That’s the paradox: the only time most people feel alive is when they’re suffering, when something overwhelms their ordinary, careful armour, and the naked child is flung out onto the world. That’s why the things that are worst to undergo are best to remember. But when that child gets buried away under their adaptive and protective shells—he becomes one of the walking dead, a monster.
Another mock-up book cover, using my 2016 drawing ‘The Confessor’. I maintain that if we’d been taught Ted Hughes’ poetry at secondary school my life would have been quite different. Instead, we got the usual tired old curriculum spoon fed to us, and as avid a reader as I was, I got a ‘U’ (Unclassified) for English Literature O-level. Believe you me that takes some doing, but it was a measure of just how contemptuous I felt about exams in general. I was not an ignorant oik, but I did need something to snag on the barbed wire in my head, and I think discovering Hawk In The Rain when I was 14 or so would have put me on the right path a lot sooner.
When I first saw Barry Thompson‘s paintings and drawings last year, I recognised a kindred spirit. Lonely landscapes, nature studies, glamour magazine reveries and old photos of World War 1 soldiers: memories of his own youth and, to quote Camus, the two or three simple images in whose presence his heart first opened. His art is an intensely personal and nakedly honest confessional about the very same things I’m obsessed with.
For a long time I had thought it was just me but these drawings and paintings suggest that I am not alone in my yearning for not the past necessarily, but how I felt in the past. Increasingly of late I I find my mind going back to 1986, the year I finally left school and spent a few months on the dole before my working life began. They year I learnt a few important lessons. It’s like my subconscious has been trying to tell me something, and I think I’m beginning to understand what that might be.
I like melancholy and have never found it to be the same as moroseness or sadness.
I was looking at this painting by Olof Arborelius, and listening to Lobomyr Melnyk’s Rivers And Streams album, when I realised that if twenty years ago I could have remote viewed the future and seen myself as I am now, I would have probably ran into heavy traffic and prayed for an eighteen-wheeler to mow me down there and then. But when I look back at myself in my twenties, I no longer recognise who I was, or place any value in the things I once thought were important. I suppose you could call it growing up, but at least I haven’t given up. The urge to create something remains a constant, and I suspect it always will.
Jacob Cartwright & Nick Jordan have made Last Acre, a short (11 mins) documentary about a ramshackle settle of cabins, huts and sheds that has grown up on the sand dunes along the north west coast of England. Removed from the industrial and recreational that typifies so much of the British coast, this place was created out of necessity – be it a need to have a cheap home to live in, or just to get away from the creeping sprawl of soul-numbing urbanisation. It’s somewhere where those people who really need to “get away from it all” can remove themselves from all the prescribed notions of how to live, and it appeals to me enormously.
Jacob Cartwright & Nick Jordan – Last Acre
Nothing happens. Nobody comes, nobody goes. It’s awful.
Samuel Beckett, Waiting For Godot
A new drawing, of an old bench. It was kicked to pieces years ago, and though a new one stands in its place I can’t help preferring the scabby old one, covered in fading graffiti and names gouged into the wood. It had scars. It had a story. It had earned its place on earth.
Between 2008 and 2011 I made a series of painting and drawings inspired by the songs of my favourite band Mogwai. I completed well over 20 of them before I felt I was finished, and they were where I learnt how to paint. Starting out with some old tubes of acrylic found in a box and some cheap A3 canvas panels, I selected images that I felt captured the essence of each of the selected song titles and made a painting, averaging a new one every 2-3 weeks. That’s an amazing rate of output compared to my current glacial pace, but I was driven by something stronger than what I’d ever felt before. I had discovered new sources of inspiration and they were forcing me to look deeper inwards and also further outwards, honing my perceptions to recognise only those things that really mattered to me.
I’ve evolved a lot as an artist since those early paintings but they will always remain important milestones for me. I’ve selected here what in my opinion are some of the best from the series. Mogwai as a band are still going strong, and are arguably producing some of the best work of their 20+ years together, and I have no intention of stopping either.
Mogwai – I’m Jim Morrison, I’m Dead
Mogwai – Now You’re Taken
Mogwai – HMP Shaun William Ryder
Mogwai – U-235