SEVEN DEADLY SINS
The Seven Deadly Sins was a theme that long hypnotized me. My father first showed me the work of Hieronymus Bosch and the peculiar colored etchings of James Ensor on this theme when I was about six or seven.. I later saw the Otto Dix's and Vladimir Zuev's approaches to the theme. And so I began to fantasize about the aura of sin in paint.
The first committed mural scale approach to this theme was my coloured poster-paint mural on Gluttony, Lechery and Debauchery produced as the backdrop for my younger sister's Twenty First Birthday Party in 1980, I will have all my beds blown up, down is too hard. The title is the first line from Sir Epicure Mammon's hedonism fantasy in Ben Jonson's The Alchemist, one of the great pornographic monologues by a burnt out old fool.
When I arrived at the Royal College of Art Painting School in 1981 I felt I needed to make a statement and so I plunged in with a gigantic narrative fantasy with the seven sins wrapped around a double bed. The ultimate source is the bed at the center of Delacroix's Death of Sardanapalus set on that fantastic sliding wedge. Beds always obsessed me as the space of births, copulations, dreams and deaths.
My next visit to sin on a big scale came in 1983 with my paintings Chernobyl 1 and Chernobyl 2. Stanley Kubrick had proved in the final sequence of Dr. Strangelove just how beautiful atomic detonations can be. In the Chernobyl diptychs I was searching for a terrific beauty in the space of arbitrary annihilation, a unique space of human pride. I made these paintings for the main hallway in what was then the Post House Hotel Milton Keynes. They were a commission for the Trust House Forte company. The titles didn't go down well with their marketing department so the works were re-christened "Perseus and Andromeda" 1 and 2. The Hotel Inspector would no doubt approve.
The last time I approached sin as a large scale project was with the Mural I painted in India in 2011 on the theme of sin and expiation through privation and pain.
The triptych combined elements from Christian and Hindu Myth. The Fountain/Mountain conflation came from the key moment of false revelation in the beautiful poem that begins Nabokov's Pale Fire, a moment which is also intriguingly taken up in Blade Runner 2049 with some intelligence:
And blood-black nothingness began to spin
A system of cells interlinked within
Cells interlinked within cells interlinked
Within one stem. And dreadfully distinct
Against the dark, a tall white fountain played.