing, she is more naively drawn. She is looking up at the portrait of pregnancy with amusement. Her age is unclear. She has contemporary clothing of a red coat with a design of a small figure on the back. of her red coat. She is pegging out washing.
The washing is drifting in the breeze, acting as a reminder of domestic work but also intimating curtains and revelations in time. Behind the washing there are other figures of women and children who seem to be relaxing and playing yet there is something insubstantial and tense in their presence.
All of this rests on top of an entablature of words and simple lilies. Some of the words are clear, some are hidden; ‘Here’s looking at you kid’ is a phrase that comes to mind.’
Painting title: ‘Remember when life was so simple’, oil on canvas, 70x90x4cm, 2022 Unfinished work in progress.
Intended irony in the title. Life is never simple.