Beyond the veil, Beyond the veil
The movement into abstraction remains a dilemma for all thinking painters. Like Matisse I was never willing or perhaps able to 'Go the Whole Hog'. I know it was those Rothko's in the Tate, with their shimmering gules, purpure and quick-silver argent rectangles, so tumultuously bright in their vast gloom, that stopped my way. Those glorious dry brushed whales always hung there as a veil that could not be rent.
The paintings reproduced here were all big, some very big, even bigger than the Rothkos. They show some approaches I tried in order to resolve the impossible fusion of form or no form. They were all painted during my time at the Royal College of Art Painting School. Every week or so John Golding and Peter de Francia would come along and talk to me. They could both see in their different ways that I had read too much and that I had somehow to stop thinking in words.
Peter's approach was to sit down and begin spotting forms within paintings, works which I thought I had made formless and immune to such games. One day he sketched out on the hardwood planks of my drawing table the form of a skeletal female form falling backward he had fished out of the centre of my painting Landscape with Diseases. I argued with him but he was right, it was there right as rain. I was never able to touch that canvas again. I sawed the board holding Peter's little drawing out of the table and kept it. I still look at it when I want to remember how to lose the image.
Peter de Francia, sketch on table of figures seen in my painting 'Landscape with Diseases'.
John's approach was very different. He observed that It is good to remember that the word aesthetic comes from the greek 'aesthetes' 'to perceive', aesthetics and existence and consciousness are one and the same. It was not Joseph Beuys who first developed a theory that life is art, but Walter Pater in the 'Conclusion' to his book The Renaissance. Pater is also a much better writer than Beuys.
That I ended up making big supposedly abstract pictures which are unmistakably representations of female human mammalian gestation is not something I am qualified to hold an opinion on. I would observe, however, that the ironies with regard to young male creative impotence are not lost on me.