Burn Girl Prom Queen
I hadn’t planned for this to be the first painting in the new phase of Project Mogwai, but recent events have somewhat forced my hand. I was an eerie coincidence to be working on this painting when the news broke of Peter Sutcliffe’s death yesterday. It unleashed a lot of articles and “think pieces” about Sutcliffe, his crimes, and the time/place in which they occurred. I’m not going to add to that here, suffice to say that growing up in 1970’s West Yorkshire, ‘The Ripper’ cast a long dark shadow over the lives of everyone around me, a shadow that will not be erased with the man’s death. Too many unanswered questions, too many unquiet ghosts. Having painted Sutcliffe as part of this series in 2009, I had always intended to make this painting as a corrective of some kind, but it’s taken me over ten years to do it. As with the other portraits in this series, the conceit was to deliberately underpaint it, using limited materials – cheap card, diluted ink, a knackered old brush – the kind of materials I would have had to hand as a teenager, or if I were a prisoner, for example. I wanted it to have a slightly ‘outsider’, obsessive quality to it. And, in case no-one recognises the subject, this is Jayne MacDonald, the 5th victim of the Yorkshire Ripper. A 16-year old girl, murdered in 1977, when I was nine years old. If people had been concerned about the escalating series of murders up to that point, this was where that concern turned to justified anger, but more than the rage what I remember most was the utter fucking tragedy of it all, and that mournful atmosphere is perfectly expressed in the Mogwai song I chose to align the painting with.